Have you ever noticed that the cover page of the Saturday and Sunday Real Estate Section of your local paper inevitably have a headline like: "RJR Developers Announce Opening of Laguna Grande?" The fact is that what is printed there is simply a reproduction of the promotional material prepared by the advertising and public relations divisions of RJR Developers.

What really happened is that RJR signed a one-year contract for a half-page advertisement in the weekend editions and, in return, they received a front page "news" piece announcing their new project. Or, they outright purchased the story above the fold.

The reason weekend Real Estate Sections have become advertising venues is that the advertising sales division of the newspaper took over the Real Estate Section and news reporters were reassigned beginning back in the 1990's. If Truth-in-Advertising were practiced, the Real Estate Sections of these papers should have printed at the top of every page - "ADVERTISEMENT" - regardless of what is printed below.

My local paper has re-titled the section calling it: REAL ESTATE promotional feature. I looked through last weekend’s editions and the total number of actual "news" stories in Saturday’s and Sunday’s Real Estate Sections were two out of 27, plus five columnists giving advice. The rest of the articles were only advertising puff pieces. Even the two news stories were not about our local market, so we had NO LOCAL real estate news in our local paper!

Here’s a hint: If the byline is "Special to the _____" it means a PR person for the company featured wrote it. So that article headlined "RJR’s Laguna Grande Sales Soar" is only the wishful thinking of the sales and marketing division of that developer.

I think a better option for the consumer may be the World Wide Web.

The Web provides consumers real choices – (IF they can figure out who is telling the truth and who is not.) If you don’t know by now, you should realize that anybody can publish anything without references, sources, or verification on the web. That means that it is not a good idea to follow the advice found there without independent verification of the information - (NOTE: This verification cannot be from another web source because misinformation on the Internet gets duplicated 400 times per day until it becomes "virtual fact".)

The exception to Internet concerns are sites like www.nemmar.com. I know for a fact that they hire legitimate journalists because I am one, and have been for more than 14 years. Every column by every author may not be perfect, but at least there is an attempt to provide truthful & useful "news" - as opposed to the advertising tripe of most newspaper Real Estate Sections.

In addition to good, solid information, the "click and explore" features of www.nemmar.com are phenomenal. In about 35 minutes, I was able to:

  • Verify the price ranges of homes for sale within the quarter section of land where my home is located
  • Take a "virtual tour" of the homes of a couple of my neighbors, and
  • I found offers for financing (or refinancing) so appealing I clicked through to their site. By simple comparison of claims made by agents and lenders I was able to discern likely actual values and costs.

    It is no wonder that my local paper has recently begun promoting their web site so heavily. But I doubt it will be successful until they learn, again, the lesson that newspapers should have some NEWS. Duh?!?

    Disclaimer: None of the headlines or companies referenced in this article are actual firms. The fictitious names were used to illustrate the opinions expressed.

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