The Pine Cone's editorial of the week

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Editorial: Secret home sales

Published: February 5, 2010

THE LOCAL real estate market is of great interest to every property owner, and one of the best places to follow its ups and downs is on the pages of this newspaper.

Every three months in our real estate section, two of the most respected local real estate agents, Paul Brocchini and Mark Ryan, do a comprehensive analysis of the local market. In their most recent report, published Jan. 29, they said there was a “glimmer of hope” that the market, which has been in a decline since late 2006, had started to turn around.

But if you’re really interested in the local housing market trends, you should also follow very closely the home sales we report every week in our real estate section. Our home sales include information nobody else has.

Most home sales are handled through a real estate agent and are reported through the Multiple Listing Service. That is where most media outlets get their home sales information.

But quite a few sales are handled privately, without the involvement of a real estate agent. Those don’t show up in the MLS.
And many others are intended to be confidential. With just a few extra steps in the escrow process, the sales price is concealed from ordinary surveys of the market.

Here at The Pine Cone, however, we go to a lot of extra trouble to dig those up, so our real estate sales are the only place to get a complete look at what’s happening in the local market — including private sales and sales with “confidential” prices.

This week, for example, we report a home sale at Quail Meadows for $4,750,000. And another one off Ribera Road in Carmel Meadows for $4,550,000. Those are both very impressive prices for a market which has been down, but which is clearly on its way up. Both were intended to be confidential, but we found them anyway.

So if you want to know what’s happening in Monterey Peninsula real estate, now you know where to look.

Editorial: What is a 'statistical tie'?

Published: February 5, 2010

WHEN THE results of a poll are within the margin of error, reporters usually refer to those results as a “statistical tie.” But what does that mean?

A few days before the recent election in Massachusetts to pick a replacement for Sen. Ted Kennedy, for example, a poll found that Republican Scott Brown was favored by 50 percent of probable voters, while Democrat Martha Coakley was supported by 46 percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, which led many news reports to call the race a “statistical tie,” giving the impression the race was much closer than it turned out to be.

The “margin of error” is a concept that is very important in statistics and refers to the range of possible actual results that can be inferred from a sample. If a candidate polls at 50 percent and the margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent, it means there is a 95 percent chance his actual level of support is between 46 percent and 54 percent. The probability across this range of actual results is a bell curve.

Thus, the results of the poll showed that Brown’s support among voters was very likely between 46 percent and 54 percent, while Coakley’s was between 42 percent and 50 percent. Obviously, these different results include the possibility that the race was actually tied, or even that Coakley was ahead by 4 percent. However, it was equally likely that Brown was ahead by 12 percent.

Keep that in mind next time a reporter says a race is a “statistical tie.” If he says that, it usually means the candidate the reporter favors is behind.