I’ve been pretty focused on my new role at NAR for the last six months, but finally made some time to write again. This white paper is a side project I did for the Center for REALTOR® Technology. The Intelligent Internet Lead explores some of the cool stuff happening behind the scenes when it comes to converting Internet leads into client relationships. Here’s the blog post I wrote about it, while the full report can be downloaded here.
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.”
For 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
If you’re an aspiring geek like myself, you probably found yourself downloading and installing the new iOS 7 software update to your iPhone last week. For the first time since launching the iPhone six years ago, Apple has made a huge cosmetic overhaul to the software.
While all those trusty apps that have been developed over the years will still work just fine, Apple’s new look comes with new design standards for all future third party app development.
Many top developers including Facebook, Evernote, and Open Table have already adopted the new standards and their updated apps were available on day one of the new OS release. Apple featured many of the top apps in a special “Designed for iOS 7” section of their App Store.
As you can see, Zillow’s real estate app was among those featured. Not a surprise as they’ve released dozens of updates to their iOS real estate app since they launched it in 2009. Companies like Trulia, Move and Homes.com have similar commitments to Apple’s smartphone phone. Beyond that, they commit similar development resources to Android phones. All of them view mobile as the future.
If you pay employees or a vendor to develop mobile apps for you, now would be a good time to ask them when they plan on getting around to updating the iPhone app to iOS 7 standards. If you haven’t traveled down the mobile app road yet, then here is an essential question to ask of your prospective developers:
What is your long term strategy for continually updating our apps to take advantage of the latest functionality from Apple and Android?
Building a mobile app means committing to an ongoing development program. It’s not a one time expense. Make sure you understand what sort of capital investment will be needed before moving forward.
Rumor has it that Pierre L’Enfant designed Washington D.C.’s network of streets to disorient foreign leaders (or their troops) as they moved throughout the city. Of course, once they got to the Capitol, there were all those stairs to walk up as well. This is for effect. By the time a foreign leader has made his or her way to the offices of a senator or house rep, the city and its buildings have already begun to influence, impress, or even intimidate that leader.
For years, the National Association of REALTORS® rented an office on K Street to accommodate their government advocacy staff. This neighborhood is where most lobbyists can be found, so it made sense at the time. But NAR wanted to own, and they also wanted to build a landmark that would give NAR a higher profile and better visibility (literally) from the halls of Congress. They eventually found a small, triangular lot by the intersection of New Jersey Avenue and First Street. The location is literally steps from the Capitol. So close in fact, that the Secret Service has closed the office’s roof deck during high profile events.
D.C. has various building codes that limit the height of office buildings, essentially guaranteeing that the Capitol overshadows all. NAR built right up to the limit. In addition the primary conference/event room within the building is located on the top floor, facing the Capitol. When you walk into this room it actually feels like you are looking down on the Capitol. The first time I saw it, I couldn’t help thinking,
“this is for effect.”
NAR hosts networking parties and meetings in this space all the time. Members of congress often attend. When the conference table is set up, those congressmen and women have seats reserved that face the window. Imagine sitting in NAR’s office and looking down on your own. It’s all very impressive, but a member of congress doesn’t even have to visit the building to be impressed by it. It’s so close that you can see it from the grounds of the Capitol. NAR discreetly etched the block R into the glass of the building. There is no doubt who owns it.
All of this to leave one very deliberate impression: We are here.
The building is a symbol of NAR’s commitment to defending the agenda of homeowners and the real estate industry. Want to advance a bill that cuts the MID? We’re here to talk to you about that. Want to impede on homeowner property rights? We’re here for that too. Want to talk about GSE reform? You whoo, we’re right over here. Every day, NAR’s government affairs team meets with congressional leaders and executive administration staff. Most of what they do is behind the scenes, but don’t mistake it for doing nothing. Because NAR’s agenda is bipartisan, they find themselves aligning with different sides of the aisle at different times. Grandstanding about a bill they just killed is not an option when they know they will need to work with the sponsors of that bill in the future.
Because they don’t talk about this stuff, they get more done. Unfortunately, the lack of communication about NAR’s lobbying activities also leads members and industry pundits to question the association’s effectiveness. This criticism has come to a boil of late as Zillow has made some very impressive moves in the public sector.
I think it’s awesome that Zillow is doing events like these. It’s one of those differentiating factors that separates them from their competition. But the competition is Trulia, not NAR. Zillow is doing a public service by hosting these events, but don’t mistake the events as a serious policy discussion. Serious policy discussions never happen in public. I hope Zillow continues to hold these events, but I also hope NAR continues to do the heavy lifting, even if it is behind the scenes.