Redfin pulls agent Scouting Reports

CEO: MLS data holes proved too tricky to fix

Seattle-based brokerage Redfin has pulled the plug on agent "Scouting Reports" it rolled out last week in 14 markets and part of Atlanta, saying there are inherent problems in the multiple listing service data the reports were based on that weren’t easy to fix.

Holes in the data — often created when agents work informally in teams, or don’t inform the MLS when an out-of-town agent represented a buyer in a deal — meant that consumers weren’t always getting the complete deal history and performance metrics for every real estate agent, Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman said in a blog post.

"Only a tiny fraction of transactions weren’t accounted for, but it would have been enough to destroy our credibility if we had insisted on keeping Scouting Report live," Kelman wrote in an email to company employees reposted on the company’s blog. "Had the data been accurate we’d have defended ourselves from MLS and agent complaints till hell froze over, but in the absence of accuracy we have no defense."

Redfin announced Friday it was suspending publication of the reports in Phoenix over accuracy concerns, and in Washington D.C., over licensing issues. On Monday, the company said it was suspending the reports in the San Francisco East Bay area, in Atlanta, and in Sacramento, Calif.

"I don’t know when Scouting Report will see the light of day again, though I am hopeful that if we allow any agent to curate her own profile, we will resolve many of the inaccuracies," Kelman said today. "In the meantime, we’ll use some of the data to tell consumers when a Redfin agent has worked with another agent before."

Kelman predicted that some of Redfin’s competitors "will dance on Scouting Report’s grave and say, ‘I told you so.’ I certainly feel frustrated that I wasn’t more thoughtful in launching the service; a beta program involving our partners would have avoided all sorts of problems."

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Phoenix-based broker Jay Thompson, who had defended Redfin’s right to make agent performance data public if it could be presented accurately and in context, was the first to comment on Kelman’s announcement.

"I applaud you for trying," Thompson wrote on the Redfin company blog. "I suspect this won’t be the last time we see someone, somewhere, generate a ‘Scouting Report.’ "


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