Networks Still Don't Get Foreclosure Stats Correct
It has become routine. Once a month, California-based RealtyTrac releases national foreclosure statistics and once a month, all three networks include a foreclosures story in their November 14 newscast.
However, this time they werenâ€™t on the same page. From the November 14 broadcasts:
NBC: â€śStockton, California â€“ Ground zero in the nationâ€™s foreclosure crisis,â€ť CNBC real estate correspondent Diana Olick said on the â€śNightly News.â€ť â€śOne out of every 31 homes here is in foreclosure.â€ť
CBS: â€ś[A]ccording to a new report today, Stockton, California had the highest rate of foreclosures in the third quarter this year â€“ one in every 31 households,â€ť â€śCBS Evening Newsâ€ť anchor Katie Couric said. â€śThatâ€™s a 465-percent increase from last year.â€ť
ABC: â€śIt is hitting communities hard,â€ť said ABC correspondent Jeffrey Kaufman on â€śWorld News with Charles Gibson.â€ť â€śToday in Stockton, California, 1 in 49 homes is in foreclosure.â€ť
So which is correct? Though it may seem surprising, all three are technically incorrect, although the ABC report was the most inaccurate.
The Associated Press, which was accurate, reported one foreclosure filing for every 31 households â€“ which is not the same as saying â€śone in every 31 homes is in foreclosure,â€ť because foreclosure is a process.
There may be as many as three foreclosure filings for each individual home in the foreclosure process. Each stage of filing is counted as â€śforeclosure activity,â€ť so a single home could potentially be counted three times â€“ a distinction the media often do not make.
â€śThe fact is we do track all levels of foreclosure activity,â€ť explained RealtyTracâ€™s vice president of marketing, Rick Sharga, to the Business & Media Institute on August 24 explaining the routine report the media give so much attention.
â€śThis is the important consideration â€“ foreclosures are a process, theyâ€™re not an event, so itâ€™s an unfortunate happenstance that the word happens to be a noun, a verb, a pronoun, an adjective and probably a prepositional phrase in some instances,â€ť Sharga said.
But spikes in foreclosure activity are still hyped in the media, even if there are important mathematical considerations reporters tend to ignore.
â€śI spend an awful lot of my time dealing with people in the media,â€ť Sharga said. â€śEither they donâ€™t always get or they donâ€™t appreciate the nuance or they may have an agenda of their own.â€ť