I normally don't mind that most news stories are bad news.  After all, the different, the unusual, that which makes "news" should be bad; good should be so common that it doesn't make headlines.

However, I'm beginning to suspect that some folks actually enjoy reporting bad news, as stories that have both good and bad sides always seem to be reported in the negative.  Take the latest housing "crisis."  Yes, I know, people who should have known better, and bankers who did know better, behaved stupidly and even wickedly, which led to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and I understand how that's a problem for a lot more people and businesses than those directly involved.

I certainly sympathize with those who are trying to sell their houses and find that prices have fallen and they have to sell for less than they could have received a year ago—maybe even less than they paid.  But this is not news.  There have always been "buyer's markets" and "seller's markets," and I grew up knowing that one is more likely to be on the wrong end of the swing.  Yet now the headlines scream disaster because housing prices keep falling.

Sure, this is bad news to some.  But a few years ago the headlines cried woe and doom because housing prices kept rising, squeezing people—especially first-time home buyers—out of the market.  We certainly felt that way when we looked at buying a house in the Boston area.

If it must always be bad news, if the country is headed toward disaster when housing prices rise, and again when they fall, I'm likely to cry, "A plague on both your houses!" and toss the paper over in favor of my World of Puzzles magazine.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, December 3, 2007 at 7:23 pm | Edit
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I would say that massive price changes either up or down are bad news when it comes to home prices. Stability would be what's good news.

Posted by Mike on Tuesday, December 04, 2007 at 3:25 am

Good point, although a slow increase is a good thing, to encourage investment and as a hedge against inflation. I know too many people whose homes are the only "retirement savings" they have. Unfortunately, for many the use of home equity loans is stealing even that. I think I preferred the days when one's ability to get a loan was actually related to one's ability to repay....

Having experienced "stability" in home prices for nearly two decades, however, I can say that it's only a good thing when widespread. Otherwise it leads to bizarre situations, like our friends who moved to Central Florida from California when Campus Crusade for Christ moved its headquarters here. These "impoverished missionaries," dependent for their support on the generosity of others, sold their very modest California homes and had to buy virtual mansions with the proceeds to keep their investments and avoid paying Federal capital gains tax. And in the other direction, it traps people in the areas of low growth, since the values of their homes aren't rising while the values of homes in the places to which they'd like to move soar out of sight. Still, that's nothing new, as I said.

Another reason stability is better than great increases or decreases is that the latter encourage speculation, which seems to get people in trouble much more often than not. Believe me, I like to see the stock market rising, but massive change, even in the positive direction, encourages people to view it as a gambling venue, rather than an investment, with disastrous consequences both to them and, ultimately, to the market.

With houses, more than most things, there is a large segment of the population for whom rising prices is good news, and another large segment for whom it is bad news. What I object to is the media's attitude that it's all bad, and an unprecedented crisis at that. Does one have to be old to realize that "this too shall pass" is one of the truer statements in life?

But perhaps you are even more right than I thought at first. Perhaps instability in one area throws us into crisis mode because we've lost stability in so many other areas....

Posted by SursumCorda on Tuesday, December 04, 2007 at 7:32 am

That's one reason we don't get the paper. Most of it is inflated hype, and at least half of it is wrong in the details.

Posted by joyful on Tuesday, December 04, 2007 at 8:49 am

It doesn't become much more interesting in another language either. I'm dangerously ignorant of the world's happenings and don't find reading the newspaper to be the great language practice everyone claims it is.

Posted by IrishOboe on Tuesday, December 04, 2007 at 5:42 pm

I forget which movie it is, but it shows a person who is going to interview for a tv news reporter position. She is extremely nervous about it, and agonized over what text she should read for her interview.

She ended up picking a paragraph that went something like, "In a horrible accident last night, 7 men and 13 children were killed when the ..."

When she got to her interview, and was working on being just dramatic enough, but not too dramatic, she discovered that all other interviewees were practicing the same bit of text.

Posted by Jon Daley on Thursday, December 06, 2007 at 12:52 pm

"Good point, although a slow increase is a good thing, to encourage investment and as a hedge against inflation. I know too many people whose homes are the only "retirement savings" they have."

Why should a house be an investment? Why shouldn't a house be viewed as a product like a computer that we would all recognize is better cheaper? I can tell you why. Because young people (1st time buyers) don't show up to vote like old people (home owners) and because when home prices are ridiculously high, people need bank loans to get into the market.

Posted by Mike on Tuesday, December 11, 2007 at 9:31 pm
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