On Wednesday, 10 November 2010 (just before Veterans Day) I picked up a copy of the St. Petersburg Times from a friendly seller on a downtown St. Petersburg street corner. In the B section I found something quite obvious: Tampa Bay home values drop still among worst in nation.
This time, it wasn’t written by the St. Petersburg Times’ number one fear monger when it comes to articles about the economy, house values, the housing crisis or the credit crunch (which is none other than Jeff Harrington, of course). Instead, the article was written by Mark Puente. As I mentioned in a comment I made on this article, I think Jeff Harrington gave Mark Puente a hand in writing this article so that the St. Petersburg Times can sell more newspapers (and make a great profit, especially if the article ends up on the front page).
(After all, the St. Petersburg Times can’t sell any more newspapers using hawkers on street corners in St. Petersburg thanks to St. Petersburg’s new panhandling ordinance which, among other things, bans street hawkers from the street corners of St. Petersburg among other things. But the St. Petersburg Times can across the bay in Tampa and Hillsborough County, but hurry fast: Both the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County are considering ordinances similar to St. Petersburg’s which can put the street hawkers – not only the St. Petersburg Times but the Tampa Tribune as well – out of business.)
As you know, both the St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9 have a very strong alliance with each other when it comes to sharing stories. If you watch Bay News 9 from time to time you’ll notice on occasion that a story you see on Bay News 9 was presented with the help of their partner newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times. To me, this very strong alliance gives the St. Petersburg Times carte blanche to spread the word in an electronic medium by using the resources of Bay News 9, even if the stories written by the St. Petersburg Times are nothing more than placing fear in the public.
Earlier, on Friday, 5 November 2010, I also picked up a copy of the St. Petersburg Times only to find another article on the housing crisis plastered on the bottom of the front page, which was written to scare people about their house values. Do you think Jeff Harrington wrote that article?
Instead, it turns out that the article was written by a news outfit called McClatchy Newspapers. I did a little research on Google on McClatchy Newspapers and it turns out that it is a media company that owns several newspapers across the United States, including The Bradenton Herald and The Miami Herald. For those of you that don’t know where Bradenton is, it is a city in Manatee County just south of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
However, The Miami Herald happens to have another alliance, as they share reporting operations on stories that come out of Tallahassee, Florida’s state capital. And do you know what that alliance is? The St. Petersburg Times, of course! So, that makes it easy for McClatchy Newspapers (The Miami Herald’s owner) to happily supply the St. Petersburg Times with articles that think will sell more newspapers. Even if it’s stories about the housing crisis or the credit crunch written to scare the public.
OK, OK. Here’s my take on how the media wants you scared, especially when it comes to the housing crisis:
The St. Petersburg Times – especially Jeff Harrington and Mark Puente – wants you scared.
Bay News 9 wants you scared.
Your county property appraiser wants you scared.
Zillow – the online home values service – wants you scared. So does RealtyTrac.
Now for a dose of reality.
If you think that, as a homeowner with a mortgage, you may be underwater as to your home’s value, the best thing to do is to get a professional appraisal done on your home. After all, professional appraisers do more research to arrive at a home’s probable value than the appraisers do in the county property appraiser’s office (after all, what your county property appraiser says what your home is valued at is for the computation of your annual property tax bill, and these appraisals are done en masse). Besides, you will have an appraisal that you have ordered in your own hand, and you can use it to refinance or when the time comes to sell your home; appraisals that are ordered by the banks as part of the mortgage underwriting process are biased towards the bank that ordered the appraisal in the first place.
Home appraisals cost anywhere in the ballpark of around $300. Talk to a few appraisers in your area and get cost estimates before you agree and check out their reputation. But believe me, it may sound expensive but it’s worth it.
If your appraisal shows that you are not underwater after all, congratulations! However, if the worst happens and you are indeed underwater, there is still hope. My blog entry on The Housing Crisis and the News Media from earlier has details on what you can do if you are indeed underwater and are at the same time struggling with your mortgage.
After all, we’re going to survive this housing crisis one way or another! The people that are really intent on prolonging the housing crisis is the news media such as the St. Petersburg Times and the way it is being reported.
And another thing…
I did a media cross check on my lunch break (using my trusty laptop) when the St. Petersburg Times article came out about the worst housing values in the country as I mentioned earlier in this blog entry by going over to 10 News (which is WTSP-TV, the CBS affiliate here in St. Petersburg). I checked 10 News’ website and found nothing about the housing crisis. Based on what I have seen, it seems like if you see an article in the St. Petersburg Times about the housing crisis written to place fear in the public, you won’t see it on 10 News. Besides, 10 News would not carry a story similar to what is in the St. Petersburg Times, again based on my research.
Oh, and by the way…
Mr. Jeff Harrington, are you reading this blog entry? And Mr. Mark Puente, are you reading this blog entry as well?