Data Accuracy Is The Golden Rule

Dec 16, 2007  |  Michael Wurzer

Some agents view the MLS system simply as an advertising medium, and enter the listing data accordingly. They complain about all the required fields and even go so far as to try to put the property in the wrong area simply because another area is more frequently searched. They’ll also put their contact information and other branding in the remarks and manipulate the address to confuse listing history and days on market. The tricks are legion but short-sighted.

The irony is that those who trick the system or give data completeness and accuracy short-shrift because they think it’s just an advertising mechanism also need to use the system to search and expect it to be accurate. If a listing is contingent, those searching the system deserve to know that. If an agent is searching the MLS for a specific area, they do not expect to see listings from other areas. Liability can hinge on accurate address and tax and other information. “Deemed reliable” should not just be words at the bottom of the listing print out.

Even for those focused on using the system to promote their listing at every level, data accuracy and depth should be critical. Searching fundamentally depends on accurate data. The more details you provide regarding the property, the more likely it will be to match someone’s search when they are looking for just that special characteristic. Instead of putting your contact information in the remarks, using that space for valuable descriptive text might result in more search terms matching your listing or a buyer being attracted to your listing from your description. Data accuracy isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing.

4 Responses to “Data Accuracy Is The Golden Rule”

  1. Great post as always, Michael. This has (obviously) been a longstanding problem with the MLS, and I presume that the debate as to whether it’s an advertising medium or “pure” data service will rage on for years.

    To a degree, I also get the sense that many MLSes silently condone the behavior. Very few of which I’m familiar do any sort of data policing, and any that have reporting mechanisms usually require that the reporting agent make phone calls, possibly fill out a data discrepancy report, and so on. The put more process into reporting errors than generating them in the first place.

    Ultimately, the separation of Listing from Property in the MLS should go a long way to purifying the raw property details over the long term. By “inheriting” the previous Agent’s data entry on a property, intentional misdirection then becomes an overt (and trackable) act.

    Having integrated discrepancy reporting and asserting some accountability against the listing agent will also demonstrate that the MLS is ultimately the source of Good data. Which, as you said, is the smart thing to do.


  2. Robbie says:

    You’re preaching to the converted. I’ve heard one reason/excuse for this behavior, is for high-end luxury homes, agents want to advertise the home without disclosing it’s location. (which I think is silly, since I think most people already know where the most expensive homes in town are).

    Another thing that annoys me is duplicate listings (same house, w/ different neighborhoods or property types). It’s always bothered me that I organize my CD collection with greater rigor and precision than agents use to manage listings.

  3. Kathy Schwartz says:

    Thanks, Michael! I asked for this article to use in our newsletter just as we are about to launch our FBS conversion in January. I am hoping that as members hear the same message from a different voice they will become prepared for the new History that will show every change made to a listing. Even though we work diligently to keep the data “real” we are subject to the same creative attempts to market rather than present good data. We will forge ahead!

  4. Carl Johnson says:

    I agree that data accuracy is a very important aspect for MLS’s. However, times are changing the way that properties are marketed. There are a large number of sites on the internet that are attracting listings from agents. Meanwhile, the MLS’s are struggling to figure out how to stay relevant in this changing landscape.

    I believe strongly that the very proliferation of real estate sites is what opens an opportunity for the MLS’s to take up a very important role for agents. Agents currently post listings to many sites, and every time the listing changes, price for example, they have to go to all of these sites to update them. Where the MLS can provide value is to act as the hub for the distribution of information.

    What does this mean: teh MLS can maintain a database of fields that will comply with all of the rules regarding the listing that are in place to maintain accuracy and fairness to the other MLS participants. But the MLS can also have fields that are used only by the agent or broker and can be selected for distribution to other sites. Here is an example:

    Take the description field: in many MLS the description can not contain an agents information, no agent name or telephone number etc.. However, the MLS could have another field called “Private Decscription” This field could say anything the agent wants. This field would not be visible on IDX feeds that other agents would get or send to their clients. But, teh listing agent could set up to distribute that lisitng to a 3rd party site and indicate that the Private description is to be used instead of the more restrictive Description field.

    So what is the value of this: Agents would have one place where property info is located and they can then decide how that information is distributed. It would be widely known that some fields are very accurate and dependable and others are more “marketing fields”

    The MLS would then be the source for the best, most accurate property information but would also serve as the central control point for an agents online marketing activity.

    Of course some rules would have to be put in place about how and where various info can be distributed but I believe the MLS can have the best of both worlds. Data accuracy and the ability to let agents effectively market a property.

    The day is coming where the data will be everywhere, the question is what part will MLS play?