List Mania

*List Mania*
**By Lew Sichelman**

LewS***I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of all the “bests” and “worsts” and “mosts” and “leasts.” As in, the hottest housing markets, the slowest housing markets, the best college towns to buy real estate, the top ten cities for engineering innovation.

****Bert Sperling of Sperling’s Best Places once told a group of real estate reporters that he could come up with a list of the “best places” for just about anything. Thus, we have the best places to live, to retire, to work, to visit, to chill, to hyperventilate, to think, not to think, ad infinitum.

****And then we also have the fastest markets from flip to sale. I mean, gimme a break.

****Nope. No such luck. There’s the ten most exciting cities, the top ten markets in which to buy vacation homes and the 25 best places to flip.

****And then there’s the funniest cities (Ha!), the most over-valued, the most under-valued (or is that the least?), and our favorite summer towns.

****Wait, there’s more, as in the most secure largest cities, the most stressed cities, the most popular for the holidays, and the best baseball cities.

****I actually like that last one. But not the best for job growth, the worst for job growth, the healthiest – that’s fiscal health, not physical – and the ten best cities for NASCAR fans.

****Everybody, it seems, is enamored with lists. I haven’t seen the ten worst mortgage regulations yet, but I’m sure its out there – somewhere.

****And while we’re skewering this pig, how about all those indices we’re subjecting to each and every month, month after month after month. I’m tired of those, too.

****Why, everybody has one – or more. There’s Core Logic, Case-Shiller, LPS, the FHFA, the NAHB, Pro Teck, Redfin, etc., etc., etc. (This is not to single out any particular company; it’s  just to name a few. So please, everyone, don’t get your knickers in a wedgie.)

****It’s time to stop all this madness, these mindless veiled attempts to get your name up in lights. And I fault supposed news outlets which publish these lists — one after another after another, even though they hold little or no value — just as much, if not more, than their purveyors.

****Take the monthly catalogue of the housing markets with the fastest appreciation. Even the government publishes them. But they do consumers a disservice, for what’s happening in Bumdale has absolutely, positively nothing to do with what’s Bumberg.

****No, borrowers, buyers and sellers would be much better off knowing what’s going down – or up – in their communities, their neighborhoods, their very own blocks. Yet we continue to tell them that prices are up 11 percent in Bumville when what’s more meaningful is that values have slipped 2 percent on their street because it’s loaded with foreclosures or pig-pen neighbors.

****So, I, for one, say let’s stop this silliness. And the presses. Except for maybe a list of the ten worst offenders.

Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing and mortgage markets for more years then he cares to remember, starting as real estate editor at the long defunct Washington Daily News and Washington Star newspapers and finishing with a three-decade stint with National Mortgage News. His weekly column, The Housing Scene, is syndicated to newspapers throughout the country.