Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, April 10, 2015

Accuracy matters for listing data

Realtor Association President's Message

Travis Close

Whether you’re currently in the market to buy or sell property, it’s hard not to notice advertising campaigns from national real estate listing sites touting their number of listings or the accuracy of their data. What the general public might not be aware of is a national race, if you will, for who has “all” of the listing data. This is a battle Realtors face on a daily basis.

Before engaging the assistance of a Realtor, sellers often research their own home or neighboring properties to get a sense for what their home might be worth. Buyers engage in similar activity, and search for available homes before contacting a Realtor to assist them through the home buying process.

In both scenarios, it’s not uncommon for the consumer to be disappointed. Not by their Realtor, whom they ultimately engage for assistance, but by their research. Sellers often discover the comparable data from the local market doesn’t support the higher value as indicated online. Buyers must to face the fact that some of their wish list properties no longer are available for sale and have not been for quite some time. Or worse, they never were on the market.

In the real estate industry, these listing data sites are known as portals, which get their listing data from a variety of sources – individual property owners, real estate firms, Realtor Associations, and Multiple Listings Services (MLS). With so many sources for listing data, it makes one question who owns the data. And whose is current and accurate?

Regarding accuracy, each property should be compared to local market data, which a Realtor can assist you in sorting through. For example, your home might be a similar size to others nearby, but what should be considered are the details an online formula cannot provide – recent upgrades, attached versus detached garage, proximity to traffic, etc. Another factor is what other comparable homes have sold for recently, regardless of what you paid initially to acquire the property.

Also regarding accuracy, any seller has the right to advertise their property in a variety of places, including some of the national sites. Without knowledge of local market data from a Realtor, there’s the possibility the information isn’t as clear as it could be. For example, a home owner might use a spare room as a bedroom, but that room might not qualify as a bedroom per local zoning codes. I’m not suggesting a home owner would purposefully present misleading information; rather, without engaging the expertise of a local Realtor, some necessary details might be overlooked.

Regarding ownership of the listing data, each real estate firm’s principal broker is the “owner” of the firm’s listings, and determines where those listings will be distributed. In the Greater Chattanooga market, the majority of licensed principal brokers participate in the Association-owned MLS. By virtue of their participation in the MLS, the principal broker agrees to input their listings for distribution to other MLS participating brokers.

In addition, the MLS, which is governed by a Board of Directors, may elect to publish listing data in other places. In early 2009, our MLS entered into an agreement to publish active listing data through the company now known as ListHub. More than 150 channels comprise the ListHub network of websites to which our local MLS data is pushed on a frequent and regular basis.

Despite where our MLS may choose to feed its data, the principal broker always has had the ability to opt out of their firm’s listings being pushed to those entities. Also, the principal broker may elect to send their firm’s listing directly to the same or different entities.

While the MLS has controls in place to maintain data accuracy when published on other sites, the MLS does not control the sites that obtain data from a variety of sources. As a result, there’s legitimate concern about the accuracy of the data, specifically regarding being for sale (or not), price, and value. The Realtor Code of Ethics obligates us to present a true picture in our real estate communications and to look out for the best interests of our clients. Therefore, as a Realtor-owned MLS, we closely monitor all the places to which we push listing data.

It’s important to note that the company we use to push out listing data makes similar decisions. Earlier this year, ListHub made a decision that might impact where consumers find homes for sale. At midnight on April 7, 2015, the Zillow Group, which includes the Zillow, Trulia, and Yahoo sites, were removed as a channel to which ListHub sends data. While our MLS has the option of sending listing data directly to the Zillow Group, at this time, we have opted not to do so. The Greater Chattanooga Association’s MLS will continue its listing data syndication through ListHub, which provides sellers significant exposure to more than 150 sites, including Realtor.com. We feel this route gives our members the best protection of their listing data and gives consumers and an accurate and comprehensive picture of properties available for sale.

The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors is “The Voice of Real Estate in Greater Chattanooga.” The Association is a regional organization with more than 1,500 members, and is one of more than 1,400 local boards and associations of Realtors nationwide that comprise the National Association of Realtors. The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors services Hamilton and Sequatchie counties in southeast Tennessee and Catoosa, Dade, and Walker counties in northwest Georgia. For more information, visit www.gcar.net.