More About the New York Times Real Estate Article

From the book Scorecasting:

Those of us in the sports media have an interest in selling the most extreme scenario. Collectively, they (we?) pick and choose data accordingly.

This book is about statistics, how the data often debunks common “knowledge” on a variety of sports subjects. And in that one paragraph, it also summarized one of the problem’s in the New York Times real estate article I discussed yesterday:

About 116 lender-owned homes are on the market or under contract in El Mirage, according to local real estate listings.

That’s a pretty big or. As of this morning there are … wait for it … 32 bank-owned homes for sale in El Mirage. Median time on market? Three weeks. Average time on market? Six weeks. Oh, the humanity!

There are another 69 bank owned homes under contract, the other half of the or. The New York Times would have you believe this is a bad thing when, as I think you’ve figured out, it means these homes soon will have new owners.

But that’s just a small fraction of what is to come. An additional 491 houses are either sitting in the lenders’ inventory or are in the foreclosure process.

Pretty bad stuff, right? Oh, wait … I forgot. There are nearly 11,000 single family detached homes in El Mirage according to the tax records. So this means just over 4 percent of the homes in El Mirage are either owned by the bank and not yet for sale, or are in the “foreclosure process” which means, presumably, that a Notice of Default has been filed.

Since not all homes on which a NOD is filed actually go through a Trustee’s Sale … well, now we’re only guessing at what 4 percent might mean. What I can tell you is the 4 percent means that 96 percent of the homes in El Mirage are neither bank owned nor in the midst of the foreclosure process.

The Associated Press loves dependent clauses, especially when it comes to sports writing. To whit … A-Rod is an overrated tool playing for the Yankees, who have lost four of five. Not only is the selection of games used to summarize the Yankees’ recent play arbitrary, it’s also apparently transparent. Again, from Scorecasting:

Clearly, a team that “has lost three in a row” has dropped only three of its last four … otherwise it would have been reported as a four-game losing streak.

There’s nothing particularly malicious in the data selection; after twenty years free-lancing for AP and nearly a quarter-century as a sportswriter in general, it’s simply habit.

But it’s still arbitrary and still only conveys a small portion of the overall story, a bite-sized chunk for the reader to digest in an almost useful effort to provide a sense of perspective.

That’s what the New York Times did. And, like Paul Harvey, I thought you owed to have a chance to hear … the rest of the story.

Time to go before I stomp on another copyright or trademark.

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at