Initial Thoughts on the Redfin Scouting Report

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redfin-scouting-reportSome within the real estate vertical are aware that Redfin, a Seattle based real estate brokerage / software / tech company with a presence in 15 or so real estate markets across the country announced the unveiling today of its “Redfin Scouting Report”.

And if you are in the real estate industry and not aware of what Redfin just announced, you should be. It is potentially a game changer of epic proportions.

What is this Scouting Report that Brian Boero of 1000 Watt Consulting called, “the most disruptive online real estate play in years”?

In a nutshell it’s a web based search that returns some sales statistics on real estate agents in the markets that Redfin serves (including the Phoenix metro area). One might even [gasp!] call these “performance statistics”.

Those “stats” are…

For an agent’s listings:

  • Currently  active listings
  • Average Days on Market
  • Median Sales Price
  • Range of sale prices
  • Average number of price changes
  • Number of dual agency transactions

For a buyer’s agent:

  • Range of sale prices
  • Median Sales Price
  • Number of short sales
  • Number of REO/Bank Owned sales
  • Number of dual agency transactions

All this is contained on a nifty little map and the user can select between an agents listings (sellers) and buyers for either the last 12 months or in the last three years. In addition, links to the properties on Redfin’s site are included.

It is stupefyingly simple to search and see the results. Be advised that the search will only show agents that are within Redfin’s existing market areas, and some of those areas prohibit displaying all or some of this data. For you Phoenix types, all data can be displayed, without even having to register.

OMG and WTF me, someone is throwing out agent sales data for anyone to see?

Yup.

Those not employed in the real estate vertical may well be saying, “So what?” or “Cool!” or “Well, why not?”

Reaction from those who make a living as a real estate agent may just be slightly different… In just a few hours post announcement I’ve see agent and broker reactions that range from, “No problem I’ve got nothing to hide” to “Typical Redfin publicity play” to “I’m glad I have my attorney on speed dial cause these bastards are going down!”

And everything in between.

Here’s my take…

I’m surprised it’s taken someone so long. Whether we like it or not, consumers clamor for this kind of info. Sooner or later someone was bound to offer it up.

It’s not an unheard of product. Diverse Solutions rolled it out at an Inman Conference in 2009 as part of a “code-a-thon” within the conference. The Houston Association of Realtors led by the always progressive Bob Hale did it within their membership — for a week or so until the backlash from agents forced the plug to be pulled.

But now Redfin’s gone off and done it. Putting on public display some performance stats for a boatload of agents across multiple cities and states.

This is going to get interesting…

I’ve long been a fan of transparency, overused as that word tends to be, along with consumers having access to as much data as they need in order to get through the tedious, difficult and expensive process of buying or selling a home. I tend to fall into the “we have nothing to hide” category of agent/broker reactions noted above.

But by golly, the data had best be accurate. Because inaccurate data is not only meaningless, it is dangerous.

And data accuracy is my immediate concern with Redfin’s agent rating product.

They pull data from various Multiple Listing Services (MLS’s). And trust me, if you’ve not had the pleasure of perusing the MLS then you cannot begin to fathom the inaccuracy of that data set. GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) reins supreme within the MLS – and I’m completely confident that’s not just in my MLS.

I’ve seen wrong sales prices entered. Wrong dates. Wrong agents. Wrong brokerages. Wrong type of sale. You name it, it’s been entered wrong. If you are pulling a data set and then doing calculations like median sale price, days on market, price range etc. well then you need accurate data to begin with.

Here is what I found:

Using the shiny new Redfin Scouting Report, I looked up about 50 or so Phoenix agents. A large number of them (I’m estimating 20%) weren’t even associated with the correct (or any) brokerage.

When one sees that something as fundamental as the brokerage is amiss, one should be wondering how accurate any of the other data is…

Days on Market seemed WAY off everywhere. Redfin later admitted there was a bug in that, and squashed it swiftly.

When one sees a fundamental calculation with a glaring error on release, one should be wondering how accurate any of the other data is…

There appears to be little to no recognition of agent teams, of which there must be tens of thousands in the Redfin market areas. The handling of data on agent teams is a notoriously difficult problem in this space. The “team leader” may well get all the “credit” for everything his or her team members do. Of course this means the team members get no “credit” for anything they do. I’ll be honest, short of fundamentally reworking the MLS data structure, I don’t know how this can be fixed.

So the data isn’t perfect, so what?

Well, this is a tool designed to help consumers select an agent. Leaving aside some huge arguments that “performance data” is far from the only thing that matters in agent selection, what we now have is a real estate brokerage that is reporting publicly on agents from competing brokerages – and using data that is flawed on some unknown level for those reports.

This my friends, is not so good.

I don’t believe that Redfin’s disclaimers like, “This scouting report includes information from ARMLS for transactions since Jan 1, 2008 and is accurate to the data feed Redfin receives from the Multiple Listing Services” means a damn thing to the average real estate consumer. They may just be inclined to think “ARMLS feeds accurate data” (assuming they have a clue what ARMLS even is…).

I like Glenn Kelman (the CEO of Redfin). I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Glenn and interacting with him. He’s a stand up guy and an absolute master of public relations. I’m glad he’s got a boatload of venture capital to create cool tools like this, and to hire very good attorneys. What will happen as soon as one agent finds out they lost out on a potential client because the scouting report showed flawed data? Only time will tell, but it will happen. And personally, I don’t think blaming the MLS for being a crappy data source is going to hold much water.

But maybe that’s just me.

