I have no particular ambition to become a press critic, so I don’t have to whip up a boatload of outrage over how soft and heavily promotional real-estate sections in daily newspapers are. Sure, the features are practically advertorial, but the pillow-soft prose is benign as these things go. In fact, it can be perversely entertaining. Are parks good things? Why, yes they are! Is Gunston Manor an unpolished jewel? Indeed it is! How do people respond to the large, verdant lots in Quaint Acres? By gum, they’re drawn to them!
Still, I feel a bit oily about my enthusiasm for this piece in last Sunday’s Post Real Estate section. It’s soft and heavily promotional. And while this should generate at least some mild contempt from me, its about the town where I recently bought a house.
So, somewhat embarrassingly, I’m thrilled—-or, rather, the part of my brain that stresses over home-resale values is thrilled. Yes, everything it says all great and correct: There’s lots of greenery, there’s a speedy public-works force, and I have excellent neighbors. But reading a piece about your hometown can also reveal how neatly flaws can get downplayed. Post Real Estate writers have mastered the fine art of calling out the bad stuff, and then proceeding to bury it three-fourths of the way through the piece. (F’rinstance: “[Clifton] Holmes said he hears about occasional break-ins. But with a 15-member police force, ‘the response time’s much quicker,’ he said.) Downtown Washington is allegedly “10-20 minutes by car,” though having experienced Route 50 as it becomes New York Avenue, I can only assume they mean, “10-20 minutes by car at 1 a.m.”
Most tellingly, here’s the sole dining establishment listed as “within walking distance” in Cheverly: 7-Eleven. But, really, don’t let that stop you from putting in for a large mortgage there.