Local angles drive interest in real estate

Journalists tend to follow the money, so when the tech and stock market booms ended six years ago, media interest in those categories declined, as well. But that trend hasn't followed with residential real estate coverage.

Journalists tend to follow the money, so when the tech and stock market booms ended six years ago, media interest in those categories declined, as well. But that trend hasn't followed with residential real estate coverage.

"Even though the market is down, interest remains very strong," explains Mary Doyle-Kimball, executive director of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. "There are a lot more people owning multiple properties - either as a second home or an investor in real estate - so there's a lot more at stake."

The media have duly noted how the surge in housing prices has played a major role in the US economy in recent years, as consumers took out home-equity loans and used the cash on everything from kitchen renovations to new cars and college tuitions.

But that trend tended to be more of a national business story. "Most housing stories are inherently local," says Amy Bohutinsky, director of communications for online home valuation site Zillow.com. "Unless you can tell reporters what's going on in their area, their city, and even their neighborhood, it's hard to get them interested."

Carl Larsen, home editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune, agrees. "We are looking for big-picture trends, but we make sure to insert local figures into any national pricing story," he says. "We also deal mostly with local brokers rather than their corporate headquarters."

As far as coverage trends, Larsen says he and his staff are also focusing a lot more on mortgage-related stories. "There are so many more mortgage options out there, and it's a lot easier now to get a mortgage," he adds. "The financing of real estate is the biggest change."

A lot of real estate coverage ends up being numbers-driven stories, and there are a lot of organizations now feeding reporters with national and local statistics on pricing, new home start-ups, and, more recently, foreclosures.

But Walter Molony, senior public affairs specialist for the National Association of Realtors, suggests journalists increasingly are looking not only for experts to help interpret those numbers, but also for real-world families that can put a human face on the latest statistics.

Molony says he's also finding himself dealing with a lot more than real estate beat writers, which means he has to put more emphasis on reporter education, especially with broadcast.

"That's because many broadcast reporters are younger and tend to be renters because they move from market to market, so they don't have that background of personal experience in home ownership," he says.

PITCHING... Residential real estate

There are plenty of national housing statistics, but real estate is a local story, so make sure you can provide experts and real-world examples for city- or even neighborhood-specific trends

Many journalists are young and urban, thus more likely to be renters, so make sure you do a lot of reporter education on the pros and cons of home ownership

Now that the market has cooled, people are going to want tips on how to maintain or increase their home's value

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