Property headlines continue to promulgate misinformation

by Alistair Helm in

Misinformation shutterstock_182720795.jpg

Too often over the past few months I have taken to Twitter or Facebook to express my frustration at the flippant manner in which newspapers (and as this is Auckland, NZ I can really only reference The New Zealand Herald) have created inflammatory stories related to property with no other intention that to create a eye-catching headline through which to succour eye-balls and through this to satisfy advertisers or to sell newspapers to again satisfy advertisers.

Just today the article reads "Frantic Auckland buyers rushing in to snap up homes"

Here is the conversation I started on Facebook on this topic promoted by the Herald article.

To often the response I generate from the online comments are typified by this one today “Never let the fact get in the way of a good story”.

Well I am not going to apologise for stating that I think, that when it comes to the property market and people’s largest investment and financial liability we should expect to see a more balanced and well researched insight into articles on the state of the property market from what the media likes to refer to as professional journalism, especially at a time when they seek to differentiate themselves from what they like to refer to when it suits them as bloggers.

We don't see eye-catching headlines which “never let the data get in the way of a good headline” when it comes to the NZX analysis of listed companies, yet the total value of NZ property ($725 billion) eclipses the NZX by a factor of 8 times so why should we accept it from articles on the property market?

At the core of the problem in my opinion is the fact that the real estate industry at all levels and all structures can’t seem to help itself in talking-up the market as if the industry itself was the oxygen of the market or that in someway they had to justify the performance of the market.

When was the last time you read an media article either from a real estate company, quoting a real estate company or even from the organisation representing the industry where they accepted that the market was down in sales volumes or price and was likely to stay that way for sometime to come? Too often these articles are full of justification - its because of the election...., there were more holiday this month......, the weather caused..... , a shortage of stock caused…., at this time of year sales always fall.

It is well known that real estate agents fair poorly in any rating of credibility or trust - the most recent poll had agents at 44th place out of 50 professions, rubbing shoulders with journalists (there might be the issue!) car salespeople and sex workers. When might this ever change? 

The reality is it will never change as long as the industry continues to believe that they must coat every piece of data in a very sickly dose of sugar coating. Don’t they realise that the public are more and more able to access insight and knowledge themselves and make objective assessments that leaves the industry looking somewhat like a fraud. As for the media and their complicit support. I have expressed concerns as to the potential for influence by the real estate companies who let’s not forget plough million of dollars into the coffers of media companies (the newspaper companies) every month and who directly or indirectly could believe that they therefore have some right to have their opinions and sugar coated perspective promoted.

Property, rightly or wrongly as we all know is our largest asset class in NZ - a vast number of people judge their wealth and financial stability upon their family house and the small investment portfolio of rental properties they own and manage. Largely as a function of this people still continue to be attracted to this investment strategy to “support retirement” and will unfortunately continue to be influenced by these type of media articles and property reports. Let’s recognise this and see if we cannot seek out some more balance in these articles, that’s all I ask.