What if the data issues can be resolved?

Redfin certainly isn’t going to kick back, put their feet on the table and call this project done. They’re a tech company and they constantly measure, tweak and improve things. Heck, they are one of the few out there with the smarts and capital (God bless those VC angels!) to work through these issues. And I suspect that they will do just that.

In fact, I hope they do.

I’ve got absolutely nothing against Redfin. Never have. Even during the years it was cool to hate on Redfin I wrote about them on occasion, but other than for the most asinine real estate blog post ever written, I’ve never had a bad thing to say about Redfin. I welcome their innovation and different brokerage model.

I’m a big proponent of agent reviews and ratings. I even set up our own cheesy site to help facilitate collecting client reviews of our agents.

Ratings and reviews are here to stay. Consumers demand them, someone has to deliver them. I wish Realtor Associations had taken the initiative to do what Redfin is trying to do here. To me it makes more sense for an Association to do this, not a brokerage. I think Redfin is going to get a lot of backlash from less progressive brokers and agents over this, and that comes at a time when Redfin is far less maligned then they were in the early days.

Assuming Redfin can resolve the data issues, and assuming they add some education and comparative stats to their search results (is 47 Days on Market good? Above average? Below?) then they are on to a winning thing here.

Is this the “most disruptive online real estate play  in years”?

Quite possibly…

And hey, I like disruption.

I think this industry can use a little of that.

 

What do YOU think?

 

I have more to say on this subject. Stay tuned for Part 2: Why Refin’s metrics might be wrong, and what would work better.

 

Update Friday Sept 30 1:32pm: Redfin has “temporarily suspended” display of agents in ARMLS due to the brokerage / agent mismatch. This is now displayed on the Redfin Scouting Report page:

In addition, MRIS (a large east coast MLS) has asked Redfin to suspend display of their data pending a review by MRIS.

Stay tuned!

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About the Author
Jay Thompson

I'm a real estate broker in Phoenix, Arizona and the publisher of the Phoenix Real Estate Guy blog. I tend to drive too fast and scream at the University of Texas and Denver Broncos football teams. My two kids are smarter than most adults I know and my wife is simply amazing.

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  1. Sweet, I’m the first person to read & comment on this..I was invading your mind as you wrote it, so I knew the second it was published (for those not on twitter in the last 5 minutes, you won’t get that)

    On to my real comment

    “I wish Realtor Associations had taken the initiative to do what Redfin is trying to do here.”

    I seriously don’t get how not a single MLS in the country has done this? Diverse Solutions did all the work in august of 2009 in two stinking days (granted, they have a few KICK ASS developers). That was more than 2 years ago. What have MLS’ been doing for the last 2 years? Why hasn’t an MLS gone and bought that technology from Diverse and implemented this..like 18 months ago? Consumers want the data — that’s obvious.

    I have a hunch Zillow is working on something similar (and honestly, don’t read too far into that – I have not spoken about this with anyone at Zillow since I left in early 2010) and am anxious to see what they do without MLS data restrictions.

  2. Jay Thompson says:

    I don’t get it either Drew. It’s not like you couldn’t see this coming a mile away… And Associations / MLS’s are in a *prime* position to do this and do it well. And avoid all the backlash that will likely ensue from a brokerage doing it…

    Your Zillow hunch coming into fruition wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

    • HowardArnoff says:

      I was at a Future of the MLS conference about this time last year and the attendees voted this down *really* fast. I had said someone else will be doing this anyway so you should be out front and in control of it.

  3. Yvonne Arnold says:

    Good read Jay.
    Bad data but no different than zillow…handle the objection
    Transparency ? Maybe… Handle the objection
    It all goes back to combating new technology with old school skills. It’s what levels the playing field.
    What most don’t realize, to some of our advantage, is it all works if you do!:)

    • Jay Thompson says:

      Yvonne – the problem with “handling the objection” in this case is you may never get that opportunity. Unlike a Zestimate, which you can deal with in a listing presentation when it comes up, someone is going to use this scouting report to decide which agent to talk to in the first place. They may pass right over you — giving you zero chance to ever set the record straight…

      • Yvonne Arnold says:

        I don’t disagree. I believe the consumer isn’t going to rely on these reviews as their only source of info. I just asked 3 friends who are not related to the real estate industry if they base their decision on one source the answer was no. I asked what else would they do and in unison said “call a friend” for a recommendation. You’ll have the opportunity if you’re well rounded in your business.

  4. Since I’m part of a team, often times my business partner gets the “credit” in the MLS, for bringing the buyer. And I don’t. I just looked at what they have for my buyer sides, and it’s grossly off. There is no real fix for that unless the MLS changes it’s structure of data input. Redfin gives tips, on how to go get the information corrected, ie: contact listing broker. I’d rather pick up trash on the side of a highway than try to get some of the REO list agents to actually change the record of our prior sale, from God knows how long ago, to reflect my name in addition to my business partner’s name. Yet, like you, I fall into the camp of “I have nothing to hide,” and am all for stats being out there.

    It just sucks that it’s not likely to be accurate for many agents in their database. That being said, it’s much like Zillows price evaluation is often times, close, but not accurate. Most people know that. It’s probably only a matter of time until most people realize that Redfins Scouting Report is no different.

  5. Aside from the fact that most agents wouldn’t want this info out there for their own personal reasons, it seems that this use of MLS data is against the rules of most, if not all, of the MLSs in California.

    According to MLS Rule 12.11 of CARETS (which governs much of the state now), the use of MLS data is expressly prohibited for anything other than the marketing of property or supporting market evaluations.

