Media bias in real estate reporting?

Paulb posted a link to this surprisingly negative article in The Toronto Star this weekend – I say surprising because we’re used to seeing a much rosier outlook in the mainstream media. That kicked off a discussion on media bias that I think is worth continuing. As suggested by ‘burden of proof’ I’m going to post this as a few poll questions. Feel free to elaborate on your opinions in the comment section.




Extra: Conjuration_imbeciles sent in this link to another article in the Toronto Star. One of the authors that predicted the US housing crash warns Canadians thinking about buying a property in the US that it’s still too early to buy. He predicts that there are more losses to come, particularly in markets favoured by Canadians (ie. Arizona & Florida).

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Toronto realtor

I think that both Real estate market and journalism are victims of the unfortunate article in Toronto star. Working as a realtor in Toronto I'm facing this negative attitude in the press more and more over the years, the press is tryin to ruin the real estate's market image?


Freako, those are very cogent examples (Boy cry wolf; weather forecaster) to illustrate flawed or biased thinking in people. Reminds me of Type I/II errors (probably another area of your expertise). Type 1 – false positive: Diagnose that the patient has cancer, but patient actually is healthy (Bull market) Type II – false negative: Diagnose that the patient doesn’t have cancer, when patient has cancer (Bear market) A good way for doctors to minimise false diagnosis is to do more and more tests on the patient presenting with particular signs and symptoms. This is not only costly but could be an over-kill. A simple rule of thumb is to use the age of the patient as the guiding factor (if the symptoms are ambiguous). Subject the older and elderly patients to more lab tests since they are more likely than… Read more »


Media coverage tends to reflects the target audience of the advertisers. In Vancouver, the Sun and Province cater to the upper-income, property-owning class. Makes sense. These are the people who buy the condos and expensive cars that are advertised in the paper. The reporting is filtered through the lens of that audience. This means a reliance on "official" sources like the development industry, realtors, banks, government, etc. It also means more coverage about price appreciation as a positive thing. Questions about affordability tend to be marginalized. This is especially true when reporting on rising prices. The language of the reporting refers to real estate "outperforming expectations" and other positive language.


Right, sorry about that. I was posting at work (where I'm usually wrong by far more than a factor of 20,000). Here's what I think got lodged in my cranium as that fact. It's this study… that was cited in Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers (that I was reading 4 pages a night of until falling asleep, abandoning it after 6 weeks and an ill-digested chapter and a half) The study says something like current fossil fuel use (fossil fuels being derived from ancient plant matter) consumes more than 400 times the current net productivity of plant matter. Flannery's use of this study (and I just reread it a moment ago) careens forward into a statement that by 1986 we had reached the point of consuming all sustainable production, and since then we're in a kind of "consumption deficit".… Read more »


As a species we already use more energy than falls on the planet as sunlight

As pointed out, we consume a miniscule amount compared to the solar energy reaching the earth. However, Kurzeil is still a nutbar. I don't know why he gets as much MSM time as he does.

Also don't forget that wind and water turbines also use solar energy, albeit indirectly. We let the earth's surface concentrate the energy into moving air and water, and then harvest it. Of course these opportunities are in not limitless, though off shore windpower holds HUGE promise once the transmission prolem is solved.


It’s inherent in most systems that if you predict “more of the same”, you will be right most of the time. And that is a key point that I keep trying to hammer home. There is a HUGE difference between being right about direction and being right about magnitude. Example 1. A boy cries wolf. Most of the time he is wrong, but about 1 in 4 he is right. Even though he is wrong more than he is right (direction) his opinion is still valued because of the severity (magnitude) of consequences when he is right. Example 2. Weather forecaster A is 99% accurate about whether it will rain the next day (direction). Weather forecaster B is only 1% accurate. However B is 100% accurate on his hurricane predictions (magnitude). Which forecaster would you prefer if taking your boat… Read more »

Damn Dan

For all the “quality of the data and analysis” the simple reality is a mouthpiece like Muir has been far far more accurate than most in the local blogosphere. And that’s been for a quite a long time now. It doesn't take brains to say "more of the same". Any fool can. It's inherent in most systems that if you predict "more of the same", you will be right most of the time. So where's the skill in saying "more of the same"? Being right in such cases provides no evidence of a functioning brain. Think "monkey see, monkey do". Think "parrot". Predicting change … that's difficult … it requires intelligence and to some degree courage. Predicting when change will occur … more difficult … people will mock you every time you get it wrong … so it requires guts.… Read more »


I wasn't going to get involved because the debate is extremely ot. BUT;

"As a species we already use more energy than falls on the planet as sunlight."

Ok, that's insane. I do not believe you, did you make that up or do you actually have a source?

Here's what I found.

Worldwide energy consumption was 0.471 ZJ in 2004.

Oceans absorb approximately 2850 ZJ of solar energy per year.

So you're only off by a factor of 20,000 or so. Nice try though.


