In defence of Cameron Muir

Photo by uzhik

A real estate economist, let’s call him Cameron, tells a reporter, let’s call him Brian, that it’s not his role to say “whether or not it’s a good time to buy.”  Brian writes his article.  The editor readies it for print.  The article claims the economist says “it just might be” a good time to buy real estate.  Huh?

It’s a true story.  Read it and believe it:

With home sales — and prices — dropping in B.C., is now a good time to invest in real estate?

The B.C. Real Estate Association says it just might be, pointing to a large drop in carrying costs for an investment property today compared to a year ago.

“It doesn’t matter what the market is doing, I don’t say whether or not it’s a good time to buy,” association chief economist Cameron Muir said in an interview Monday. “That being said, I would suspect investors are actively looking in the marketplace for bargains. If you compare today vs. a year ago, investing in real estate is more attractive than it was then.”

[The Vancouver Sun, February 16, 2009]

Friends, today I write a post in defense of Cameron Muir.  It may be the most controversial I’ve ever typed.  If you think this is heretical, remember why you read this blog.  You come here for fresh perspective, so-so jokes, and the hope that I went easy on your chosen profession.

Muir says a lot of things in the interview.  What I don’t see is a recommendation to buy.  His talking points say buying is “more attractive” now than it was last year, but there’s no call to action.  None.  The Sun hyped him.

Photo credit: uzhik via Flickr

22 Responses to “In defence of Cameron Muir”

  1. condohype Says:

    For the purposes of the discussion, try to keep your comments on topic. Please refrain from sharing misgivings about industry experts. There’s enough of that floating around.

    My question is, what do you think of the Sun’s interpretation of the quotes? Is this a case of the media “over-interpreting” the news?

  2. HHV Says:

    Next time in Van, let’s play some Halo 3. I’ll be the master chief. You can be the Heretic 😉

  3. doug r Says:

    “Looking better” is NOT “good time to buy”.
    The headline should be “Economist covers ass.”

  4. G Says:

    You are right. Instead of realtors saying “It’s a good time to buy” (vs not buying) they should correctly be saying “It is a better time to buy compared to last year.”

  5. ella Says:

    The New York Times just wrote a piece on this type of thing. It is quite difficult for reporters to do story on how “things are still bad” (ie there is no “news” in that, it won’t catch people’s attention) so reporters who cover the economy generally are looking for some change to report, and they have a bias toward good news which will catch people’s interest.

    I’m sure the fact that there are no advertisers with a vested interest in falling home prices (that I can think of) doesn’t help either, though.

  6. dingus Says:

    Nice bit of exegesis.

    The Sun originally had the story as something like “Sales Volume Plunges 61%”. As the day wore on (I checked back because I always enjoy the comments in the Sun articles on housing), they changed the headline to add that teaser question “is now a good time to buy?”. So there was some conscious editorial decision to put that spin on it, not just some “reporting too fast” kind of gaffe.

    Why the blatant pro-buy bias? In the interests of “balance”, shouldn’t they have also speculated that there may be more drops to come? After all their main headline was about the dire economic predictions in the Throne Speech. I know it’s hard, but try to connect the dots here!

    I don’t mind the angle on the story that some folks might be thinking it’s a good time to buy because it’s not untrue. Same as where folks thought buying stocks in November was a good idea. Though you’d think they’d try to interview a potential buyer, rather than simply throwin’ it out there in a headline without factual foundation. But sheesh, at least acknowledge that it just might NOT be a good time to buy too. Isn’t the Sun tired of being mocked?

  7. betamax Says:

    The Sun made a fortune from RE advertising (two entire thick sections devoted to RE advertising in the weekend Sun until recently, now just one skinny section) and they hope to do so again.

    You can also see recurring Remax commercials during the news on TV.

    Journalistic objectivity doesn’t exist in this context.

  8. Jimmy Jameas Says:

    “If you compare today vs. a year ago, investing in real estate is more attractive than it was then.”

    in my opionion, the above quote is being interpreted as “it just might be” a good time to buy. The reporter thinks it might be a good time to buy because investing in real estate is more attractive right now according to Muir. That is the reporter’s interpretation/analysis. Seems to me the reporter has his butt covered here, technically. (Although, it is pretty weak.)