    I’d be willing to bet that once this info hits the main stream Realtor Associations, Redfin is going to be smacked upside the head with lawsuits from our sue-happy state before they know what hit them.

    If nothing else, this will be fun to watch.

  6. Mark Madsen says:

    The team thing may be an issue. I guess we'll have to do a better job of highlighting the "team's" competitive advantage, individual members, their roles, how we roll… and anything else we can do on our blogs to address that challenge up front.

    But, that is assuming we get a chance to show that buyer/seller our site first.

    Maybe the MLS can have an option for "Team" with the Team Leader or Name, which Redfin can display next to the agent in order to stay along the lines of transparency that they're leveraging for their benefit.

    Or, maybe Redfin can have a login area on their site where the agent can update their correct info, and basically create a business profile within their platform. If anything, it would be a killer way for them to get every agent in town to opt-in to Redfin's database.

  7. Kathy Howe says:

    Jay, I was delighted you did this post. I just posted on AARonline's blog about this new offering. Like your comments and glad to see you have done a great job of investigating its merit or non-merit. Fact is that this, and more, will become our new normal. Just a matter of time, and tweaking.

  8. I’m all for it, but it would be nice if the data were accurate, and for me it doesn’t include 7 of the 8 MLS systems I work. New York has an MLS almost for each county in some cases, and while I am in their market area, they only have one.

    Great idea. But it is all in the execution.

    And since I was the FIRST REDFIN PARTNER AGENT IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK, I think my muse is worth more than 2c.

  9. Greg Sax says:

    If not MLS data, then what would be better? I’m still an advocate for it being the best data source available for these kinds of product adventures.

    But you raise good issues that I’ll be talking to my colleagues about. We’ll have to think through the “team” bug as we work through the final phases of our forthcoming offering in this realm.

    • Jay Thompson says:

      There probably isn’t a better source Greg… but the GIGO problem *has* to be addressed. Maybe a public display of the crappy data will be enough motivation for agents to clean up their act. But I’m not holding my breath…

  10. Also: How the hell would they ever know if an agent was a dual agent in a transaction? If I get MLS credit for both sides of a transaction that means one of two things: the buyer was a customer and not a client under NY agency law, or in one isolated case, the buyer was assigned a designated agent and under my business model (which Lord knows, Redfin should respect, since they bitch that we should respect ALL business models, right?) I was the selling agent as well.

    Without breaking into my office and opening up confidential client files, Redfin has NO right telling anyone what the agency disclosure says. You can’t guess it. You can’t conjecture it. You can’t misstate it and have a 6pt, light gray colored disclaimer at the bottom of the page explaining it may be wrong.

    Get the data right. And in my case right now, 98% of the data is missing.

    http://www.redfin.com/scouting-report/JPhilip-Faranda/594561

    Again, great idea. I’m all for it. But do it right.

    • Jay Thompson says:

      Therein lies another issue JPF — Different MLS’s report things differently. Ours sends both the listing and selling agent. If it’s the same person, there’s your dual agency (in AZ). Well, except it won’t capture what is also technically dual agency — two different agents from the same brokerage working the same transaction…

    • Alan May says:

      They’d “know”… because they’re not presenting true “dual agency” situations… they’re presented what the public perceives as dual… in that ‘we got paid from both sides’.

  11. I agree with you, Jay: I’m surprised it’s taken this long for someone devise an agent rating system. The consumer demands data and research, and being able to find it is the new normal.

    But I do disagree with you that it’s something organized real estate can do: the consumer wants an independent, believable source. Rating one’s own members will never have that credibility, and as any of us who have managed real estate associations know, nothing riles up the membership more than a sales recognition program. Most MLSs gave those things up years ago because of the animosity they generate among the dues -paying members. And let’s face it: neither the AMA or the bar association rates their members–for good reason.

    Your points about the credibility of MLS statistics are well taken. Perhaps a rating tool based on MLS stats will help alert members to the need for accuracy. Losing a customer because of poor stats is a lot bigger incentive than a $5 fine.

    The big question that I’m now asking is: what can MLSs do to increase data accuracy? Data is our product, after all–how can we make it the best it can be?

    • Jay Thompson says:

      All great points Judith. But is an individual brokerage the right person to be displaying this data? While I am NOT saying Redfin would do this, let’s face it, there ARE brokerages out there that wouldn’t hesitate to “tweak” their competitors numbers….

      • No, it will have to be an independent third party. If not Redfin, someone else. If not MLS data, some other source. Public evaluation sites are, of course, free–and while they may be short on data, they still attract a lot of eyeballs. Travel sites are a good example.

        • Jay Thompson says:

          Redfin is not an independent third party. They are a real estate brokerage. They are publishing data on ALL agents in all the markets that they are in (within various MLS rule limits).

          I think an independent third party (an Association or MLS) is the right place for this sort of data to be published. But alas, none have bothered (other than HAR as mentioned in the post). So hats off to Redfin for having the fortitude (and money) to step up and do it. I just have some issues with a brokerage doing it. Redfin will get it right eventually. I’m less confident that others (and there WILL be others) will do so.

          • I don’t think it’s that ‘none have bothered’, as you suggest, Jay. MLS managers can only go as far as their board of directors permits. Add to that the liability issue that would arise for an MLS from both members AND consumers– MLSs simply don’t have the resources to deal with that firestorm…

  12. Jay,

    Totally agree, Jay. It’s a brilliant play, AS LONG AS IT’S ACCURATE.