Nutbar indeed. As a species we already use more energy than falls on the planet as sunlight. How is solar supposed to fuel 100% of our consumption? Panels on Mars?

India has been using solar for some time. I visited a tiny village in the desert some years ago that had a solar panel on a light tower in the middle of the village. Charged during the day, lit at night. Stand alone. Pretty cool.

They are also leaping to wireless phones having skipped the wired telcom infrastructure. Again, pretty cool.


that's definitely one of the problems in areas like India right now – too many remote villages – but the government there has said that they're committed to having electricity in every home, and they're offering some big dollars for solutions – so it will be interesting to see how the landscape changes over the next five years or so.


the biggest problem is the lack of available polysilicon for the panels – and of course the time it takes to build a polysilicon plant –

Solar cells won't be able to compete with thermal solar for a long long time. Picture a acres and acress of mirrors out in the desert, all aimed at a tower where steam is generated which drives a turbine. Basically, the problem to solve is cost effective transmission of electricity from remote places.


At that rate we’ll meet 100 percent of our energy needs in 20 years.”

Ray Kurzweil, quoted in Live Science

Kurzweil is a frigging nutbar. He also believes that computers will have emotions by 2029. There is absolutely noway that solar can meet 100 percent of needs in 20 years.

Tony Danza

My puppy doubled his weight in 6 mths; I guess he’ll be the size of a Brontosaurus soon.

I think this phenomenon should be called the "Kurzweil Effect" or maybe even the "SATV Effect" (as relates to Vancouver RE).


Van RE blog

This will now be a markedly cash-flow-negative property.


[Electricity from solar power] is doubling now every two years. Doubling every two years means multiplying by 1,000 in 20 years. At that rate…

Thanks for the belly laugh. My puppy doubled his weight in 6 mths; I guess he'll be the size of a Brontosaurus soon.

Tony Danza

I wouldn’t call the New York Times “fringe media” (Krugman, “That Hissing Sound”, summer 2005), nor would I use that label for The Economist (”In come the waves”, Jun 16th 2005).

If you consider the reading habits of the average American (or Canadian) you might.


Another project in trouble. Wonder how many more we'll be seeing.… Okanagan condo developer leaves pre-sale buyers in limbo Last Updated: Monday, March 10, 2008 | 10:45 AM ET Comments3Recommend25CBC News Another B.C. condo project has run into problems, leaving buyers with pre-sale agreements wondering if they will ever get to move into their new homes. The Willows condominium development in the Okanagan town of Lake Country, just north of Kelowna, is in receivership, leaving about 78 purchasers in limbo. Developer Divergent Environments published this picture of the Willows development on its website in July 2007. (Divergent Environments) The condos were being built by Divergent Environments, a Victoria-based company, whose website says it has 16 years of development experience in Western Canada, including at least four condominium projects. One of the disappointed Willows buyers is Heather Brown, who until… Read more »


solar power is definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with – many European countries, as well as India, offering huge financial incentives to solar power developers and users

the biggest problem is the lack of available polysilicon for the panels – and of course the time it takes to build a polysilicon plant –

but we could probably be at almost 100% alternative energy usage in 20 years – if we have the willpower to do it


I think the national media have done little analysis but are more inclined to regurgitate whatever industry hacks or other shills feed to them. The tone of most things I have read really do not get past the "Gosh, isn't this expensive stage.

As far as Vancouver Sun goes, look at the amount of advertising done by the RE industry-it is freaking huge. Any local reporter with a desire to keep his job would be crazy to do anything even mildly critical of the market. This is of course assuming the reporter can do any analysis. Frankly, the mile wide and inch thick comment meshes with what I have seen, and most newsrooms really are not in the business of encouraging critical thought.


Now, $10 oil may be on the horizon, just not for the reasons The Economist cited.

"[Electricity from solar power] is doubling now every two years. Doubling every two years means multiplying by 1,000 in 20 years. At that rate we'll meet 100 percent of our energy needs in 20 years."

Ray Kurzweil, quoted in Live Science


Krugman isn't a journalist by training, but an economist, so he isn't typical. And as for The Economist, sure they mentioned the housing bubble, but their track record and general quality of analysis is pretty dismal, especially since the new editor took over a few years ago. Remember, The Economist was once predicting $10 oil.


many pundits in the US were calling for a major housing crash and financial chaos as far back as 2004/2005 yet were only reported in the fringe media.

I wouldn't call the New York Times "fringe media" (Krugman, "That Hissing Sound", summer 2005), nor would I use that label for The Economist ("In come the waves", Jun 16th 2005).

Of course these are liberal publications (in the US and British senses of the word respectively) so they would be negative wouldn't they?

Mold City

If you rely on real estate salespeople for market predictions you're going to get a pretty consistent point of view. Look at the local media reports on the market in 1980, or closer in time just look south:

Tony Danza

Thay was me Strata man testing this thing 🙂

Tony Danza

Hello? Wh is the user name being filled in automatically by the last comment? This isn't Tony Danza by the way