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All the News That’s Fit to Print. Or Not.


Hold on a sec… &*%$#^%$&@*&%$!

<exhale> Ok, what was I going to say? Oh yeah…

My Rant

I am the HOA Queen. Some may dispute it but I have the paper Burger King crown to prove it. Seriously, I have one. It was the one gift I received when I ascended…er…uh…when I became President of our Homeowners’ Association. It, along with my gavel and my pool pass with the number 00001 on it, are my most prized possessions. (OK, not really…but I do love being involved in my community and don’t mind when people tease me about it.)

So, all that being said, it is probably redundant to mention that I believe in the concept of HOAs and get a little PO’d when I hear uncomplimentary things being said about us (HOAs in general, or specific ones including my own). Not that I think they are for everyone or that every one of them is perfectly run or worthy of praise, but homeowners’ associations can be and usually are great places to live.

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Sure, there is always the story of Joe Homeowner (no relation to Joe Plumber, btw) who is suing his Association for not letting him paint his house fuscia. Or the one about the handicapped person who was sued by her Association for violating the covenants by building a ramp to make her home wheelchair accessible. Or, the people being prohibited from flying The Flag or installing windmills on their rooftops. There are a million horror stories out there from all different corners of the country, showing how homeowners’ association inpinge on homeownership rights, cautionary tales revealing the hidden evil living within these communities.

These stories really burn my buns. Not so much because of the actual issues going on…let’s face it, in this litigious society we live in, the promise of easy fortune is irresistable to some homeowners and this kind of stuff will, rightly or not, forevermore clog the judicial system. Anywhere there are rules, someone will break them. Anywhere there are politics, someone is bound to try and use the system for their own personal agenda. It’s inevitable. And sad. But it happens.

No, what really gets me is the reporting of this stuff. I have yet to see a news piece that either 1) reflects favorably on these evil empires, or 2) tells enough of the facts to portray a true picture of the scenario. Of course, the nature of litigation and the confidential nature of these situations prevent the whole story from being told many times, but why is there never any follow up story? Wait…I mean, why is there never any follow up story, or good news for that matter, posted on page one above the fold? Why can’t we sensationalize HOA is a Great Place to Live!

What’s Wrong With Fair & Balanced?

This past Sunday I came across two HOA-bashing stories, this time about the foreclosure crisis. You may or may not be surprised to learn that evil HOAs are up to their eyeballs in this national problem.

The first article I read was a local story which pointed out that “a majority of foreclosure filings in our county are in private communities.” As is typical fare served up on Sunday mornings from our local newspaper <cough><cough> information is doled out in order to sensationalize the headline, or to satisfy the reporter’s desire to stick it to us communities. Or both. ‘Foreclosure filings are up.’ Really? People are having trouble paying their mortgage? Shocking news. About how many of those will actually go in to foreclosure? Not all? Whew, thanks…that puts it in to perspective.

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The vast majority of foreclosure filings take place in private communities? OMG, I knew those places were bad news. I wonder, how does the percentage of foreclosure filings that occurred in private communities compare with the percentage of the total homes in the county that are IN private communities? You don’t know? Isn’t that relevant? Isn’t it relevant that there are more foreclosure filings in communities because there are more homes that are in communities than not in communities? Don’t sheer percentages guarantee this outcome no matter what? Why is it so important to you to make private communities the scapegoat in this mess? <sigh>

Later on Sunday, a dear friend whose job title is ‘chief pot stirrer’ sent me this article from the Washington Post (cuz she likes it when I curse) which an indictment of HOAs in Virginia cloaked as an explanation of the effect of the foreclosure crisis on the budgets of homeowners’ associations in general.

This story is especially sneaky. It begins as a reasonable, make that a very thorough, account of what HOAs across the country are dealing with because of high foreclosure rates – lower dues collections putting a strain on budgets, the repercussion of misguided corner-cutting, etc. However, it then leads in to all of the bad things HOAs in Virginia are doing and encourages everyone to call the newly installed ombudsman whose job it is to advise homeowners on what to do about errant Boards and Associations. The article does not say anything about lost tax revenue having the same effects on municipalities’ and school districts’ budgets, that would put things in to perspective. Rather, the author chooses to suck you in under the guise of providing important insight in to the inner-workings of the HOA-beast and then proceeds to scare the crap out of you. Sensationalizm at it’s finest. 

Are either of these stories doing anything to help the real estate markets in the areas these newspapers serve? What kind of impact does the media’s reporting of only part of the story have on its readers. Tell me, is it so much to ask for thorough and balanced reporting?

Or am I just the paranoid, crazy HOA lady?

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Written By

Lisa sells residential real estate in the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern PA, and authors The Poconos Real Estate Blog. Being a strong believer in community participation, she currently serves as President of a 1700 home Property Owners' Association and Secretary of the Board of the local REALTOR Association for 2009. Her most challenging and fulfilling role, though, is that of Mom to two teenage girls, and her main hope for them is that they learn to appreciate the abundant joys of a life lived with a positive attitude. You can connect with Lisa on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Karen Rice

    November 12, 2008 at 7:31 am

    The news media loves to sensationalize and distort. “Fair and balanced” really isn’t true and it really doesn’t sell. Good news doesn’t sell; just like politics doesn’t work without mudslinging.

    Eh, just blame it all on George Bush. He’s everyone’s favorite scapegoat right now! 😉

  2. Paula Henry

    November 12, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    Thorough and balanced reporting? What is that? I don’t think the housing industry has seen such a beast in at least five years.

  3. Vance Shutes

    November 13, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Lisa,

    Just yesterday, our local newspaper (part of a HUGE national network of papers) announced the buyouts of nearly all of their local staff. Oh, and their local offices are now listed for sale. Buh-bye!

    The local paper will still be published, but with work-at-home reporters, edited at a distant “central” office.

    Goodbye to the local newspaper.

    Is it any wonder? How many of us will it take to be “sick, and tired” (borrowing from Bill Cosby, there) of the typical bash-the-Realtor (and HOA) stories in the local press before the local paper is no more. And, good riddance.

    Already, on-line, there are replacement writers – bloggers, mostly – who have announced that they will fill the void of the (soon-to-be-gone) local paper. We can only hope that their reporting will be “fair and balanced” – as if that concept ever existed in the local press.

    Good riddance to them. And their ilk.

  4. Lisa Sanderson

    November 14, 2008 at 6:26 am

    I see ya’ll understand. Thx! I’ve decided, after getting some advice from someone very wise, to reach out to a certain reporter and offer another perspective. Perhaps he doesn’t realize how damaging his skewed perspective is to our neighborhoods and it makes sense to try to win him over before resorting to a flaming darts campaign. Has anyone had any success with this approach?

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