St. Louis Builders Stand Up to Unbalanced News Reporting
In response to a particularly negative story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch distorting conditions in the area’s housing market, the Home Builders Association of St. Louis and Eastern Missouri took action and provided information that enabled the newspaper’s real estate editor to write a more accurate and balanced follow-up.
National reporting on the current housing slowdown has become a frustrating challenge for local builders as dire and exaggerated headlines discourage prospective buyers from exploring favorable home buying opportunities in the local market.
Looking to repair some of the damage inflicted by the local newspaper, Shelly Stengel, the St. Louis association’s senior staff vice president for public affairs and marketing, asked NAHB’s Public Affairs for help and within hours was able to provide the editor with regional economic statistics and refer him to expert news sources, including NAHB economist Robert Denk.
“The paper had frequently been reporting on the housing market with a lack of proper perspective and balance,” said Patrick Sullivan, the HBA’s executive officer. “After speaking with the NAHB economist, they wrote a follow-up story with accurate information about the local market and even ran it two weeks in a row in two different stories.”
“You can’t believe everything you read or see,” wrote Oscar Waters, in a story appearing in the Jan. 6 Dispatch under the headline, “Housing Glass Is Still Half-Full in St. Louis Area.”
“Even the Post-Dispatch’s own esteemed business writer Jack Naudi had this to say in his recent year-end column: ‘Ignore the financial pundits in magazines, newspapers, television and the Internet. Most of them don’t know what they’re talking about, and as a group they’ll only make you more confused about your investment choices,’” wrote Waters.
The story went on to point out that the St. Louis market had several factors working in its favor: solid employment and population growth, a lower than average percentage of mortgages in the subprime category and more sustainable home price growth than experienced in some of the nation’s most overheated markets.
In preparation for the story, the reporter also talked to an actual home builder to find out what was happening in the marketplace — Greg Whittaker, one of the largest home builders in the state, who contends in the story that this is the best time to buy in the past five years, with the average cost of building a new home actually going down.
“‘The real estate crunch has had the effect of lowering prices of lumber and other materials. We’re able to pass the savings on to the home buyer,’” the story quotes Whittaker.
“Whittaker believes that in the next six months as home builders work through their inventory of unsold new homes, the market will correct itself. For now, he said, ‘The smart buyer is taking advantage of the low interest rates and the deals.’”
“We received excellent assistance from NAHB with extremely quick turnaround,” said Sullivan. “The follow-up story was very much appreciated by our staff and especially by our members.”
For more information on how NAHB Public Affairs can help members respond to negative media coverage in their markets, go to the Myth Buster Resources section of www.nahb.org or contact Public Affairs by e-mail or telephone at 800-368-5242 x8254.