WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tony Russo, a real estate agent with a background in technology, got fed up with errors and rule violations in property listings information that other agents entered into the multiple listing service database.
In some cases the errors were inadvertent and in others they may have been purposeful — an attempt by listing agents to work both sides of the transaction, for example.
So he took the matter into his own hands.
Russo, a real estate agent with a background in technology, built iCheck, an automated system that scans property listings in MLS databases for compliance with the MLS rules and for standard types of errors, such as the entry of information in the wrong data field, typos and failure to enter specific property information.
ICheck is a sort of “Robocop” for property listings information.
The system has an automated notification system that is triggered by detected errors, and it also logs all communications related to this detection.
While Russo is still a licensed real estate agent, today he works full time as the manager of the Automated Services Division for iMapp Inc., a real estate technology company that offers real estate mapping and information services.
ICheck is now in use by 16 MLSs, and the tool scans about 1.5 million property listings a day, said Russo, who was in Washington, D.C., this week to promote the automated tool at a National Association of Realtors conference.
The system checks new, modified and ready-to-expire listings each day.
Russo said he began developing the tool in 2003, and the Web-based application powering the system was formally launched in March 2005.
The tool is customized for each MLS based on the MLS rules. “This isn’t one size fits all,” he said.
MLS operators can view detailed reports on the percentage of errors detected in listings, as well as the brokerage companies and specific agents with a high number of detected errors in listings.
ICheck also color-codes each detected error to display which errors can be subject to fines and which errors have been corrected.
Errors turn up at a minimum rate of about 5 percent to 7 percent of all property listings entered into the MLS, Russo said.
Typical errors include the placement of a phone number or Web address in an incorrect data field in the property listing, he said.
While working as an agent, Russo said he would occasionally spot a for-sale property that wasn’t listed correctly in the MLS — the address was entered incorrectly, for example.
Some types of property listings errors may be a deliberate attempt by agents to work both sides of a transaction by failing to provide complete information about a property or seeking to appeal directly to buyers by entering their contact information into data fields that do not permit this information, he said.
ICheck seeks to detect cases where a property address does not match the county property data, for example, and snoops for incorrectly placed contact information.
A subscription to the ICheck service is leased on an annual basis for a minimum of three years to MLS operators, Russo said. So far the product has been adopted by Realtor-operated MLSs in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.