Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman and WAV Group CEO Victor Lund.
Websites operated by real estate brokerages have more accurate information on for-sale listings in 11 major markets than third-party listing portals Zillow and Trulia, according to a study sponsored by online brokerage Redfin.
The study — performed by the consulting firm WAV Group — concluded that listing data displayed by Zillow and Trulia was not as complete, timely or accurate as information provided by three brokerage sites operated by Redfin, Long & Foster Cos., and Windermere Real Estate.
Websites operated by real estate brokers and agents receive listings directly from multiple listing services, the study noted. The study did not evaluate Realtor.com, which receives listings directly from nearly all of the nation’s more than 900 MLSs.
Although third-party portals like Zillow and Trulia receive listings directly from some multiple listing services, some also rely on individual brokerages, agents and third-party syndicators for data. That sometimes results in the publication of incomplete or inaccurate listing data, the WAV Group study said.
The study compared listing data for 6,000 listings in 33 ZIP codes in 11 markets: Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Ore., San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. The study looked at two to four ZIP codes in each market — San Francisco has more than 20.
WAV Group CEO Victor Lund said the study intentionally included markets "where we knew Zillow and/or Trulia had some sort of MLS access in order to try to be as fair as possible."
ZIP codes were selected at random, he said, to give the study "enough of a sample size at a market level to be statistically valid. Sample sizes "were driven by a balance between research cost and statistical significance. It would have been great to add markets and ZIP codes within markets but the cost was linear and already was a significant investment."
The study found that about 36 percent of the listings shown as active on Zillow and Trulia were no longer for sale in the local MLS, compared with zero percent or near-zero percentage for the listings on the brokerage websites.
Percentage of agent-listed properties marked as active no longer for sale in the local MLS
Source: WAV Group
The brokerage-sourced listings, via a connection to their multiple listing service (MLS) listings feed, displayed 100 percent of the MLS-listed homes in the markets analyzed compared with about 81 percent on Trulia and 79 percent on Zillow, the study found.
Percentage of active MLS-listed homes appearing on the site
Source: WAV Group
The study also found listings were slower to make their way to Trulia and Zillow’s websites than brokerage sites. Newly listed homes on the brokerages’ websites showed up a median of seven days earlier than on Zillow and nine days earlier than on Trulia. MLSs typically update their listings every 15 to 30 minutes and so brokerages, which typically are source MLS data, have extremely up-to-date listing data, the study noted.
Median days between list date and date appearing on the site
Source: WAV Grou
"The findings are clear: real estate brokerage websites showed by far the most homes for sale, recognized which homes were no longer for sale, and displayed new listings much earlier," said WAV Group CEO Victor Lund in a statement.
Trulia spokesman Ken Shuman noted that in two of the markets evaluated — Chicago and Boston — Trulia recieves listing data directly from MLSs. In the San Francisco Bay Area, all of the MLSs are participating in Trulia’s "Direct Reference" program, which is designed to double-check data Trulia receives from brokers and syndicators against MLS data.
"We have more than 90 percent coverage of all U.S. homes for sale across the country," Shuman said. "We are doing everything we can to make sure we are delivering clean data."
Shuman said that in addition to listing search, consumers come to Trulia’s website for information on neighborhoods, schools, crime and commute conditions.
"Searching listings is only one part of the home search experience," Shuman said. "A key distinction between us and a brokerage site … is they’re not going to have those types of tools for consumers," Shuman said.
Zillow spokeswoman Cynthia Nowak said there’s "no gold standard for listings data, so comparing Zillow’s MLS-only listings to an MLS isn’t going to give you the whole picture. For example, Zillow has hundreds of thousands of rental, for-sale-by-owner, new construction and foreclosure listings, which often aren’t listed on an MLS."
Consumers shopping for homes "visit Zillow for deep information on all homes, Zestimates, price cuts, community and historical home data, all of which typically can’t be found on a brokerage site," Nowak said.
In a post on the brokerage’s blog, Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman said the decision to publish the report’s findings, "was not easy. Personally, I have enormous respect for the folks at both portal companies. And the portals have far more to offer than simple listing search: mortgage data, celebrity moves, national trends, price estimates, discussion forums and more."
But Kelman said he was bothered that the brokerage gets "questions from our customers about homes they saw on the portals that aren’t really for sale. Lots of questions."
Consumers are under the impression that the portals have MLS access, "and because the portals include so many listings as active that already sold, many actually conclude the portals have more listings than we do," Kelman said.
Some brokerages have cited issues with the accuracy of listings displayed by third-party sites — along with lead forms and ads for agents with competing brokerages that often appear on listing detail pages — as reasons to stop syndicating listings to them.
Trulia and rival Zillow have begun offering brokers incentives to feed listings data directly, and both companies say they prioritize listing information that comes directly from MLSs and brokers..