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Blog if you love real estate
Bloggers are changing the equation when it comes to buying a house or condo.
By Les Christie, CNNMoney.com staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Blogging has hit the real-estate industry...and it just may upend a marketplace known for inefficiency and restricted information.

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of blogs covering real estate and they shine unfiltered lights on their subjects, reporting market gossip, innuendo, facts, opinion, virtually anything.

Latest home prices

"Blogs are telling it like it is at the street level," said Brad Inman of Inman News, a large real-estate news service. Inman said real-estate blogging began in the Bay area, took hold in New York and has now spread nationally.

For example, bloggers may expose defects at new developments or buildings such as roof leaks or heating system inadequacies or shoddy workmanship or maintenance. They may warn buyers away from dishonest or incompetent brokers or overpriced new housing. They can let buyers know that a neighborhood may not be safe, that an area floods every spring, or that jets fly directly overhead when the west wind blows.

It's not all negative though. "Comments on our posts often talk about how great a neighborhood is or praise brokers or landlords," said Jake Dobkin, publisher of Gothamist.com, which has sites covering 15 cities.

Blogs also help even the playing field for consumers. Traditionally, only professionals could get full access to comparable prices and property conditions. "Blogs add information -- they level the playing field for consumers," said Dobkin.

Ears on the ground

Alexis Palmer, operations head for Curbed.com, which covers New York and Los Angeles (with San Francisco coming soon), says the strength of these sites is that they tell people more about the areas they may be considering moving into. "You can find out about the neighborhood's character," she said, "what kinds of restaurants, stores, and clubs are there."

The info comes from people like you. "Normally, in real estate, most of the information available comes from those representing the sale of properties," said Palmer. "They have a different agenda than the consumer."

And even though on many blogs anyone can post and there is little fact checking or tests for accuracy, that doesn't mean the information is too untrustworthy. "You get a robust corrections from the community of readers," said Palmer.

It's not just local real-estate or neighborhood conditions that the bloggosphere highlights. Some, like real-estate research provider Jonathan Miller's Matrix.millersamuel.com take on different national issues.

"I come across information every day about the industry and my blog site is an opportunity to get my take out there," said Miller, who offers practical advice and info for readers on subjects such as how real-estate deals are made, changes in government backed loan programs, and the direction of mortgage rates, to mention a few.

According to Inman, brokers, through Web sites such as Realtor.com, provide quantitative data about houses square footage, number of rooms, etc but don't tell you what the house is really worth. Bloggers can help fill that niche with "qualitative information." He points out a property description can appear on a blog and be quickly supported or critiqued by posters ("You're crazy; the rear windows don't have any view.")

Insiders believe that blog sites empower consumers, enabling them to make better choices, obtain services at a better price, and find better brokers and other service providers. It may even help them cut in to that typical 6 percent broker's commission when they sell a property, according to Dobkin, by giving them the information and confidence to carve out better deals.

"A lot of people recognize that the industry is changing," he said. "The era when almost all of the information was controlled by one side is going the way of the dodo."

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