Improving Data Quality Does Not Matter

Real estate technology startup Reesio made a few waves this week when they announced that their own audit of MLS data shows that agents on their platform were updating the status of their listings well before they made the same updates in their MLS, if at all. This is creating a situation where the data coming from the MLSes is not completely up to date. From Reesio cofounder and CEO Mark Thomas:

“We then started comparing this transactional data to the big search portals like Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com, and we were blown away at how inaccurate those search portals were compared to what was actually happening in real time within Reesio.”

“There are some industry studies that state that 36 percent of the listings on the large search portals are inaccurate. We were finding it to be closer to 50 percent when we compared our transactions to those on the search portals.”

“Because this process requires the listing agent to manually create the listing in their local MLS system and manually update it every time there is a change in the transaction, a lot of the data is significantly delayed in terms of when it’s actually updated in the MLS. Or worse, the data is never updated in the MLS at all.”

stalebreadFor Zillow and Trulia, this isn’t a criticism that’s new to them, but for Realtor.com and anyone publishing listings that are exclusively sourced from the MLS, this is an issue that everyone would like to keep swept under the mat. Of course, the MLS is the most accurate source of listing data, but it’s no gold standard. Anyone who’s worked with listing data feeds know this, publishers are just too polite to say it in public.

There are plenty of errors in the MLS.

Reesio has some big ideas, and it will be interesting to see how much traction those ideas earn. The establishment reaction was less than positive.

I see a missed opportunity flying by. Imagine if MLS’s worked with transaction management companies to help keep the data in the MLS up to date. Imagine if MLSes worked with Zillow and Trulia to identify published properties in their market that aren’t being updated, or even listed in their MLS. Imagine if MLSes, publishers, and transaction management companies all worked together to identify and eliminate out of date listings. If these factions really cared about improving data accuracy, they would all do more to work together. Instead, each faction is looking for ways to gain a competitive advantage over the other. They could improve data quality, but they don’t. Why?

Improving data quality does not matter.

The players will never publicly admit this, but their actions tell you everything you need to know. Most MLSes refuse to work directly with the portals, and we all know Zillow and Trulia could improve their data quality tomorrow if that was their focus. It isn’t.

MLSes seem to believe their agent listed data set is good enough. However, the folks at Trulia and Zillow know that even the MLS’s data set is flawed enough that consumers will stumble across stale data on IDX and MLS-sourced sites as almost as often as they do on the portals. They’re betting consumers will perceive those databases to be no more timely than what portals offer. They know that many will continue to expand their search to more comprehensive databases.

If the industry really cares about improving data quality, cooperation is the path forward. It is time to end the lip service. Do we want to move forward on data quality or not?

 Flickr image courtesy of paulscott56

5 thoughts on “Improving Data Quality Does Not Matter

  1. Drew Meyers

    Data inaccuracies are certainly a long term risk for Z/T in my mind, just as it is for other web startups. Take Linkedin – I now have to ask every time I intend to ask someone I know for an introduction whether or not they actually knows person X. Eventually? I will find some other system that is more accurate or just ask via email every time. Once you hit data inaccuracies 3-5 times with a given website….you start thinking that particular data source is crap. I already think LI’s data is crap, but there’s nothing else close to as in depth to take its place. Long term…Angel List is gonna take that market IMHO.

    Reply
  2. Mark Thomas (@entrepreneurSF)

    Thanks for the post Todd, and glad to see the conversation continuing regarding data integrity. Two things:

    1) I agree with the fact that this issue can no longer continue to get swept under the rug. As Drew points out, eventually consumers will distrust everything they see online (both on the portals and the MLS’s). If that happens, then it’s more likely that a company will step in and win the entire viewing audience, leaving the MLS’s completely in the dust and powerless

    2) Which brings me to my second point that the MLS’s really should look at this as an opportunity to partner with transaction management platforms like our’s to get the data instead of fighting against us (for the aforementioned reason). If they’re willing to partner with transaction management platforms, then they can still be a go-to source for data AND still own all of the real estate services that they provide to agents. However, if they’re stubborn, then I think what I outlined in #1 above will take place, and the MLS’s could lose both the tech piece AND the services piece.

    As I continue to state, let the real estate experts focus on the real estate piece, and let the technology experts focus on the tech piece. Then everybody wins, especially the agents and consumers.

    Reply
    1. Drew Meyers

      “Which brings me to my second point that the MLS’s really should look at this as an opportunity to partner with transaction management platforms like our’s to get the data instead of fighting against us (for the aforementioned reason)”

      Why is Reesio a better partner/solution than all the other technology players in the industry?

      Reply

Leave a Reply