Sunday, May 6, 2007

I…ummmm...Love a PARADE…

Parade magazine really should stick to the meaningless celebrity gossip it does so well. When it attacks more substantive topics it tends to grind them up and spit them out as hyperbole mixed with non sequiturs masked as studied analysis. Thus they treat, say, the war in Iraq with the same seriousness as Anna Nicole's weight at the time of her death: 178. "Ah, but she may have been on a diet because a bottle of Slim-Fast was found by her bed." Thanks. I can rest easily now.

Today, then, came the breaking news that, nationally, the real estate market belongs to buyers. [No. REALLY???] It DID allow the Pacific Northwest as an exception, but painted mostly a dire picture, the same dire picture you've heard from other mainstream news outlets for the last year. Like ghost stories around a campfire, various versions of apocalypse apparently sell. As if AGW weren't enough.

Reminder: Don't listen to it. Not only is real estate local, it can be singular. What's happening in Phoenix is not what's happening in the Portland Metro area; is not what's happening in Lake Oswego; is not what's happening in Westlake; is not what's happening in Brighton; is not what's happening with, say, a 3300 sf Chafee in terrific shape and perfectly priced. National trends are interesting in the proper context; but trying to extrapolate them to specific situations can be dangerously misleading.

And speaking of misleading: I've defended Zillow in the past and I still defend the right of all people interested to access their site. But it remains a parlor game, and anyone who takes it as anything more is facing delusion and therapy.

PARADE and Zillow, though, have apparently reached an agreement: PARADE drives people to its own web site where, using Zillow's engine, offers this:

What's Your Home Worth?

Find out at Use our free real estate calculators from to determine the current value of your home – and your neighbor's.

See any caveat? No. "Determine the current value of your home". Period.

Look. It's not that I think most people are too dumb to get it, or that any marginally intelligent agent or appraiser can't answer "But Zillow says it's worth $500,000!" with "Well, Zillow assumes you have a roof."

What bothers me is this is likely to give additional impetus to the doofuses at the
Arizona Board of Appraisal and those like them. [PARADE is what passes as deep source material for many politicians as they write laws.] If that happens, it's Zillow's own fault for either A) not demanding editorial rights; or B) having editorial rights and not exercising them. Parade doesn't care: they're just trying to get as many hits as possible so someday they can rely on the web to offset the perfectly awful color reproduction in their magazine.

And for the record: Zillow's claim to the wonder of algorithms is that a "majority" – that can be 51%, but I think they say 75% - of their estimates fall within 10% of the selling price. First, anything in this market 10% over priced isn't getting any showings, but more importantly that means, on a $500,000 home, the price could be either $450,000 or $550,000, a $100,000 swing. And those are the good ones!

Anyone want to buy or sell a home based on that information?

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