Snark and Real Estate

It’s funny when The New York Times writes a piece about something you do. In this case, the real estate section has a story about people who leave snarky comments on real estate web sites, criticizing apartments that are for sale.

For their part, sellers and their brokers are seething over what they perceive as a lack of accountability, hidden or misanthropic motives, and the fact that defending one’s property — even correcting a factual error — can prolong or aggravate its turn under the collective microscope. Sellers also object to being typecast as Marie Antoinette in the French Revolution-style discourse.

Awwwww. Break out the violins and let’s weep for these poor sellers. I almost feel bad for these guys. Seriously. You were told that, much like the stock market, the New York City housing market NEVER goes down. You believed that. Now you’re realizing that the 2-bedroom you bought for $600,000 and which was worth about $750,000 six months after that, is now worth … maybe $550,000. And here are a bunch of jerks criticizing your decorative choices online, possibly turning away potential buyers. That’s got to suck.

But let’s talk about accountability for a second, shall we?

Let’s say I go to an open house for something described in multiple ads as a 3-bedroom. Upon arrival, I learn that the apartment is, in fact a 1-bedroom, one that could be turned into a 2-bedroom if you ran a wall through the only legal bedroom and decided your family would be satisfied sleeping in bunk beds. And the third bedroom? It’s a five-foot tall dungeon in the basement that wouldn’t be counted as a bedroom even if libertarians somehow got control of New York City housing regulations and threw them all out.

Now I’m supposed to feel guilty if I notice this apartment singled out on, say, Brownstoner and then leave a comment alerting other potential buyers that they shouldn’t be wasting their time if, indeed, they want a real 3-bedroom? Right. I’m just doing my part to save other people in my situation precious time and frustration.

The brokers interviewed for the piece tend not to respond to much of the blog attacks. Ultimately, that’s the right move. No point replying to the mob and I’ll be first to admit, that is what we are — a mob, angry at prices currently just beyond our means and control (but not for long) and angry at about some of the dishonesty that goes on in the real-estate listings.

The majority of the listings are honest and the only blatant lie I’ve been told by brokers so far is “Now’s the time to buy. The market’s not going to get any better than this.” And some of the blog commenters are just rabble-rousers under the delusion if they’re mean enough and repetitive enough they’ll somehow drive prices down to 40% below asking.

But this is a real estate market in which my wife and I will end up spending half a million dollars or more on a 1000-square foot apartment. That’s a lot of money. I think the technical term for it is “an ass load of money.” So the more information I can get, the better. And this is definitely one area where the blogs that have cropped up around an industry–and their commenters in particular–have proven to be a great resource.

2 thoughts on “Snark and Real Estate

  1. I should note half a million dollars will buy you a 2,600-sq-foot colonial about 90 minutes out of NYC. If you can handle the commute, you can have a pretty nice life. No dungeons included…

    … having said that, I think comments in general — on real estate sites, on business news sites, on blogs — get out of hand. Still can’t understand why there is so much seething anger in comment sections. Does reading tap into the inner mind, and do we suffer cognitive dissonance spurring us to anger when we read as if an enemy had just whispered an insult in our ears?

    Dunno. But people sure do get pissy when they respond to brief online opinions. If only blog comment sections could include a virtual chill pill.

    Like that?

    Writing, instead of speaking, already makes some people feel brave. Writing anonymously pretty firm in the knowledge that you’ll never have to face the person you’re arguing with? Forget about it.

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