The following appeared in a letter from a homeowner to a friend.
"Of the two leading real estate firms in our town—Adams Realty and Fitch Realty—Adams Realty is clearly superior. Adams has 40 real estate agents; in contrast, Fitch has 25, many of whom work only part-time. Moreover, Adams' revenue last year was twice as high as that of Fitch and included home sales that averaged $168,000, compared to Fitch's $144,000. Homes listed with Adams sell faster as well: ten years ago I listed my home with Fitch, and it took more than four months to sell; last year, when I sold another home, I listed it with Adams, and it took only one month. Thus, if you want to sell your home quickly and at a good price, you should use Adams Realty."
Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.
The author argues that Adams Realty is superior to Fitch Realty. To support this claim the author cites statistics about the number and working hours of agents, and the number and sales prices of homes sold by the two farms. Further, the author cites anecdotal evidence involving personal experience with Fitch and Adams. A careful analysis reveals that this evidence lends little credible support for the argument.
The claim is partially based on the fact that Adams has more agents than Fitch and that many of Fitch’s agents work only part-time. There is no correlation between the number of employees, their working hours, and the quality of their work. Without such a link, we could consider the possibility that a smaller firm could be more effective than a larger one and, likewise, that a part-time agent could be more effective than a full-time agent. Besides, the author does not provide any information about the specific number of Adams agents who work part-time.
The claim is also supported by the fact that Adams sold more properties than Fitch last year. One year of sales records is an insufficient sample. It is possible that in most other years Adams could have sold fewer properties than Fitch. Moreover, the disparity in sales volume could be explained by factors other than the comparative quality of the two firms. For example, perhaps Adams serves a denser geographic area or in an area where turnover in home-ownership is higher for reasons unrelated to Adams’ effectiveness. It is even possible that the only reason sales volume is higher at Adams is because the company employs more agents but, perhaps, each Adams agent sells fewer homes on average than each Fitch agent does. Without ruling out such alternative explanations for the disparity in sales volume, the author cannot defend the conclusion based on such scant evidence.
Support for the claim is also drawn from the average sales price of homes. This evidence only illustrates that the homes that Adams sells are more valuable on average than the ones that Fitch sells, not that Adams is more effective in selling homes than Fitch. Moreover, it is possible that a few relatively high-priced or low-priced properties skewed these averages, rendering any conclusions about the comparative quality of the two firms based on these averages irrelevant.
"Most people would agree that buildings represent a valuable record of any society's past, but controversy arises when old buildings stand on ground that modern planners feel could be better used for modern purposes. In such situations, modern development should be given precedence over the preservation of historic buildings so that contemporary needs can be served."