Westside Rentals: More Funny Business?

Westside Rentals: More Funny Business?

For sale!We tried to look the other way, really we did. As we had previously whined about the potentially dubious business practices of the Westside Rentals listings empire, we figured we’d let this one go. But for over a month now, WSR has persisted on flooding news outlets with advertisements veiled as press releases citing pseudo-scientific findings, complete with colorful Powerpoint charts, that, on first glance, just may make rent costs appear to be easing, and thus a more attractive option.

If you haven’t seen these, here’s the gist. WSR has been cranking out press releases supposedly demonstrating up/down trends in rent costs in various areas (Westside, South Bay, etc.) over a sampling period of a whole 2 months. As noted over at Curbed, some of these press releases may show a either a negligible (+0.5% on the Westside) or bafflingly massive (+110% in Bel Air?) uptick in rents, but one effect of these releases is to portray a broader downward trend in rent costs.

Take this laughable statement:

Rent prices decreased in Brentwood by 9.9% and Santa Monica by 4.2%.

Or this one (see if you can spot how the logic crossfades from one premise to an altogether different conclusion within the span of a single sentence):

For July 2006, the average listed rent price of all listed rentals in these areas was $1,855.43, representing a 5.7% decrease in rent prices over two months ago.

While there may have been a 5.7% decrease in the prices of what they listed, this is not a general decrease in rent prices; e.g., “average listed rent price of all listed rentals” is not the same as “rent prices.”

And so it’s not until you get to the second to the last paragraph that you get how these numbers are actually derived. Ready the legal disclaimer:

This data is based on the listings at WestsideRentals.com, which are based entirely on the information provided by landlords who choose to list their vacancies on the service.

What this means is that the limited data with which they are attempting to depict a general economic trend cannot in fact be used to do so. For example, if Landlord A in 900xx lists a unit for $1000 in June and Landlord B lists an apartment in the same 900xx in July for $900, this is not a -10% downward trend of “rent costs,” but only indicates what rentals were listed with WSR in a given month.

The notion that L.A. area rents are decreasing in any signficant way is ridiculous, but WSR apparently would not mind if somehow you should happen to get this idea.