    First, the brilliant part. Agent ratings are here to stay, and we’re actually still on the leading edge of that trend. Redfin’s move is just a little more gas thrown onto a fire which will soon be raging. In the very near future, it will be all but impossible for agents to hide who they are, what they’ve done and how their clients feel about them. And what, do you think, will be the implications of THAT? Especially for those who are not doing everything they can to ACTIVELY MANAGE their online reputations.

    Second, on the risk side, if the data IS found to be inaccurate, that would be a bad thing, as once SOME of the data is in question, then basically the accuracy of ALL OF IT gets called into question.

    Whatever the end result, is this disruptive? Hell yes. I say, MORE MORE MORE!

    Best,
    Michael

    • Jay Thompson says:

      Yup, if I see one goofy thing in a data set, I suspect the ENTIRE data set. That’s just my nature.

      Consumers, on the other hand, probably won’t know they are looking at goofy data… Not that they are stupid, far from it. They just aren’t in tune to it like we are…

  13. Really great post, Jay. Lots of food for thought here. A quick anecdote: once I was informed I had lost a listing to a competitor and since I had nothing to lose I told the seller he was making a big mistake. The seller then asked me to review the other agent’s sales stats that they had previously provided to the seller. Turns out the agent hadn’t bothered using cumulative days on market (only the latest listing period) so their DOM was grossly understated. For example, the agent’s spreadsheet showed several properties they had sold in a matter of days when, in fact, they had each taken 1-2 years! The agent was also notorious for overpricing their listings and selling more than their fair share of their own listings (the overpricing was so blatant many agents openly stated that there was no point in even showing those listings). Anyway, after providing accurate sales stats for those sales, I got a call back from the seller informing me that he fired the other agent and that I had won the listing! Sadly, in the eight years I’ve been selling real estate I’ve rarely been asked to provide any statistics about my sales but I do keep my own stats just in case and I am proud of my numbers. Granted, it has come up once or twice over the years but not enough to be convinced that consumers are really clammering for this type of information as many might assume. I think when it comes to choosing a real estate agent consumers are looking for a good fit: someone they trust (maybe someone one of their friends or family had success with), someone they can communicate effectively with, someone who is proactively working on their behalf, and someone who uses an up-to-date set of tools. That being said, there may be loads of consumers out there who do want this data (maybe many don’t realize yet that they want it) and yes, they should probably have access to it. Anyway, it’s inevitable, right? After all, we live in the information age. But I agree with you, Jay. The most important thing is that the data has to be accurate in the first place. Fortunately I have rarely seen inaccurate data on my MLS insofar as my own transactions but I can imagine it could be wildly inaccurate for other agents and other MLS’s. In addition, while I personally have nothing to hide, I can imagine that rating agents could cause agents more than their fair share of additional headaches. As if we don’t have enough on our plates already, it is becoming harder and harder to just do our jobs without hiring a full-time assistant to manage all the peripheral sites we’re expected to have to have a presence on. One potential good thing about publishing agents’ stats, however (provided the data is accurate), is that it would potentially give agents more “ammunition” when it comes to pricing listings correctly from the get-go. What I mean is that given a greater degree of transparency, the pressure on agents to avoid overpricing listings may increase. In theory, agents would become more cognizant about how knowingly taking on an overpriced listing could negatively affect their stats. For the most part, this could be a step in the right direction for agents and sellers alike. In my opinion, there are still too many agents out there over-promising and under-delivering in an attempt to win listings. Some agents are clearly taking these overpriced listings and using them as loss leaders: they know the property will never sell (or will take too long to sell) but they hope to pick up at least one buyer just from having the inventory. Nothing wrong with that per se (picking up business off of existing inventory) but when the property is grossly overpriced (even if the sellers are complicit in that process), the agent is ultimately doing the seller a real disservice. Again, great post Jay! I look forward to reading a wide variety of opinions on this important new development

    • Jay Thompson says:

      “I think when it comes to choosing a real estate agent consumers are looking for a good fit: someone they trust (maybe someone one of their friends or family had success with), someone they can communicate effectively with, someone who is proactively working on their behalf, and someone who uses an up-to-date set of tools.”

      I think that too. But the data loving types will certainly be looking at scouting report type info too.

  14. Sam DeBord says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write this up, Jay. Great idea, poor execution. It looks like the NWMLS (in Redfin’s backyard) isn’t even included for now, so no complaints about my stats. Another issue to add:

    Many closings are off-MLS transactions. The listing expires and later sells, so the sale is never recorded on the MLS. Many new construction sales won’t be recorded–10 homes for sale, only one or two listed on the MLS for advertising purposes. 9 out of 10 sales may not be recorded on the MLS, which would really skew an agent’s stats.

    It’s a nice publicity play and, unfortunately, flashiness trumps accuracy when it comes to publicity.

    • Jay Thompson says:

      Agreed that off-MLS transactions are an issue. Someone from Redfin reported somewhere (I think in the comments of the 1000Watt post that their data showed off-MLS transactions to be around 5%. My response was to tell that to my agent who has about 40% of their transactions off-MLS…

  15. Sam: it’s what the consumer wants which will win. Think like a consumer who says “I don’t want to tie up my property with an unknown quantity (listing agent). I don’t want to work with an inexperienced agent. I don’t want to pay for an inexperienced agent and find I’m in legal trouble after the sale.” The consumer WILL do research–that’s inevitable in this day and age. So the question becomes, “how are you going to provide the consumer with the information that will meet his needs?” Don’t blame Redfin for rising to meet demand. Better to figure out how to get more credible information into the consumer’s hands.

