Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct a description of NeighborCity.com’s coverage area.
Technology-based brokerage Redfin says it’s making performance data on 1 million real estate agents in 14 major metropolitan areas available to consumers, including how many homes agents have sold and how often they represented buyers in the last three years.
The data, culled from multiple listing services that Redfin belongs to, maps the locations of homes sold, and provides pictures of the homes, the average number of price drops for each listing sold, median sale price, and the range of prices.
"We released this so folks could get the facts about their agent, and make fact-based decisions about whom to use to sell their house," said Matt Goyer, the brokerage’s director of online marketing, in an email. "We think more will use Redfin agents."
There were also other motivations for making the data available, Goyer said.
"What we tell ourselves here every day is that we came here to change the game, to make real estate a bit better — and this just seemed like a Redfin kind of thing to do."
The Houston Association of Realtors briefly offered a similar tool in April 2010, but agents objected and HAR was forced to disable some of the most advanced capabilities of "Realtor Match" after only a few days.
Consumers can still see "Agent Ratings" of one to five stars awarded by past clients on HAR’s public-facing website, and agents have the option of making MLS data showing their past transactions available on a profile page.
"We still aren’t sure how other brokers in the industry will react on seeing their agents’ deals laid out, as ours already were, on a map," said Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman in a blog post.
"I’m optimistic. We as brokers and agents are acutely aware of why you spend more money on a real estate agent than a car: because the value of your largest investment hangs in the balance."
Brokers, Kelman said, "can’t pretend that refusing to provide this information won’t just leave it for other websites, with pay-to-play business models, to create only a partial directory, with less reliable data."
On the 1000Watt Consulting blog, Brian Boero said that while it’s debatable whether or not MLS data should be used this way, "I can’t think of another online real estate development in the past three years that is quite this disruptive."
The Redfin agent Scouting Reports are available in Phoenix; Sacramento; the San Francisco Bay Area; Los Angeles and Orange counties; San Diego; Denver; Chicago; Boston; Las Vegas; Long Island, N.Y.; Portland, Ore.; Dallas and Austin, Texas; and Washington, D.C.
Partial data is available in the Atlanta market, and the agent Scouting Reports are not available in Palm Springs, Calif.; Westchester County, N.Y.; and Seattle due to MLS restrictions.
Another website, NeighborCity.com, says it offers ratings on 1 million agents nationwide using current and historic MLS listing data.
In an email, NeighborCity CEO Jonathan Cardella questioned whether there were actually 1 million agents in the markets Redfin has coverage for.
But he called Redin’s agent Scouting Reports a "great guerrilla marketing tactic," adding that "this industry desperately needs transparency, so I applaud them for having the guts to put it out there."
Cardella claimed NeighborCity has "more data and deeper data than Redfin" but is not able to display it all at the moment.
"We’ve got more elaborate agent profile page designs, deeper analytics, charts, (and) graphs," he said. "But connecting the dots and launching takes us more time because we are doing it on a national scale and we are a whole lot smaller in terms of engineering resources than Redfin."