SAN FRANCISCO–The proof is in the data–and so is the money.

Four executives in the home and neighborhood data collecting business today discussed various ways real estate businesses can use data to improve back-end operations and sharpen their customer offerings. The discussion was part of a technology panel, “Data aggregation and mining: New tools and new methods,” during Inman News’ Real Estate Connect 2004.

Data alone is meaningless to most people. But when it’s used to create interesting products for consumers and agents, it can add value to a business, said David Meyer, president of eNeighborhoods. Eneighborhoods specializes in providing realty agents with neighborhood information, school information, crime rates, home sale data and demographics, to name a few. Agents display the information along with home listings on their Web sites as a way to add value to the site for home shoppers.

“There’s a huge opportunity to use the data in new and interesting ways,” Meyer said. “There are many other applications.”

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The Web has enabled home buyers and sellers to access more home information that previously was either unavailable or locked up in real estate and county recorder offices. Meyer and other panelists urged realty agents to use that data to stand out from the competition and give the consumer what they’re looking for while shopping for information on the Web.

Steven Hightower, president of Terradatum, said that brokers can also use data for business intelligence. One feature of Terradatum’s BrokerMetrics product is that it measures market performance, which can show brokers how their offices stack up against the competition, what kind of market share they have and how their agents compare to other brokerages.

Some data mining products are useful to agents when giving listing presentations to prospective sellers. For example, sellers likely will be impressed by an agent who arrives at their door with charts and graphs showing their average days on market, the sold prices of similar homes in their market and how long typical sales in that neighborhood have taken in recent months.

“You can find out anything you need to know by looking at the data,” Hightower said.

He showed a few slides of market stats in the region north of San Francisco known as the North Bay, for example, and pointed to several indicators showing that housing market is slowing. Using charts of number of accepted offers, listing inventory, days on the market and other factors, Hightower pointed out a slowdown in the North Bay. Agents serving that area could use this data to show home sellers how to gauge a realistic asking price or time they’ll spend trying to sell.

Another company in the data aggregation business is OnBoard LLC, which collects community profile and school information, recent home sale data and local points of interest information, among other things. Jonathan Bednarsh, president of OnBoard LLC, said agents should consider data currency when adding it to their Web site.

“Having bad data on your site is much worse than having no data at all,” he said during the panel discussion.

Also participating in the data aggregation panel was Marty Frame, Homestore’s SVP of products and technology. Homestore is not in the business of aggregating data to distribute to other companies like the rest of the companies in the discussion, but Homestore collects data from its own site users to learn more about user demographics.

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Send news tips or a letter to the editor to Jessica@inman.com; (510) 658-9252; ext.133.

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