Interview with David Smith of The Affordable Housing Institute

David SmithI’d be hard pressed to name someone covering real estate issues who has mastered the art of blogging better than David Smith of The Affordable Housing Institute. His posts are always 100% original, highly entertaining, filled with informative facts, and full of interesting opinions. I simply love that he takes on complex issues, adds a bunch of tangentially relevant graphics and treats his readers like they’re worthy of some intellectual stretching. Regardless of what day you choose to read his blog (he has a new post every day!), and regardless of what issues he’s covering (it might be the French Riots, Rebuilding New Orleans or Terrell Owens), you’ll be sure to be reading a post from someone who has spent years thinking about real estate and housing issues.

What inspired you to start blogging?

Even before blogs emerged as a technology, I’d done blog-like things: written numerous articles, spoken at seminars, established a personal Web site, written movie reviews that I sent to people who expressed interest. All these were blogs-before-blogs. But the blog’s ease and immediacy of posting, plus the unique ability to link to source material, made it an ideal forum for me.

Plus, several people who knew me urged me to. Nothing like peer pressure.

Are there any special topics or issues that you enjoy blogging?

Our business is complex, and I like reducing or dissolving barriers to entry of understanding. I also like illuminating political maneuvering, especially when newspapers are missing the real point.

Ricky, Lucy 'splaining things.
“Look, I’ll ‘splain.” “Okay, ‘splain.”

What have you done to personalize your blog?

People such as you have told me my style’s unusual. I title the posts because each is a small essay. I pepper in allusions, movie quotes, funny pictures and snarky captions. My text is Edgar Bergen, my visuals are Charlie McCarthy.

Bergen and McCarthy
“Oh, I’m supposed to believe the dummy writes your captions? “

Do you have any favorite posts?

I tag Essential Posts, and Primer Posts. I have a whole series of Sherlock Holmes on housing finance. Beyond that I have particular fondness for Eminent domain: the wrong fight, Slums are economically rational, Reselling Mystico Towers, Prescribing New New Orleans, L’horloge Orange (which got me linked by Instapundit), Tearing down the French high-rises, and GSEs: fierce competition. Fierce. These feel to me genuine advances in knowledge, besides being fun to read.

What are some of your favorite blogs (real estate or otherwise)?

Boston Sports Media is a work of genius that renders sports pages obsolete. Paul Phillips on poker does a great job expressing who he is. The Volokhs have perfected the group blog. Belmont Club adds real value by interpreting news. Pepys Diary is perhaps the apotheosis of hypertext value-added — not only the diary, one post a day, but also a panoply of user-generated wiki-type comments. Phil Gyford deserves a MacArthur.

What tools/ web sites do you find most helpful in putting together your blog?

I read the news on-line — mainly New York Times, Washington Post — and grab articles that are seeds for blog posts. Knowledgeplex is useful too.

How does blogging fit into the overall marketing of your business?

Demonstrates guru insights and reminds people I’m a guru.

What plans do you have to improve your blog over this next year?

I’d love to have more blogger-writers on the AHI site. Beyond me, we have two, whose pace has fallen off recently.

What is the one tool or feature that you wish your site had?

A time-compression algorithm so I could write more ☺.

What do you think real estate blogging will look like 3 years from now?

As a business, classical real estate brokerage is facing the kind of big-bang price drop that confronted stock brokers when Charles Schwab and others introduced first discount and then on-line brokerage. In real terms, fees are likely to drop, and the service is going to reinvent itself from seller representation to buyer advocacy. This is consistent with other internet-driven reversals, where high bandwidth means narrowcasting specialist content providers like blogs, and the scarce commodity is not the content to display but the eyeball to see it. Blogging is a means of building personal brand and hence distinguishing yourselves from the common broker.

In other words, you folks should keep getting with it!

Get Smart
“Got that, chief?”

(Read more interviews with some of real estate’s top bloggers under the Real Estate Q&A category)

4 thoughts on “Interview with David Smith of The Affordable Housing Institute

  1. Thank you for this interview and for this series. Somehow I had not heard of the AHI, but I have added it to my feed reader. Gleaning knowledge from experienced bloggers and professionals will hopefully help improve my blog and business.

    Thank you again.

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