Miami Herald Still Can’t Cover the Housing Mess Properly

The Miami Herald has often been accused of shilling for local real estate interests (they used to buy a lot of ads). Excellent evidence for this accusation, or at least for one-sided local boosterism, can be found on today's front-page, top right, headline, which says in big extra-dark letters: Home sales up as prices stabilize.

The much smaller sub-head begins the clawback to reality: “In December, South Florida home sales continued to rise but prices still went down — although at a slower rate.”

Even so, explain to me how you get that headline about “prices stabilize” from this text:

(Paragraph 4) … Median prices fell just 5 percent in Miami-Dade and 2 percent in Broward in the year-to-year comparison. …

(Paragraph 6) … Realtors say more buyers are perusing property, and some believe prices have stopped their freefall …

(Paragraphs 10-11) Still, median home prices continued to fall, dropping 10 percent in Miami-Dade and 17 percent in Broward compared to November. The figures include only those homes sold by real estate agents.

Condominium sales skyrocketed in December, compared to the same month of 2008 — up 68 percent in Miami-Dade to 766 and 59 percent in Broward to 949. At the same time, median prices fell: down 16 percent in Miami-Dade and down 17 percent in Broward.

(Paragraph 12) …. Nationwide, the picture is different. .. prices rose from December 2008

So in fact the real story is that our prices are still falling more than the rest of the country's. Yet the headline reads “prices stabilize”.

I don't blame the reporter, Ina Paiva Cordle, for the headline, because we all know that editors not reporters do headlines. But I do blame the reporter for who gets quoted in this article:

  • Frank Kowalski, president of Metro Dade Realty in Miami
  • Marla Martin, spokeswoman for Florida Realtors
  • National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun
  • David Dabby, president of the Dabby Group in Coral Gables.
  • Jan Herard, broker associate for Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Broward

Is there anyone on that list who doesn't have a financial interest in spinning positive news on home sales and prices? Well, the one person who isn't a realtor or doesn't work for one seems to be David Dabby. So what is this Dabby Group? The Herald doesn't tell us, so as readers we can't find out. Unless we fire up that browser and discover that the Dabby Group does real estate appraisals — something that also benefits from increase in transactional volume, if not necessarily as directly from increases in prices.

Can't the Herald find one independent voice to interview on this subject? There must be one in Miami somewhere. If not, folks, let me be the first to tell you that long distance is very cheap if you use Skype.

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