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Friday, August 15, 2008

Another Reporter Gets Pwn3d*

by Tanta on 8/15/2008 11:39:00 AM

I'm beginning to think this kind of thing could be a regular feature: gullible (or just lazy) reporter writes some article on some housing-bust related topic which ends up being mostly free publicity for some hustler, who is treated reverently as an "expert." Earlier examples of the genre are here and here.

Today's embarrassment comes via reader Alan, who sent me this link to the San Francisco Chronicle:

Homeowners are flooding City Hall with so many requests to reduce their property values that the tax assessor said Wednesday his office may not be able to meet the demands.

So far, Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting's office has received about 1,000 requests for informal re-evaluations - three times the number filed last year. Friday is the deadline to request an informal property re-evaluation from the assessor.

"I'm worried that because we have such a huge influx we'll not be able to get back to everyone," Ting said. So far, San Francisco assessors have responded to informal requests from 285 property owners.
After having noted that the assessor's office is so deluged with requests it probably won't get to any more of them--and after noting that many people won't get a reduction because while home prices are dropping, they are still higher than the assessed values--we get to the obligatory "expert":
Due to the growing number of these requests, some people have started businesses to help property owners appeal for a lower valuation.

Joshua Carnes, vice president of operations for the Sacramento-based, said anyone who bought a home in the past few years should expect the assessed value of the property to decrease. The company is named after Proposition 8, the 1978 voter initiative that allowed home values to be reduced when there is a dip in market values.

"If you're a homeowner in California, you lost value on your property this year," Carnes said. "Unless you don't mind overpaying property taxes, there is no reason you should not file for a reduction."
My, but that dot-org name seems to imply that this is some kind of nonprofit organization, doesn't it?

Not hardly. is a for-profit little firm that wants to charge you to handle your re-evaluation requests for you. And you must not, under any circumstances, miss the picture of Joshua Carnes on this page (is that a zoot suit? A wedding tux? Do you Californians actually dress like that to leave the house on a normal day? Just askin'.) Nor do you want to miss the officer bios. Nor do you want to fail to ask yourself why a reporter thought a buncha guys who also run outfits called "Cashout Options" and "Equity Flips" and "Bailout Help" are really just kind of objective consumer advocates who have no self-interest in knowing what your property might currently appraise for.

Reporters and editors: I'm going to keep this up until it stops. So I really suggest you make it stop. If you don't bother to evaluate your sources before you publish, I will do it after you publish.

*Old farts who need help with "pwn3d" go here.