Networks Hype New-Homes Decline as Sign of Woe

     Home is where the heart is – which may explain why television journalists used a decrease in home sales to bolster negative economic reports on February 28.

     Both NBC “Nightly News” and CBS “Evening News” cited the “biggest drop in 13 years” as further proof that rough economic times lay ahead.

     NBC anchor Brian Williams called the 16.6-percent drop in new home sales information “that could be pointing to a bigger slowdown here at home than even some of the experts have been anticipating.”

     While both reports included that decline, they ignored crucial data about the rest of the housing market.

     New home sales only make up between 15 and 20 percent of the overall housing market, according to Walter Molony of the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

     Overall, because new home sales figures are based on contracts and a very small sample size, the data have to be collected over several months to establish a trend, Moloney told the Business & Media Institute.

     Also, total existing home sales, which make up the majority of the market, actually increased by 3 percent in the month of January to the highest level in seven months, according to an NAR press release.

     Despite the expertise NAR could have provided, neither network included the group in the reports. Instead, NBC quoted retailer Home Depot, which said it doesn’t expect the housing market to improve until late in the second half of 2007 or early 2008.

     Reporter Carl Quintanilla even presented a “nightmare scenario” for NBC viewers: “that homes values plummet, more Americans default on their mortgages and stop spending.”