    • Sam DeBord says:

      Judith, I agree. What the consumer wants is #1 in terms of popularity, whether or not the information is accurate. You final point is key: “Credible information”.

      As a consumer, I love the idea of Zestimates and Agent statistics/ratings. As a professional, I love the ideas if and when they become accurate. Jay and others have already listed a host of issues with the credibility of the stats.

      Zillow is allowed more freedom because they’re a consumer website only. A brokerage-sponsored site is held to a higher standard of accuracy because of the professional affiliation.

      It’s a question of tradeoff: traffic vs. credibility.

      • Sam, I’d consider the thought that consumers WON’T trust the brokerage website nearly as much, and that brokerage info won’t be as credible as third-party sites (even MLS public facing websites). In the mind of the consumer, the ‘company’ information is purposed to sell property, not to be accurate.

  16. Another way to seperate the wheat from the chaff.

    I hope it’s more accurate than Zestimates on home value. The inaccuratcies are my main concern.

    • Jay Thompson says:

      The inaccuracies are my concern too Donnie. I have no issue what-so-ever with “performance data” being made available to consumers. But it needs to be *accurate* and reliable data. And right now, it’s not. *We in the business understand the inherent flaws in using MLS data, I suspect the vast majority of consumers do not. They are going to assume the data is accurate.

  17. Liz Benitez says:

    I have one concern and one complaint about this Redfin mumbo jumbo. My concern, I’m still a fairly new agent. Only a few years under my belt. So what is a client going to think when looking at my stats compared to an agent how has been doing this for 30 years. My complaint, I don’t show up when searching for “Liz Benitez” only “Elizabeth Benitez” and I am not the only one. I know several agents that use a nickname and are not showing up.

    • Jay Thompson says:

      I suspect that is a concern of any newer agent Liz. There are things you can do to mitigate concerns over experience if you are in front of a potential client. But there’s nothing you can do about it if you can’t get in front of that potential client…

  18. Great post, data integrity will be the key. The game is afoot….this real estate thing is about to get very interesting. I am curious to see how the agent report card and the Redfin partner agent thing goes over.

  19. Oscar Gonzalez says:

    I'm all for open data, being in the web and IT business, I constatnly hear complaints from my clients (agents) and consumers that they can't find a lot of info on agents, and past sales and stuff without going through lots of closely guarded systems. This seems like a great move. The data accuracy I think will be fixed over time when the MLS is simply forced to ramp up their quality checks, or risk loosing a large customer base.

  20. Mike Hale says:

    I think this info (if accurate) should be open to the public, even as someone that only does a few deals a year. (And it doesn’t appear to show rental properties). I’d bet most people are only going to look at total sales and median price anyway.

    I don’t see this as being a big deal anytime soon. Most consumers won’t even know this exists.

    • Jay Thompson says:

      “I don’t see this as being a big deal anytime soon. Most consumers won’t even know this exists.”

      Yet… let’s give it a chance. It’s only been out there for 24 hours.

  21. Mark Ciochon says:

    So, another reason to group twenty agents together and call us a team like so many other agents do even though in reality they aren’t working together as much as adding total sales together to say WE sold 390 homes last year. Works well when you go in for a listing. This looks like another tool for the top 10 percent to help crush the other 90 percent? No?

  22. I’m all for the reviews. I am on Zillow and have gotten many buyers because they told me they’ve read my reviews.
    I agree with everyone, if it’s not accurate data then that’s going to be extremely upsetting.

    • Sam DeBord says:

      I like Zillow’s review process as well. Of course it will always be stacked with agents’ “best” clients, but they actually verify that a transaction took place.

  23. Dane Briggs says:

    Like you Jay, I played with this new redfin feature for about and hour yesterday. Having used Broker Metrics in the past, to look at the same type of data I was using it to more or less see how it compared. Of course the first thing I did was look up my wife.

    The way we my wife and I work is pretty common. She lists all the homes for us, and usually is the buyers agent on our buyer transactions (for her and I not our whole office). The first stat I knew was way off was the Days on Market. It had her Days on market at over 300 which is completely false, it is actually less than 30.

    I found it pretty interesting how they mapped the homes though, and that to me seems to be the most useful part of the feature. Looking for a home in Scottsdale? Well why not see how many homes your agent has actually sold in Scottsdale. They might have sold 100 homes in Surprise, but that means nothing about their local experience.

    The other interesting thing that is not explained by redfin is the number of sales an agent may have outside the MLS. I look like an agent that hasn’t sold anything. Of course tehre is no way for them to see the 500+ homes I have purchased for clients at trustee sales, or the dozens that have been wholesaled to other investors that happened outside the MLS. I haven’t sold a new home in years, so that doesn’t affect me, but I know a lot of agents have focused on representing new home buyers.

    I think the service is actually quite useful to buyers and sellers, and I am of the mindset that the transparency is a good thing. It will be interesting to see where they continue to develop it, but I think you are spot on that agents need to be prepared to defend themselves if asked by a client about their Redfin Scouting Report. An agent will look pretty stupid if they say they are the “Number 1 Agent” in such and such, and their client looks them up and they have sold two homes in the last 12 months.

