We Can’t See the Forest for the Technology

This afternoon a post from the GeekEstate Blog appeared in my feed reader – I can’t link to it because the link leads to a 404 message, which means either the post has been taken down, is future dated or there’s a bad link somewhere in the mix – though I wish I could if only for this nugget from an agent in another market:

As an active real estate agent and a fledgling developer, I’ve felt firsthand the pain points on both sides. Here’s an example of how I now search for real estate for clients:

  • Load up the Zillow app on my Ipad.
  • Easily (and enjoyably) find properties and save them as my Zillow favorites.
  • Log onto my MLS, paste the mls addresses into the search, then email them to my clients from there because I’m too embarrassed to admit I search using Zillow.

Again, this is a different market so perhaps Zillow has tapped into a stash of accurate listings that isn’t necessarily duplicated elsewhere in the country.

As an experiment, I decided to look up how many active single family detached homes for sale were listed on Zillow and in the Arizona Regional MLS in the city of Phoenix. Zillow listed roughly 10,000; in the MLS, the actual database into which agents enter the listing data for other agents to use and show homes, there was roughly two-thirds as many homes available.

Perhaps, I thought, this was a case of old listings not being updated – Zillow doesn’t automatically update a home’s status, at least to my knowledge and experience. Except after entering a mere four addresses from ARMLS into Zillow, I already had a found a listing that wasn’t listed on the aggregator site. Which is well within the right of the listing agent – there’s no requirement that listings be promoted on any third-party site if the agent/brokerage so chooses. Their listing, their call (presumably in consultation with the seller.)

Expanding the search to Maricopa County, the proportional difference is about the same – Zillow has about one-third more homes for sale listed by agents, and there remain active listings that aren’t there.

Here’s what is concerning … many of us caution are clients to take with a grain of salt the online searches on these third-party aggregator sites because the data’s often incomplete, conflicting or flat out missing. Yet here is a real estate agent admitting that he searches Zillow for homes because he can do it on his iPad while, presumably he can’t do the same with his local MLS.

Why would an agent search if there was the possibility of homes for sale not appearing on the search?

As I’ve said in comments on past GeekEstate posts, this isn’t an MLS issue – the onus shouldn’t be on the MLS to make the data perfect for these third-party aggregators who elected to crash the party and regurgitate what can be found online. It’s not the third party’s data. Ultimately, my listing data belongs to my broker and we post it in the MLS because of the effectiveness in advertising and selling homes on that platform.

No, the onus should be on the aggregators to make sure they know what they are posting before it gets posted and the public perception of accuracy is built. Just as the onus ought to fall on the individual agent to set aside the latest gizmo in favor of making sure the client’s needs really are being met.

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 allphoenixrealestate.com.