"Oops" just doesn't cover it for an error the National Association of Realtors admitted recently. The group's error casts doubt on all sorts of assumptions economists had been making.
Nearly 4.2 million homes were sold in the United States last year, the NAR reported. Then it threw in another statistic: The group's reports on housing sales have been wrong for years.
Sales from 2007 through October had been reported at 24.8 million. But the NAR admitted its numbers have been off. Only 21.3 million - 3.5 MILLION fewer than had been estimated - actually were sold during the period.
NAR officials blamed various factors for the mistake - including that some home sales were counted twice.
At least the group admits its mistake. The Intelligencer stopped using mortgage foreclosure numbers from one organization several months ago, on finding incontrovertible proof they were wrong. Yet some national news organizations continue to rely on the numbers.
The NAR's mistake is a big, big one. Someone's head ought to roll for it. In the meantime, however, one lesson has been learned: Sometimes it is wise to question the so-called "experts" on the economy.