I’ve recently become enamored with Realty Times, a rank booster site for the real estate market. I love it because, every once in a while, the enthusiastic cheerleading leads them to pull back the curtain a little more than they intend. The resulting insight can be delicious.
Naturally I assumed that the Seattle Times, while sharing the same moniker, did not share the same approach to “news.” I mean, they’re journalists, right? Devoted to an impartial uncovering of the “truth,” right?
Maybe not. Yesterday’s Seattle Times had some good insight into the local housing market, but the title of the piece was a little, er, disingenuous: “More spring in local home sales, but too soon to call it a trend“. That headline paints a pretty bright picture, all things considered. But the body of the article strongly suggests otherwise.
Here are my cherry-picked excerpts from the article:
Buyers closed on 1,525 houses last month, according to statistics released Wednesday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. As expected, that number was lower than in March 2010. But the decline — 4.5 percent — was “less than you might have otherwise expected,” said Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University.
[T]he relatively small year-over-year sales decline is “a little bit surprising, considering we don’t have that deadline hanging over buyers’ heads,” said Tim Ellis, editor of the usually bearish Seattlebubble.com real-estate blog.
But both Ellis and Crellin said a steeper, 11 percent year-over-year drop in pending sales — offers that were accepted by sellers in March, but haven’t yet closed — could bode ill for the market as spring turns into summer. Fewer pending sales now should mean fewer closed sales later, they said.
So the decline was less than expected, and forward-looking data suggests further, steeper declines. I’m no meteorologist, but that doesn’t sound like any sort of “Spring” to me. Moreover, I was pretty adept at the ol’ pogo stick when I was a kid, so I know a “spring” when I see it — and this simply doesn’t qualify.
My “Huh?” moment was only heightened when I pointed my browser to my third favorite blog (until he adds me as a contributor, anyway), Seattle Bubble, the primary vehicle for Mr. Ellis’s insights. Given that he’s quoted in the article — an article noting that “spring” in the market — I assumed his post for the day would have a similar tone. The title of his post? “NWMLS: Sales start to tumble, inventory still sucks.”
That’s when it suddenly all made sense. Sure, its “Spring” in the housing market — just like in Seattle, where its cloudy, drippy, and about 50 degrees. Ah, the joys of Spring…..