What’s Your Data Source?
Your business demands that you know what information resources are available—and how to assess their reliability. By Brian Summer;eld
You hear a lot of talk in the industry about “
empowered consumers”—those who enter into a contract
with you armed with a boatload of information about
homes for sale and local market conditions.
Consumers can access a host of real estate resources anytime, anywhere, from their desktops or
their smartphones, whether it’s information about a
specific house or inventory level in their community.
But more—and more varied—sources of information can cause confusion as consumers come across
data that’s incomplete, contradictory, outdated, or
flat-out wrong. That may lead buyers and sellers to
erroneous conclusions about a home’s value, the prevalence of distressed sales, or the costs involved in a
transaction, to name a few things.
That’s where you, the knowledgeable real estate
practitioner, can show your value. When it comes to information, you can help sort fact from myth or provide context to the random data points consum- ers regularly come across. That was the overarching message at DATAsfaction, a gathering of major data providers in real estate, held in Nashville, Tenn., in January. “We are stewards of data,” said Brian Copeland, broker of the Nashville-based Village Real Estate Services and organizer of the conference. “Every- thing we do is for the consumer.” Fueling the problem of “bad data” is the rise of “scraping,” in which unscrupulous computer pro- grammers write code that extracts information from Web sites. How significant is the problem? At the DATAsfaction conference, Curt Beardsley, vice pres- ident of product marketing for REALTOR.com, said his company blocks 1. 5 million information “scrap- ing” Web sites per day. And that’s just for a single real estate site, albeit a big one. There’s a veritable online marketplace of code scrapers today, with some program- mers in South Asia and Eastern Europe o;ering via Web forums to write real estate data-scraping code for as little as a few hundred dollars. About 900,000 new scraping IP addresses and codes debuted in December 2012, Beardsley said. The problem with scraping oes beyond the unsanctioned taking of content. It creates mountains of online real estate info that’s obsolete and inaccu- rate. Even legitimate sites can end up with imprecise information. So how can you work with over- confident consumers? Here are a few tips from the DATAsfaction presenters.
Paint a True Picture
Jay Thompson, director of industry outreach and social media at Zillow,