The reported real estate ruckus

Last evening ABC World News reported on more sour real estate statistics. Prices are down almost 27% in Miami and Vegas, and a number other places have also seen 20-plus percent drops in value — although sales were higher in April than they have been recently. They really made it sound just terrible, as though the entire nation were in the grips of an armageddon.

While visiting little Kearney, Nebraska, in May for my sister’s graduation, the local newspaper featured a story titled Housing Slump? Not in Kearney. The front page article then proceeded to report that sales are up in this university town of 25,000 people. Not only that, prices are up, about $10,000 (~8%) on the average home over the last year.

Houses in Kearney are selling more quickly as well, in an average of 83 days in 2008 compared to 113 days last year. Local realtor board president Steve Coram was indignant, making it clear that there’s no such thing as a national real estate market. “Local economies drive real estate, so our market should not be judged based on what’s happening somewhere else” he said.

I’m prone to spout generalizations as much as the next person, but why must the national media insist on making such broad and inaccurate, or at the least incomplete, statements? This kind of reporting feeds an unwanted hysteria that births self-fulfilling prophecies. ABC World News, in my experience, isn’t averse to reporting on positive and less sensational items. Why then don’t they, along with other national media outlets (NPR, as I recall, is just as guilty on this particular issue), talk about this real estate mess on balanced terms? If this one somewhat innocuous midwestern housing market is bucking the mortgage mess in the larger markets, surely there are other such communities as well.

And isn’t it more interesting news to talk about the fish that swim upstream anyway?

I understand that evening news programs on television have very limited airtime, but they can do better than this. They need to do better than this.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

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