The beauty of the modern real-estate trend piece — hell, the beauty of the modern trend piece — is its utter speciousness. No matter what tendency its headline trumpets, somewhere in the trend piece there'll be a quote from an equally respectable source contradicting it entirely. To wit: "Home Prices Fall Just a Bit; Brokers See 'Soft Landing'," in today's Times. The story leads with two studies showing that as 2006 drew to a close, sale prices for Manhattan apartments fell. By how much? Corcoran says one and a half percent, Prudential Douglas Elliman says five. But while you're puzzling over that discrepancy, move along to the fifth paragraph, which introduces a third study, which says the average Manhattan apartment price has actually increased by five percent. (The wrinkle: Co-op prices are falling, but luxury-condo sales are making up for them.) After this, the story sheepishly devotes its last stretch to various caveats that illuminate why we shouldn't trust any of the above-quoted studies anyway: new construction, unreported recent sales, the changing ratio of large to small apartments.
You know what they say: Lies, damned lies, and, well, just tell us when we'll only be able to afford Jersey. Not that there's anything wrong with that.