A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

Looking into the News

Go to various blogs, and you will see people lamenting that news reports are not properly covering what is happening in their area, or you will find information that should be on the news. One current report surprised me, because I was not expecting the information so soon. Foreclosures were reported as having doubled, followed by a discussion of this market. The information made me question what was happening in the market.

The report based this statement on a study by RealtyTrac, so I investigated. Realty Trac provides an interesting service to real estate investors and home sellers of listing properties (mainly foreclosures), but they are not really a site that assists owners in selling like other sites. Relaty Trac puts out a press release each month on the state of foreclosures around the country. The press release is well written and presented, and I would recommend it to any real estate investor. The headline for this past release was actually that the number of foreclosed properties has dropped by 8% from August to September. The release is gives a state by state breakdown of this market. Where does the figure of twice as many foreclosures come into play? Operating metrics for any firm will involve a comparison of last years number to this years number, and Realty Trac being thorough in its presentation gives us this figure. The number of foreclosures in September 2007 is nearly twice as much as the number reported for September 2006. The news cast did not announce both facts; only the amount which emphasizes the credit crisis was reported, since it is better copy.

This led me to consider another aspect of the reporting about home ownership. The question has been asked in the media if everyone should own a home. The obvious (and always given) answer is no. I write obvious, since considering the amount of available land in relation to the population size, I would have to reason that it is impractical for full home ownership to occur. Maybe we should put this question aside to ponder the idea of what we should be asking. I would suggest that we ask: should anyone who desires a home have the opportunity to own one? I believe that we could say yes to this question, and this query allows us to progress to a further probe. Should we find ways to assist those who desire a home to obtain one? I do not feel that this topic has been adequately explored in our society.

Another report from this morning gave me pause when considering ways to offer help. A study has found that the great majority of people who have adjustable rate mortgages, which are about to reset, do not realize that they have something to worry about. With news headlines focusing on the negative aspects of our current housing market, this fact becomes truly amazing. I read about a conference for reporters to teach them about science, so that science reporting would improve. Maybe we should consider such a conference in financial education? My eleven year old son has the basic mathematical skills at this time to handle many daily or weekly financial matters. He is fortunate that some teachers have already exposed him to some concepts, and that his mother and I have been pushing him to learn aspects of this as well. The report about the ARMs shows that this not the case for many. Our first step should be to educate students about finances in our schools, and adults in our media, if we want a more stable society and economy. There are many blogs and websites already doing this, but this forum does not always reach all of those who need this knowledge. If you are reading this post, you are likely already aware of a blog dealing with your finances or credit or investing or other related topic, but take the time to consider how this information could be useful to college students or the working poor or others unaware of these matters. After considering, what can you do about it? I am no expert in financial matters, but I am taking the time to sit down with my clients and friends to give them some aid in this field, and I am thinking about how I can expand that effort.

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