Tomorrow’s New York Times leads the real estate section with a piece about the popularity of commentors on various blogs. As the article notes, the commentators fling mud anonymously at specifically identified apartments, their owners, their brokers or some combination of them. Although the observations are ostensibly to help prospective buyers and obviously to allow the writers to vent, the practice is not universally praised:
“For their part, sellers and their brokers are seething over what they perceive as a lack of accountability, hidden or misanthropic motives, and the fact that defending one’s property – even correcting a factual error – can prolong or aggravate its turn under the collective microscope,” the Times writes.
I’m unaware of my listings having been subjected to either vile or laudatory comments, but I do believe anonymous criticism has almost no place in our society. (A possible exception may be an underling’s stated belief that the employee’s boss is, say, an alcoholic whose unchecked disease seemingly affects his or her work.)
As readers of this blog and the “Out and About” column in my newsletter may have noticed, I am unsparing in my assessment of apartments that I visit several days a week. But I am scrupulous is protecting their anonymity (not mine), providing only vague locations. In addition, I never include pictures, exercising perhaps an excess of caution.
For one broker to criticize another broker’s listing is unethical. Doing so interferes with that broker’s ability to sell the listed property. To assess a property on behalf of a client is a different matter altogether. I just don’t see how anonymous, possibly biased public defamation of a property, the owner’s cleanliness or the broker’s attitude, for example, is honestly helpful to prospective buyers.
As a former journalist and an ardent supporter of the First Amendment, I do concede that commentors have the right to their opinion and that publishers of Web sites have the right to publish them. But I am convinced it is wrong to offer those opinions anonymously for the public to devour and likely find more credible than is justified.
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Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022