  9. vancityguy Says:

    “The Sun made a fortune from RE advertising (two entire thick sections devoted to RE advertising in the weekend Sun until recently, now just one skinny section) and they hope to do so again.”

    Bang. On.

    Follow the money.

  10. mohican Says:

    Poor Cameron – in his attempts to be truthful he gets misquoted and words are put in his mouth. To give him credit I cannot recall him ever making a buy or sell recommendation which is smart on his part. He has made some pretty ridiculous forecasts though and we should not let him off the hook on that count.

    This article has the stench of the Vancouver Sun’s strong editorial bias toward real estate as other posters have mentioned.

  11. blueskies Says:

    Instead of spin the Sun put up
    a large banner headline that says:

    Steal this newspaper!

    …circulation way up w/o the bs…..

  12. Paulette Says:

    Should be “In defence of Cameron Muir”, no? Defense is the American spelling.

  13. condohype Says:

    Good call, Paulette. I prefer the Canadian. The post is corrected but evidence of the error will live forever in the URL.

  14. Gah Says:

    As I posted on VCI, the Muir quote about whether it’s a good time to buy or not reminds me of this little gem:

    “Mr. Simpson, the state bar forbids me from promising you a big cash settlement.

    But just between you and me, I promise you a big cash settlement.”

    — Lionel Hutz, “Bart Gets Hit by a Car”

  15. bcubbins Says:

    Well, in defence of the reporter:

    First, Muir can be pretty equivocal at times. Take this statement for example: “As an investor, the cash flow from the rent will more closely match your mortgage payment on the property.” If he had wanted to be clear, he could have said “however the rent still won’t cover the mortgage payment.” The reporter has to cut through the murk and turn it into a readable story.

    Second, the reporter never claimed that Muir made “a recommendation to buy” or “a call to action.” If the reporter is misrepresenting Muir’s statements then you are misrepresenting the reporter’s statements even more.

    And last, the section you quote above could easily be interpreted to say “there might be bargains out there.” At least, that’s the conclusion I’d reach after being told that investing in real estate is getting more attractive to the point that investors have probably started looking for bargains.

  16. 52pickup Says:

    Betamax said “You can also see recurring Remax commercials during the news on TV.”

    I hate that commerical. Doesn’t it say something like “Some people are going to kick themselves for missing this market”

    Fear selling.

  17. jesse Says:

    If Muir had said downright bearish things I wonder if they would have been printed. Muir is smart and calculating with his words. While you may defend how he was taken out of context don’t think for a second he is ignorant of how his words will be interpreted. In da biznit we call dem weazel wordz.

  18. tragicspin Says:

    The real fact that is being completly missed in all this is that Cameron Muir is a paid spokesman for the BCREA. The BCREA is the body which organizes support for and manages the buisness for REAL ESTATE SALESPEOPLE AND AGENTS, only! In this context Mr. Muir is not an economist or a real estate expert, columnist or opinionist, HE IS A PAID SCHILL WHO REPRESENTS REAL ESTATE SALESPEOPLE and AGENTS, ONLY.

    Mr. Muir is reading a script which has been crafted to attempt to generate businsess for sales people and as such cannot be listened to for facts or information. Mr. Muirs recent speaking through the media WAS IN FACT A paid advertisment FROM AN INDEPENDANTLY PRODUCED INTERVIEW, IT WAS AN ‘INFOMERCIAL’ .

    So, to forget that Mr. Muir is a non person with no opinion and is only represnting the intrest of the Real Estate sales organizations is to have left all common sense behind.

  19. rp Says:

    Who cares what he says? And who is going to listen to the Vancouver Sun? They have only ever said one thing and it’s wrong.

  20. buff_butler Says:

    @tragicspin

    I agree. If he could pump the market right now and gain credability he would. It’s just bad timing right now. I wouldn’t defend this guy.

  21. greg Says:

    For anyone who suggests that an employee of a real estate association should be quoted as an economist rather than an association spokesperson, I only have two words:

    David Lereah.

  22. Tom Boyle Says:

    To give you an idea of how fast real estate slumps turn around, remember this: The Marine building was opened in 1930.
    The next large bldg(The Burrard bldg) was opened in 1951.

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