I’m starting to hate the news media.

And judging from some recent conversations with my Realtor colleagues, a lot of other sales agents hate them, too.

We don’t have a problem with newspapers, TV, radio or the Internet per se. Without them, we wouldn’t know much about the war in Iraq, the presidential elections, the scores of last night’s ballgames or the weather forecast for tomorrow.

But when it comes to reporting on the real estate business, the media is something most real estate agents could definitely do without.

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At my brokerage firm’s sales meeting last week, our office manager passed around a packet of recent news clips–there were eight, in all–about how sales are supposedly slowing, how price gains are calming, and how the market is slowly starting to turn back toward buyers’ favor.

(By the way, six of the eight stories referred to the “housing bubble.” If I hear that hackneyed phrase one more time, I think I’m personally going to “burst.”)

Anyway, our manager pointed out that all these stories were published at a time when both sales and prices in our market area are up more than 10 percent from a year ago.

But if reporters are writing negative stories now, when prices across most of the U.S. are at all-time highs, we all need to brace ourselves for what they’re going to write when sales and prices eventually start to fall.

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Suffice it to say it ain’t going to be pretty.

All of these doom-and-gloom stories are already having an impact in the home-sale trenches.

Last week, a colleague of mine sat down with a married couple to write an offer on a house. Most homes in the area have been fetching their asking price, or even a little more.

But the husband reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a neatly folded newspaper article from a week before that said some sellers “are starting to get desperate,” and insisted that the offer be about 10 percent below the seller’s asking price.

The agent tried to explain that the newspaper report gave the false impression that all sellers are willing to slash their asking prices in order to make a deal. He also showed the husband and wife a list of recent sales in the area to prove that most homes are still selling for their listing price, if not more.

The buyers didn’t budge: If the local paper said that prices are turning soft, then, by God, it must be true.

And so, the agent reluctantly presented his clients’ low-ball offer. He didn’t even get the courtesy of a call-back from the listing agent, because there were several other offers that matched or exceeded the seller’s offering price.

So, who were the “winners” in this deal?

The buyers certainly weren’t, because their reliance upon a newspaper’s report made them think that homes could be purchased for less than their current market value. They were wrong.

The agent wasn’t a winner either, because he didn’t collect a sales commission.

I’d also venture to guess that the reporter who wrote the sellers-are-getting-desperate story didn’t get a fat bonus for his misleading coverage.

Nobody “won” from the negative coverage.

It’s interesting to note that laws in every state require prospective real estate licensees to go to school and pass a test. And after that, if they later miss something, they can be held liable for their actions.

Journalists, however, aren’t fettered by such laws. They don’t have to go school, they don’t have to get a license, they can write want they want to, yet they cannot be held responsible for errors and omissions that they make in their articles.

If you don’t believe me, ask Dan Rather about his recent screw-up.

I’m confident that I’ll succeed in the real estate business.

But if I can’t, I think I’ll become a journalist.


Got tips, ideas or advice for the Rookie Realtor? Send them to Rookie@inman.com.

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