“Fake news” is the cause du-jour that has energized many into a movement to stop the spreading of falsehoods. Ironically, the crusaders who point their finger at alleged sources of fake news may also be guilty of promoting it. Fake news accusations are sometimes used to promote misinformation and half-truths. Unfortunately, fake news has become a meme that is becoming trite and meaningless. The promotion of fake news may be found throughout history, but it is certainly well established in the real estate industry.
Fake real estate news isn’t always a manufactured story. It is more often a story that is misleading. When reporting real estate, the media typically sensationalizes a headline without reporting all the facts, which can make you draw inaccurate conclusions. An example of this is when the local media report on rising national average home prices, giving the false impression that the local market is expanding at the same pace. This is a mischaracterization of the local market because the regional data is often much different from the national trends.
The National Association of Realtors® is sometimes guilty of this too by stating conjecture as fact when explaining market deviations. An example of this is when existing home sales declined about seven percent during February 2014 (March 20, 2014; nar.realtor). It was explained away because of the poor weather and snow that occurred that month. However, if snow is causal to poor winter home sales; then why was there a five percent increase in Montgomery County Home Sales during February of 2010 – when Snowmageddon and Snowzilla occurred?
Consumers also perpetuate fake real estate news by exaggerating their (good and bad) experiences, usually offering unsolicited advice or posting to the internet (to real estate forums and websites). Facts are often distorted or misrepresented about specific real estate situations, such as divorce, short sales, and foreclosure. Unfortunately, people in similar situations who are looking for answers are at their most vulnerable; and can take the “advice” as gospel, seeking a similar outcome with their transaction.
More real estate fakery on the internet comes in the form of fake reviews. Fake reviews has been an ongoing issue for a number of years. And although the online real estate portals have claimed to use artificial intelligence and other means to thwart the trend, fake reviews and those who provide them have adapted and have become more sophisticated such that it is increasingly difficult to spot. Even back in 2011, Cornell researchers claimed that detection of fake reviews is “well beyond the capability of human judges” (Proceedings of the 49th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics, pages 309–319).
Scammers and fraudsters also use fake real estate news to their advantage. Fake real estate listings have been an issue since the inception of the internet. Fraudsters publish pictures and information from a prior sale or rental, or may lift the photos and information from a legitimate listing being marketed by an agent. The con is to have the consumer send money, often before the home can be seen. Craigslist warns consumers: “Avoid scams, deal locally! DO NOT wire funds (e.g. Western Union), or buy/rent sight unseen.”
When it comes to real estate news, advice, and listings – don’t take anything for granted. Know the source, and verify the information with a local real estate professional or your real estate agent.
Dan Krell is a Realtor® with RE/MAX All Pro in Rockville, MD. You can access more information at www.DanKrell.com.