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Downgrading Real Estate Data Banks

Access Denied - Chicago Lake Condos - Downgrading Real Estate Banks - Jean WardHow often do you browse through or Zillow to get information about a current or past listing? Whether it’s a few times a year, once a month, or daily, that universal data you’ve come to expect about the neighbor’s house that sold last year, your brother Bob’s condo currently on the market across the country, or that little vacation retreat you’ve been thinking of buying in the mountains, may be compromised.

According to Inman News, in an effort to direct traffic back to individual brokerage websites, end users may soon see reduced listing data when trolling third-party real estate portals, such as Zillow and Trulia in the south. So far, only one local southern Multiple Listing Service has taken back and is holding tight to its listing data. RealTracs Solutions in Brentwood, Tennessee, which boasts just under 10,000 members, will start to send only the basics of listing data to public portals, as well as limit the display of current listing data. This means fewer pictures, the elimination of some data fields altogether, and the description reduced to 150 characters maximum. A link back to the listing broker’s website will also be required.

RealTracs’ CEO, calls the move a “pro-consumer approach” that meets both the needs of the consumers and the the brokerage firms.  The MLS backs up its choice by claiming consumers deserve a more intimate relationship with the real estate professionals who initiate the collection of the data in question and that individual real estate websites can provide a better experience for consumers.

Zillow disagrees and thinks that downgrading the listing content is a step in the wrong direction and exactly opposite of the best interest of consumers.

Could this happen here? I can’t answer that, but I do know that local MLSs across the country have debated these same issues over the past decade and half, and so far only one has altered course. Riding in the front seat of the real estate market’s roller coaster of technology booms over the years, I remember the fear that overtook the brokerage community at large when local MLS’s first started considering Internet Data Exchange (IDX) feeds that shared data with other websites. At the time, the internet we know today was still in its infancy. Information viewed online couldn’t always be trusted, security and safety were of the utmost concern, and consumer consumption was at a minimum. The general population just wasn’t sure about the ‘world wide web’ and how it would play into life as we knew it. In real estate at the time, one the value-added services an agent provided was access to unpublished listing and sales data, in addition to listing, market and selling properties, so the threat of sharing that data that had traditionally been authored only by us professionals, was a real one.

The industry eventually jumped on board, though, and leaned into the trend. It turned out to be a win-win for everyone, as consumers felt empowered with knowledge created by data, and real estate professionals were able to take stock of how best to cater to their clients and redistribute the best use of their time; consequently, a new value edict was established in the real estate community. No longer paper pushers, we were able to step out of the light and spend more time face-to-face with clients, prospective customers, and other real estate professionals. More time was allotted toward expertise in local market conditions, streamlining the advertising process to include only those avenues that actually begot results, and of course, soliciting new business.

Fast forward to today, and without consumers having the ability to access property info from 3rd party portals like, there is no way humanly possible that any one agent could physically keep up with the data demands of a technology-savvy consumer that expects every piece of conceivable data at their fingertips at all times, while still providing the true value an agent brings to the table, experience with properties and people.

As a buyer, whether you want to do nothing more than read my correspondence and show up at appointments or hand-peruse every listing you see on and give me a scrubbed-up list of potential properties to view, that’s your prerogative. As a seller, you may not care how your property gets sold, so long as it gets done successfully, or you may want to hand-check every third-party marketing vehicle to make sure your property has been satisfactorily promoted competitively with the existing advertising market. But in either case, the data, the free information that’s been provided to you and every other consumer for years now from national data banks, needs to be preserved, not be reduced in its complexity.

I’m sure I’ll see my job and my value to my clients change in ways I can’t predict over the upcoming years, but one thing I can pretty much guarantee is that traveling backwards instead of forwards doesn’t usually seem to work for anyone, so I’m not convinced that any sort of ‘take-away’ regarding data is a bona fide answer to any problem.


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