Effinger: The reality behind NARÕ spin on home sales

It's better to educate consumers

No matter what housing market conditions we are experiencing at any given time, one thing is as predictable as the sun rising and setting each day: The National Association of Realtors will say that “Now is a great time to buy or sell real estate.”

In Trey Garrison’s piece “4 charts show the phony thrill of existing home sales” appearing online in HousingWire on June 23rd he wrote that NAR recently put out a news release announcing existing home sales were up 4.9% in May over the previous month.

He then gives graphic evidence through several charts that actually show when sifting through additional data, the NAR “good news” turns out to be no more than spin. Supporting that notion is his comment that although the May 2014 increase over April is happy news indeed, it is actually 5% below the figure of May 2013.

While this constant spinning is no surprise to anyone who has been in the housing business for as long as I have (30-plus years) and who has extensive experience in public relations, it should give one pause when trying to determine the true health of the housing market and overall economic conditions.

It is one thing for the Obama administration to continually put out misleading (at best) information trying to convince the American people that we are in the middle of not just a housing recovery, but an economic one as well when nothing could be farther than the truth, it is another when the private sector follows suit.

NAR, which has long been a distinguished organization, serves an exceptionally large constituency – Realtors across America.

And, yes, it is true that they would rather disseminate positive, encouraging information about why it may be desirable to buy or sell real estate to be supportive of their membership.

But, and that is a big but, an organization’s credibility can be damaged by trying to spin negative information into something positive.

My recommendation, although no one has or probably will ask for it, would be to put out truthful information and explain why conditions in the housing market are what they are in real time, not “fantasy-hopeful” time.

Had we been told the truth in 2007, 2008 and the years following, and had the Administration not interfered in the housing and lending arenas with so many failed programs that only served as a temporary Band-Aids, the private sector would have solved the problems plaguing these areas of our economy long ago, and we would have had a true housing and economic recovery. 

That “Band-Aid” would have been ripped off more quickly, and some serious pain would have accompanied that action, but the country would have been well served by its taking place.

To be clear here, today may well be a “great time to buy or sell real estate” compared to other times past and present. Experts in the field of real estate need to be responsible for pointing out why that is, not just spin the data and offer anecdotal “evidence” that seems to support their spin.

Trey also pointed out that the biggest gains in existing sales were in the $1 million-plus price point, most of which were in California. Prices there are inflated and approaching the pre-bubble-burst ranges due to a phony increase of prices driven up by institutional and other investors that has artificially created higher demand. It cannot be lost on the individual that the middle-class once again is being pushed out of the market.

This adds to the “chagrin of spin,” because the American people are getting tired of watching the rich get richer and the gap narrowing between themselves and those in lower economic positions while the gap between them and the wealthiest among us continues to grow.

I am an unrepentant capitalist and in no way begrudge the wealthy for being such, but I do resent the federal government for creating so many ways to punish the humungous middle-class by interfering in the private sector and making things worse – and then spinning things to suit them politically.

I would encourage NAR and other trade associations involved in our industry to spend less time spinning and more time educating consumers.

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