    I think it would be smart for ARMLS (or AZMLS if that ever gets going, but don’t get me started on that) to provide this data publicly, or even for brokers. I think it is interesting that services like Broker Metrics, Redfin, Altos Research, and of course Cromford Report, analyze data provided to them by ARMLS, yet ARMLS themselves don’t offer similar options. I love to research how many transactions an agent has had when they send an offer over. Not because I think less of agents that have fewer transactions, but it changes how we work with the agent. The best thing an agent ever says to us is “Hey here is this offer, but hopefully you can help me through the transaction because this is my first one.” We then make sure to send reminder emails about deadlines and such to the agent to help them get through the process better. If ARMLS offered a similar service, I think that agents in general would be less scared of the data being public.

    • Jay Thompson says:

      Yep. That’s about all I can say. My wife and worked the same way when we were actively selling.

      And I think this (agent ratings) should be done by an Association or MLS. The Houston Area Association tried it and were practically taken out to slaughter.

      There is so much wrong with the data as it is right now that one *has* to question the integrity of any of it.

      But consumers likely have no clue about the questionable data source. And therein lies the major issue, in my opinion.

      • HowardArnoff says:

        And whether anyone in real estate wants it or not, it’s going to happen (from somewhere) because that’s what today’s consumer demands, accuracy be damned.

  24. Robert Drummer says:

    As of 12:43 MST 9/30/11, Redfin has suspended ARMLS data pending a review of the agent/brokerage relationship issue and MRIS has asked Redfin to suspend their data pending a review of the site and/or contract pertaining to the use of the data.

    We’ll see how many others ask for reviews before the day is out.

    Major hot button issue.

  25. Marci James says:

    Thank you Jay, I read about this earlier this week and was really surprised more agents weren't raising a stink. Great job!

  26. A lawsuit is not a matter of if but when. Someone, somewhere is going to sue because of an inaccurate data. Whether anything will come of it, who knows.

  27. Cindy Jones says:

    When I checked yesterday it showed my average DOM as 270. Spit my coffee at the screen & began cursing. Fired off a quick..are you trying to trash my reputation email. Received an email back a few hours later with the opps data is wrong. Now it shows 48 DOM but it appears that for the moment DC is out of the report. Since I opened my own brokerage last fall it has left out my previous transactions which leaves a lot of transactions hiding from view. Can't wait to see where this gos.

  28. I don’t care if my stats are posted and I am not even a top producer (much of my income comes from BPOs.) I always have fun telling the recruiters to shove it when they tell me they looked up my MLS stats & their brokerage can teach me how to make more $$$.

    Now here are the problems I have…….

    They are advertising other area agents on my profile. Me no likey.

    Their agent’s profiles are reviews. In fact their Phx broker is also the LV broker. What has he sold in my market? Zero point zero zero. His profile is all happy reviews and looks NOTHING like my statistical profile (which is fairly factual other than DOM and missing new construction sales & rentals.)

    I wonder if Redfin would enjoy me pulling their LV Broker’s stats from my MLS and putting it next to mine? (Which makes me look like a top producer!)

  29. Judy Graff says:

    Yes, I have a problem with this scouting report, and I’m a Redfin Partner agent. While I think ratings and reviews are a good idea, what do statistics really measure? Diligence? Intelligence? Creativity? Experience? Heart? As Mark Twain said,”There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

  30. Frank LLosa says:

    Old news repackaged with a better PR team. http://www.FranklyCRA.com shows the launch of my Comparative Realtor Analysis back in 2008. It is very beneficial when used right. Just takes some 3 years to catch up.

  31. Kevin Lisota says:

    The NAR opened this can of worms with their VOW settlement with the DOJ, which seems to have escaped many of the commentators I have seen around the web today.

    While the VOW allows publication of electronic data in the same way as you can present data in-person from your MLS database, I wonder if an unintended consequence of this will be that MLS’s gather and shut off access to sales history for individual agents altogether. You could certainly change the database to only show your own history or that of your brokerage and hide the sold data for everyone else while not running afoul of VOW settlement guidelines.

    We are just about the only industry I can think of where you can get granular details about your competitor’s sales results at the touch of a button. It doesn’t actually have to be that way.

  32. Teams will definitely be an issue. There is no way a single agent can compete with the stats of a team leader with 17 affiliated agents. But I don’t have an issue with this technology at all. In our MLS agents have a bad habit of listing foreclosures as regular listings. It’ll be interesting to watch the reactions.

  33. Tony Arko says:

    Within the MRIS it is extremely easy for me or any other broker to completely manipulate the listing data. I can almost guarantee that every single one of my listings will sell within a day and go for full list price. And if it means that I will jump to the top of some Agent Performance Report that ranks on search engines and generates leads that turn into customers, I will be tempted to do just that. And I know other brokers who will do it immediately and have no qualms about it.

  34. I agree with Drew Myers on this. I'm tired of the information that is created by brokers and MLSs being whored out to outside companies to the detriment of the agent community.

  35. Redfin has launched this new feature because they believe this will benefit Redfin more than it will help competing agencies and brokers. They routinely have a dozen support people work on one transaction, from field agents to transaction coordinators, yet they attribute the sale to their top agents to skew the statistics and make their agents look like Superman. It’s dishonest and disingenuous and for all their talk of transparency, exposes them as manipulators and frauds.

  36. Bob Connors says:

    I wonder how many of you other agents are in the same boat as me: Redfin’s Scouting Report on me is off by 62%. That’s a pretty big miss in my book and I’m sure it won’t help me compete when compared to the 100% accuracy of their own agent’s Reports.

  37. Debe Maxwell says:

    What other NON-publicly traded business owner shares his income/productivity with his competitor FOR the sole purpose of his competitor’s use AGAINST him on their website or in their advertising? This company is not even in my area and I’m incensed by it.

