Searching Online for Phoenix Real Estate? It Helps to Know Where the Data Come From

avatarthumbnail.jpgAbout a year ago, Arizona State University’s Realty Studies department noticed a discrepancy in its data. Without realizing it, the folks there were including as sales those foreclosed homes where no one had purchased the property and it instead reverted back to the bank.

How could they make such a mistake? Because in the tax records, the sale looks like a normal sale … almost.

Here’s the tax record as it appears in the Arizona Regional MLS:


Even a local agent who’s not accustomed to seeing these – those agents who might only complete one or two transactions a year for family and friends, for instance – could overlook the telltale signs that this wasn’t a real sale … Bank of New York as the buyer, for instance, or No New Mortgage in the financing line.

If the experts at ASU’s Realty Studies department missed the reality on these type of sales, at least until April, how hard will it be for members of the general public looking for real estate in Phoenix to discern what’s real and what’s not when they see it online?

Here’s the “sale” information as displayed on Trulia:


Looks like a real sale, right? So much so that an agent in Louisiana pointed to this as the most recent sale in trying to help this Phoenix buyer. It’s not really the out-of-state agent’s fault … she, like the person asking the question, was looking at the information being provided on Trulia through their connection with the local public records.

It’s just that the data’s wrong. No, that’s not right either. The data is what the data is. It’s the interpretation of the partial data provided (partial in this case because the key piece of data – Bank of New York as the buyer – is missing.)

And that’s what real estate has become over the past year … consumers completely as much of their own research as they can, to their credit, but not realizing that nearly all of the data they’re seeing is incomplete in some way. And no matter how much incomplete data you accumulate, you’re almost certainly never going to get a complete picture since the vast majority of this data comes from the same sources.

Some members of the public don’t want to bother an agent while they’re performing their initial research. Others don’t want to be bothered by an agent while doing the same. I can understand both perspectives.

But at some point, there is benefit to bringing in the expertise of someone in the field to make sure what you’re seeing on paper is what’s really there.

If even the experts at Arizona State can be fooled when it’s their job to examine the data, doesn’t it seem possible the same can happen to you?

[tags]Phoenix real estate, Trulia Voices[/tags]

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at


  • 9 years ago

    I added you to my RSS Reader.

  • ines 9 years ago

    The truth is that those that don’t see the value we bring to the table are those that SHOULD be listing by owner and those that SHOULD not use a Realtor when buying a property. Statistic don’t lie and we know more because we immerse ourselves in the real estate market.

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