If this year's National Association of Realtors convention in San Francisco had been given a theme, it probably would have been, "Don't worry, be happy."
Although the market has been showing signs of slowing in some areas of the country, 2006 should be, in the words of NAR Chief Economist David Lereah, "the second best ever."
He always says that in November. By May, Lereah is scratching his head, trying to figure out how second-best keeps turning into best.
But from what Lereah says, 2006 may be the first year since he became chief economist in 2000 that he won't be wondering.
The truth be known, some regions -- the upper Midwest, for example -- have never experienced the kind of market or the price appreciations we have on the East Coast. Although the convention drew more than 26,000 agents and brokers, real estate remains a local business.
Still, the housing industry is fully justified in patting itself on the back. It has been the primary engine keeping the economy going since the end of 2000, and its virtually unshakable confidence helped the country quickly adjust to life after the Sept. 11 attacks.
And except for the current antitrust tiff with the Justice Department over the sharing of the Multiple Listing Service, agents and brokers have met the challenge to their existence from the Internet and have co-opted it.
The much-talked-about bubble? I couldn't even make one with the hotel shampoo I used in the shower.
The word "slowdown" was mentioned frequently at the convention, at which Thomas M. Stevens, senior vice president of NRT Inc. in Vienna, took office as president of the NAR.
But frankly, no one dwelt on the downside too much -- not even the actor Jamie Farr, who spent four hours at the group's "Imagine" booth on the exhibit floor, signing photos of himself in return for $10 that would be donated to the NAR's Hurricane Katrina fund.
Why Farr, who appeared as Max Klinger, the cross-dressing soldier in search of a Section 8 discharge for all those years on television's "M*A*S*H"? My first thought was that someone in the hierarchy had confused a Section 8 military discharge with the HUD Section 8 voucher program. But the truth is that Ruth Westheimer, the sex therapist, backed out, and Farr agreed to replace her.
I don't understand how they pick these celebrities. This is the same group that hosted Fabio in 2003 and Richard Simmons in 2004. This year it handed the job of featured speaker to Phil McGraw, known on the talk-show circuit as "Dr. Phil."
Did I attend his speech? No. Instead, I went back to the hotel to try to make a bubble with another bottle of shampoo. No luck.
For the NAR's celebrity concert, the Eagles' Glenn Frey made perfect sense -- the average age of an agent is 47.
You usually can discern a theme at these conventions simply by strolling the exhibit floor. It was easy in 1999, for example, when two huge banners outside the Orlando Convention Center heralded the advent of 360-degree virtual-reality home tours.
Coming two days after the disputed presidential election, the 2000 convention focused alternately on Gore vs. Bush and Realtors vs. dot-coms.
The winners: Bush and any Realtor with a geeky teenager.
Apparently, the teenager is critical. Philadelphia mortgage broker Fred Glick, who was at this year's convention, said its technology sessions were of the "this is a mouse" genre.
This year's theme might have been "How to Become a Billionaire," or at least a multimillionaire. The public, says author and real estate consultant Michael Lee, believes that all agents are millionaires anyway, so they ask, "Why do they need my business?"
In truth, 5 percent of agents sell 80 percent of all real estate, so the vast majority of Realtors aren't prospering with their market.
One reason: timidity. Joe Meyer, the Realtor-turned-motivator, maintains that even some veteran agents have a fear of rejection that stops them from seeking new business -- an expired listing or a for-sale-by-owner, for example.
"You think that you're still 12 and it's your first dance, and the girls are on one side and the boys on the other," he said. "The boys won't move because they are afraid of the eight-mile walk back across the gym with everyone shouting 'Loser, loser.' "
"If an FSBO says no, it's a business decision," Meyers said. "It is not personal. You aren't 12. You should be maturing as you get older."