    Inaccurate or not, this is not a direction that I feel is healthy for any business. I believe that new agents will suffer greatly should this practice become commonplace. Who wants to work in a business where you’re so heavily penalized right out of the gate? And there’s not even a ‘small salary’ for new agents to fall back on either.

    Publicly traded businesses? Of course they are to be ‘exposed’ and fully transparent but, my company is not a publicly traded company. Rarely do I hear our local restaurant owner, dentist or attorney broadcasting their income, productivity or number of patients or clients whom they are serving. In fact, NEVER do we hear our attorney, doctor or other business owner neighbors share this information. Why should we be expected to share ours?

    • Excellent points Debe, and like you, my MLS data is not available. Yet. I’m very thankful for this.

    • Judy Graff says:

      So right, Debe.

    • HowardArnoff says:

      But Debe, many agents for years and years boasted of being *million dollar producers* while dentists and attorneys didn’t take that route in promoting their professional services.

      • Debe Maxwell says:

        Howard–Agreed but, for those of us who have never touted our stats like that, why penalize us?

        The ONLY reason that this is being used on their site is to use agents’ names as SEO power for their own site, generate hits to their site and convert the leads to their own agents. PERIOD. Their claim that it’s about transparency is total BS.

  38. Alan May says:

    Jay – a nicely written, polite and even handed post. If, indeed, the data were accurate, I'd have less of an issue with it's public dissemination. But I'm not crazy about the information being controlled and disseminated by a direct competitor in my own marketplace.

    If it's going to be released to the public (and I'm okay with that transparency) it should be controlled, in my opinion, by the local associations and/or the MLS.

  39. Hi Jay,
    I think the biggest change this is going to add (if it succeeds and stays) is that non-MLS transactions will have to be reported post-completion in order to provide a more accurate scope of data. That's a heck of a lot of paperwork just to keep the record on Redfin straight, and that's assuming that someone doesn't sue the pants off of them.

  40. Put me in the “don’t have a real problem with it” camp. I understand the anger and frustrations being expressed by some agents, but this sort of information will in fact be normal and expected in coming years. As usual, it takes a disrupter from outside the old guard mindset to force innovation and technology upon the Realtor industry.

    I agree there are problems with how the data may be perceived with husband/wife, small team, big team, short sellers, REO, etc companies that do a lot of pocket or off-MLS sales. I think that can all be addressed eventually, but this move by RF essentially forces us as an industry to make a decision, again.

    I suspect the great majority of agents that produce will be able to leverage the stats as evidence ofsuccess. Newer agents with no stats, or even veteran “listing specialists” under Team structures who have a bunch of deal under their belt in the primary Broker/Team leader name will feel cheated by their Goose Egg ranking.

    This will be interesting to see how it plays out, who sues, who embraces, etc. But instead of sitting at the head of the table innovating and getting in front of these things, the real estate industry remains on the menu.

    Steve

  41. This is getting ridiculous! So as an associate broker of 35 years here in Virginia, I complained to the Chairman of the Board of MRIS (the greater DC/Baltimore MLS with over 40,000 subscribers) on Thursday, 9/29. As a result, by Friday, 9/30, here is what Redfin posted on their website -

    “Redfin has suspended Washington DC-area access to Redfin Scouting Report.”

    The consumer is not asking for this!! (And even if a small percentage of them are, that doesn’t mean they should get it.) When did anyone appoint Redfin or any other entity to bring transparency to the consumer? Who made them the Real Estate Town Crier?

    In my opinion, this is now a complete misuse of our MLS data! It was never intended to be used in this fashion – to start showing any consumer the data from our system so that they can now compare or pit one agent against another.

    Remember that the original idea of displaying properties on the Internet was sort of like offering the visitor an “electronic Homes Magazine” to surf through as a way to hopefully entice them to contact the office or an agent to want to learn more about a certain property. In the beginning, they were viewing pretty much what anyone could see in an ad in a newspaper ad or Homes Magazine – the MLS number, property address, asking price, number of bedrooms and baths, remarks describing the property in more detail, along with a few other items… just enough to capture their interest. Yet, by only allowing a limited amount of data to be displayed, the consumer still had to contact a real estate agent if they really wanted to learn more, thus keeping the agent and brokerage firm in the center of the buying and selling process.

    Now brokerage firms and vendors are increasingly displaying to visitors virtually every field of data that any agent can view or print out in a Full Listing from the MLS. About the only fields that are still being suppressed are the two showing the names of the seller and the seller’s phone number to call directly for an appointment and bypass an agent altogether! As a consumer, armed with all of this information, why would I ever need to call the agent to learn more?? Guess what? I wouldn’t! I would only need an agent to open the door for me… and if I could figure out a way to get around meeting an agent at all by calling the owner direct, I would probably try. Yes, we have Exclusive Right To Sell listings that would protect the firm’s right to a brokerage fee no matter how the property is sold… but for how much longer?

    Redfin has figured out a way to massage all of our data to show the “track record” of any agent in our MLS system. How come? Who allowed that? There must be rules and restrictions of what data of ours that can and can not be displayed to the casual consumer. The agent with the most sales in a certain area may or may not be the best one for the job of working with that consumer as a buyer or seller. And these comparison searches certainly put our newest MLS members at a great disadvantage if the consumer can now compare their sales record (or lack of) on the Web against the long time veteran. Sure it is factual, but that doesn’t make it fair or mean the consumer should have complete access to it! Again, more “garbage in – garbage out” analysis tools that we are just giving away to the uninformed public.

