'House Porn': Real Estate Blogs' Hottest Market

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Candy Evans, also known as "the woman who brought house porn to the Bible Belt," says her niche blog draws its traffic primarily from two sources: voyeurism and bargain-hunting.

Evans runs the two real estate blogs CandysDirt.com and SecondShelters.com which, like many other real estate blogs, paint vivid portraits of mouth-watering houses and report celebrity-home transactions. Both have built loyal audiences in short periods of time, Evans says, with CandysDirt drawing 55,000 page views a month. She isn't the only self-starter cashing in on Americans' fascination with homes.

Her blogs are among thousands which have sprouted around the country since about 2005 and continue to proliferate despite the recession and maybe because of it.

"I think it's because we're in a recession," said Evans (who also has blogged for AOL Real Estate) of her blog's success. "I think everybody's depressed about what's going on in the world."

With luxury homes even further from the reach of many Americans, Evans suggests that the dismal economic climate strengthens the appeal of "house porn" -- the kind of real estate coverage which uses florid descriptions and stunning pictures of almost absurdly luxurious houses to tantalize readers.

And some of it has a morbidly voyeuristic quality as foreclosure stories beat all others, far and away, and "drive traffic tremendously," Evans says.

The blogs also spread, some of the bloggers say, because many Americans have a strong sense that they are facing homebuying deals of a lifetime.

"People, I think, feel some pressure to buy now before the interest rates go up," says Lisa Selin Davis, another real estate blogger who also sees, in the recession, a silver lining for real estate blogs. Davis says that her interest in homes evolved from "drooling over unattainable things" to "drooling over attainable things" during the time when she wrote a column for AOL Real Estate called "I Want This House."

Her blog, Upstater.net, which she runs with Alia Hanna Habib, caters to bargain-hunters in New York by guiding city-dwellers through the residential offerings of different upstate towns.

"Tens of thousands of New Yorkers have enough money to buy a house upstate," she says, "but can't touch a thing in [the city of] New York."

Davis -- who, like Evans, publishes "house porn" (she has "house porn Fridays" on her blog) -- says the recession has only amplified this limitation, giving her blog an edge: "The slump is one of the reasons that Upstater can work."

The premise behind Davis' blog typifies the hyperlocal focus of many real estate blogs. According to Lockhart Steele, founder of well-known real estate blog Curbed.com, that is a consequence of the inherently local element of non-wonky real estate news, and yet another reason for the blogs' spread and strength.

A granddaddy among real estate blogs at 7 years old, Curbed leverages this local focus to great effect. It aggregates the most shocking, eyeball-grabbing reporting for its audience by monitoring thousands of real estate blogs on RSS feeds and intersperses it with some original reporting.

Dallas-based Evans, who broke stories on George W. Bush's and Glenn Beck's home purchases there, agrees with Steele's assessment: "People don't really care about what Case-Shiller [a report that tracks real estate prices] is doing in New York when you live in Dallas. It's such a local thing."

But even with the local focus common to many real estate blogs, opportunity still extends for real estate reporting outside the neighborhood, with some demand for macro-business news and plenty more for reporting that's peppered with voyeuristic bite. While her CandysDirt focuses on the Dallas region, Evans' SecondShelters blog capitalizes on an appetite for the latter, reporting on luxury homes around the world.

"I think we're absolutely obsessed with real estate," she said. "We're particularly obsessed with high-end real estate."

Also see:
'Nothing' Is Selling? Celebrities Who Would Beg to Differ

The Most-Expensive Bank-Owned Home in America

Why Buy a House When You Can Own a Town?


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