Monday, April 02, 2007

FLASH! News-Leader Sensationalizes!

Check the headline from today's top story:

SIDE NOTE: The headline in the print version is "Greene County home values soar", which is also the hed on the web page for the story. I guess "Home values soar in Greene County" filled more the page a block look.

The subhead declares "Average sale prices jump 40 percent in assessment." Reading no further one might think Greene County is bucking the national trend of a drop in home values. In fact, it would seem that, as the News-Leader declares, home values are soaring, increasing by 40 percent. Property owners might find that disturbing since it means a substantial increase in property taxes.

The third graf says "60 percent of the 115,000 real estate parcels in the county increased in value." Wow! As a new property owner I'm rather concerned about how I'm going to pay those extra taxes. My salary hasn't increased 40 percent this year. And considering we just bought the house last summer and haven't made any improvements, we either got a great bargain, or we're about to be royally ripped off.

But wait! There's more!

According to the Springfield Board of Realtors, the average home sale price in Greene County jumped 40 percent from 1998 to 2006 — from $101,249 to $142,176.

Wait a minute. What's this? That 40 percent increase is from 1998 to EIGHT YEAR PERIOD. And then:
More recently, the average home sold for $127,271 in 2004 and $139,558 in 2005 — an almost 10 percent rise.

In 2006, the average selling price rose again, although more slowly, to $142,176 — a 1.9 percent increase.
(emphasis mine)

What's this? The average selling price (or home value) increased only ONE-POINT-NINE PERCENT in 2006. Let's see, 1.9% most recent year, versus average of 5% per year for the past 8 years. Does that really sound like "Greene County home values soar?" According to the math I learned in public school, 1.9 is less than half of 5. So while the average home value did increase last year, the increase was LESS THAN HALF of the average annual increase for the past 8 years. And it is LESS THAN ONE FIFTH of the increase of the previous year.

I'd be OK with the headline if it was used last year. . .a 10 percent increase may be classified as soaring. But 1.9 percent? C'mon!

So why'd the News-Leader do this? What was the motivation to sensationalize this story? And did I really need that jolt this morning?