    Far greater oversight needs to be in place as to how the data in a RETS feed can be used or how much can be displayed to the consumer. This incident with Redfin is just the latest example of how others can and will invent new ways to take our collective data to create displays to the consumer that were never intended by us.

    As I said at the start, this is just getting ridiculous!

    Win

  42. >> many agents for years and years boasted of being *million dollar producers* while dentists and attorneys didn’t take that route in promoting their professional services.

    Howard, this is an astute point. Realtors basically “brag” to earn business. Much/most of the bragging is about being better, the best, the most, etc. A quick Google of Austin real estate agent reveals in the search result snippets the following examples:

    “For The Best in Austin Condos, Real Estate, and Homes For Sale In The MLS …”

    “Our knowledge of the communities and the growing urban market set us apart in the changing Austin Real Estate market…”

    “Welcome to the number one … ”

    “Austin’s Most Popular …”

    I think this tradition of Realtor puffery and bragging about performance and purported accomplishments might be where the “Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword” Redfin comment comes from. It’s essentially saying “Really, let’s see”.

    Also, the comparisons of other professional industries are not exactly apples to apples. Lawyers, Docters, even Plumbers have licenses and/or degrees that take multiple years to obtain. In Austin (and all of Texas), a real estate license can be obtained with a few weeks of classes and passing the test.

    This low barrier to entry assaults and insults the professionalism of our industry by basically allowing anyone to become a Realtor. I’d like the bar to be raised. If Scouting Reports are a first step to greater consumer awareness, I’m for it.

    That said, I think all of the current points about it being improper use of data and “not what the MLS was intended for” are valid and true. But times they are a changing. Will we resist or adapt?

    Steve

    • Debe Maxwell says:

      Steve, Does being the owner of your local sushi restaurant require ANY education? Do you see them sharing their productivity/income levels with THEIR competitors so that their competitors can post this information on their restaurant website? It’s as simple as that. We are not publicly traded businesses–we are PRIVATELY owned and no one has the right to share our income without our express, written permission.

  43. BawldGuy says:

    Hey Jay — I’ve been watchin’ boards of Realtors screw things up for a few days short of 42 years now. I realize this is hopelessly OldSchool, but the MLS was created for its members and nobody else, including the public. We owned it, and allowed our brainless leadership to give it away.

    What this post brings to light is merely the latest consequence of countless bad decisions and no spine. The industry, and especially its foundation — agents — are now reaping what they’ve sown.

    • Sam DeBord says:

      While we’re never going to go back to the old model, your point is a good one for agents to remember. You’re paying good money to build/support your MLS. It belongs to the members.

      Releasing more information isn’t always beneficial–for the industry or for the public. Transparency isn’t produced by displaying larger amounts of confusing/inaccurate information.

      We need to proactively decide what is good for real estate. If we decide, as a group, to publicize agent’s sales stats, it should be done in an agreed-upon format with some real data accuracy safeguards in place. If the majority decides against it, so be it.

    • Jay Thompson says:

      Funny you should mention reaping what we sew Jeff. I’m writing about that at this very moment…

  44. BawldGuy says:

    Can’t wait.

  45. First off let me say that MRIS will never allow this information to be posted. I wish they would, I have nothing to hide and would be happy to let consumers see this information. Furthermore, this is what was posted yesterday on the “Scouting report – search for any agent” page.

    Quoted from Redfin – “Due to potential problems in our software, Redfin has decided to temporarily disable or limit the Redfin Scouting Report, the tool for reviewing an agent’s deal history and performance metrics, in the areas below:
    Phoenix, AZ & Sacramento, CA: temporarily disabled
    Southern CA & Long Island, NY: limited to 2 years of deal history (730 days)
    Denver, CO: limited to 1 year of deal history (365 days)
    We hope to fix the problems in the next 24-48 hours. Thanks to Jay Thompson, Bob Connors and others for their friendly and timely reporting of problems with the Scouting Report. Thanks for your patience.

    Bryan Selner, VP Products, Redfin
    Sunday, October 2nd, 6pm, PST”

    In short, Redfin seems to have made some enemies with several agents, brokers and local boards. Remember the local boards are governed by agents/ brokers. The boards are also scared of potential litigation (at least until there is some case precedent). People/ companies have sued for less and the only one liable would be the local board, since they have to authorize the release of information to Redfin.

    BTW great Blog post!

  46. We belong to MRIS. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out since there are other sites that already display similar data.

  47. Lisa Ma Realtor says:

    Scouting Report Data No Longer Available

    Dear Customers,

    Redfin is suspending access to Scouting Report, the online tool that publishes deal histories and performance metrics for agents across the United States. We will continue to show this information for our own agents.

    Our primary reason for excluding other agents is that the data we exposed has too many inaccuracies, mostly because agents work informally in teams, or don’t formally record who represented a buyer in a deal. You can read more about the decision on our blog.

    We apologize to consumers and agents alike for discontinuing the service, and hope to restore it in the coming months.

  48. Austin says:

    If they can’t provide accurate data, then they shouldn’t even be THINKING about posting it online for just anyone to see. Period.

  49. haneyagent says:

    Still the finred or what eva, this site is beginning to remind me too much of the mls zoo we have over here in Van.BC

  50. I feel this is one of the most important information for me. And i am satisfied reading your article. But should commentary on some normal issues, The site style is great, the articles is truly great : D. Just right activity, cheers

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