It’s been half a year since Redfin released a study that found about 36 percent of the listings shown as active on Zillow and Trulia were no longer for sale in the local MLS. While I don’t view the MLS as the only source of listings in a market, and wonder if the markets chosen for the study weren’t cherry picked, the fact of the matter is, Zillow and Trulia have big data problems.
Z&T’s PR teams have expressed their commitment to improving their data accuracy, but their progress appears to be at a snail’s pace. This winter, Trulia announced a new framework that allows them to update direct MLS feeds every ten minutes. MLS data really isn’t the biggest of their problems, but the framework would make MLS data a little more timely. Trulia hasn’t announced a new MLS data partnership in more than six months on their industry blog, so I would assume their data issues have no more than marginally unimproved since the Redfin study. Zillow’s made a big push to secure direct data agreements with big brokers, but like MLSs, big brokers are not the primary source of bad data. These brokers were probably already sending their listing data through a reliable syndicator like ListHub or their MLS.
Just two months ago, ZipRealty announced a study with similar findings. The blame for Trulia and Zillow’s accuracy problems doesn’t fall solely on them, but there’s no doubt that they have a problem and it’s not getting any better. It’s almost a guarantee that someone from Zillow or Trulia shows up to comment on a post like this to tell us that they’re trying, but are they? How bad do they really want to clean up their data? Let’s find out.
Trulia and Zillow can make huge advancements in the quality of data tomorrow. Here’s how: Tweet this
Step 1. Identify the top 25 sources of bad data
Since both Zillow and Trulia have direct data agreements with many MLSs, they can use that data to measure the accuracy of their own data set. They already know which companies are delivering the lowest quality data. Most of these are virtual tour companies that offer syndication, single listing web page builders, or agent marketing companies that syndicate.
Step 2. Cut them off
That was easy, wasn’t it?
Zillow and Trulia could literally do this by the end of the day tomorrow. Will they? I doubt it, but cutting the sources of bad data is the only way their data can get any better. In addition, they will be poised to ask for MLSs to help them better identify additional bad actors and cut them off as well. Agents will still be able to submit through their broker, the MLS, or even directly to Trulia and Zillow. Nobody gets cut off except the syndicators that are providing the stale data.
This is the first step in sending a huge signal to all sources of listing data that they are finally ready to take the issue seriously. I double dog dare them to do it. Who’s with me?
Photo: Creative Commons license via Flickr user madprime