Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

Agents Decoded: Making sense of the headlines 

Industry veteran (and news junkie) Jay Thompson says agents can help themselves and their clients by reading beyond market headlines, putting news in context.

November 18, 2022
4 minutes

The direction of your business depends on decisions you make every day. Agents Decoded can help you by presenting the perspectives of seasoned pros who have been there, made mistakes, and found success.

Being a self-professed news junkie, one of the first things I do every morning is grab my phone and scroll through the news.

Housing market headlines are everywhere. Many are quite sensational, ending with exclamation points or predicting impending doom for the industry we love. Clickbait, the sensationalizing of headlines and content, has been an issue since the dawn of the internet, and housing news is not immune to it.

Widespread as it may be, not all headlines are clickbait, and not all clickbait is bad or misleading — but you’ve got to learn to sort through them all and get to what matters.

We live in a 24/7 news cycle. As a real estate professional, you need to stay on top of what’s happening in the industry. Your clients see the same endless stream of housing news, leading to questions, fears and concerns — which they may or may not share with you. An important part of your job is educating your clients, sussing out and addressing their questions and concerns. 

But how does one sift through the noise to find useful information to share? If you approach this task thoughtfully and remember a few tips, you can get the most from your news sources and keep your clients current and calm.  

Don't stop at the headline

One of the most important things you can do is read past the headline. Media sites write emotional and attention-grabbing headlines in order to get you to click on the link, sending you to their website. Why? Most likely they’re trying to boost traffic to their site in order to woo advertisers and increase revenue. 

It’s impossible to absorb all the content available to us. To try and manage it, we often zip through headlines or skim articles, skipping much of the meat of the story. 

It’s easy to read a headline and make assumptions about the story, but it’s importanto slow down, read the full article, and maintain a critical eye.   

Apply your knowledge, and filter appropriately

You are all aware of one of the major “laws” of real estate: real estate is local. National media and news sites typically won’t report data and statistics for your local market. The national median home price, days on market or inventory levels may be a perfect match to your local numbers, or they may be higher or lower. Sometimes wildly.

Understand your local statistics and share those with your clients. Don’t just point out the similarities or differences between local and national data, but explain how this information is calculated, what it means, and how, if at all, it impacts your client. 

Be aware of media bias

Almost every media outlet is biased to some degree, and we tend to gravitate toward news sources that fit our own personal biases. Although the information may be accurate, political bias can have a significant impact on how news and data are presented and interpreted. Your clients likely cover the political spectrum, so a good practice is to read news stories from a variety of sources.

Two useful resources are AllSides, which aggregates news and presents topics from the left, center and right side-by-side, and Media Bias / Fact Check, where you can search through thousands of local and regional sources to get a picture of which way they lean.

Political bias isn’t inherently bad, nor does it mean a media source is full of “fake news.” But for a balanced perspective (and insight into what your clients are seeing), avoid the extremes and explore left-leaning, center and right-leaning sites.     

Share your analysis with your clients

Your clients may be seeing many of the same news articles as you and wondering what to make of all the housing headlines. They are also forming their own opinions, and their concerns can be compounded by misinformation, misinterpretation or simply a lack of knowledge. 

That is where you can add value: Using your professional expertise and market smarts, explain how and why the news may – or may not – affect your local market and your clients’ buying and selling options.

Jay Thompson is a former real estate agent, broker-owner and industry outreach director. He is currently an industry consultant and sits on several boards. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author.

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