The Housing Chronicles Blog: The real estate blogosphere

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The real estate blogosphere

There's an interesting story coming up in the L.A. Times about the various real estate-related blogs on the Internet (hat tip to the LALand blog for noting it). Although it centers mostly on blogs started by various real estate agents, it also discusses those started by individuals who envisioned a miserable housing bust to follow the recent boom:

BACK in 2006, which in the real estate blogo- sphere is pretty much akin to the dawn of creation, Real Estate Undressed blogger Larry Cragun had this to say to the American home-buying public:

"There is a new wave growing. Agents that blog. We believe you will eventually only use an agent that blogs. Why? Because . . . if they blog about a community they must know it. . . . You also learn more about them as they blog."

Cragun's advice must have been heeded, since it seems that every agent and their brother now has a blog. And if anecdotal evidence is to be believed -- nobody actually tracks this -- agents who are still selling today are agents who blog...

...a blog can be a place for buyers and sellers to get to know an agent without having to step out from behind the curtain of anonymity. They can watch from afar and determine whether they "like" the agent and what he or she has to say. When they are comfortable and ready to make a move, they pick up the phone and generally don't need to be pushed into a transaction, agents say.

And, of course, there's arisen a natural level of animosity between optimistic agents and cynical housing busters:

The housing-bubble bloggers are, in general, people who predicted that the high prices of homes -- the bubble -- wouldn't last forever. Today, they offer a gloomy picture of how low the housing market may fall and do so with a certain glee over having been right.

Dust-ups between the bubble bloggers and the real estate industry bloggers are frequent, and disputes fall along predictable lines: Agents put a more positive spin on the market; bubble bloggers predict economic catastrophe. The two groups distrust each other, and some bloggers claim to fear repercussions from the other side. Few would disagree that bubble bloggers are angry victors whose "I told you so" message is often delivered with a cyber finger-poke in the chest.

The loudest bubble blog, by most accounts, is HousingPANIC, run by someone who wants to be identified only as Keith, who says he sold his home in Phoenix, which he described as "housing bubble central," in 2006 and moved to London. He has since left London "to travel the road."

Tamer in tone and written by 43-year-old Ben Jones is the Housing Bubble. Jones started the blog in 2004 when cracks first started appearing in the sub-prime market. He dismisses some of the bubble bloggers as "crazy" and prefers not to be associated with them.

Written out of northern Arizona, can get 40,000 to 50,000 unique visitors on any given day depending on the news, Jones said. It includes a group of regular posters -- some grateful to the blog for persuading them not to buy, others taunting and vindictive-sounding about those who did. The blog accepts ads and has, in fact, become Jones' day job.

And then there is Housing Doom -- written from Austin, Texas, by Debi Averett, who sold her Phoenix-area home "in 15 minutes" when she thought her husband had a job out of state. The job offer fell through just days before escrow closed, and the buyer held the couple to the contract. Averett and her family wound up renting and, given the rapid escalation of housing prices in the area, couldn't afford to buy again.

It was precisely due to these two types of blogs dominating the real estate space that I founded Housing Chronicles in late 2007. Part news sleuth and part commentary, the purpose of my blog is to link to stories and other items that I think could be important for people who work and invest in real estate development, sales and ancillary businesses.

There's generally a good reason I don't cover certain stories -- many local stories are already well covered by media-related blogs such as L.A. Land or Lansner on Real Estate, while neighborhood-oriented sites such as Angelenic or CurbedLA have carved out niches upon which I don't think I could improve.

More recently, I've started to communicate more with other bloggers; sometimes to post on their site, to offer congratulations (like when LALand's Peter Viles was interviewed on Nightline) or to simply discuss a reciprocal link (still waiting to hear back from Jonathan Lansner on that one, so if anyone else has any pull with him...).

I've come to realize two important things during this blogging experience: (1) most real estate bloggers are very smart and dedicated people (even if I don't necessarily agree with their agendas); and (2) blogging daily is an enormous investment of time and resources that could be spent in other ways -- such as golfing with potential clients -- but provides a special public service that pays other dividends.

Please take a look at my links to other bloggers and visit their sites; each has a unique voice and offers new links and commentary you may not find on mine, but by visiting all of us on a regular basis, you'll end up being much more informed on real estate and economics than you would be from reading newspapers alone.

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