Last week’s big news was the Redfin Scouting Reports, which were designed so consumers could look up agents and view statistics on agent productivity. Those numbers were to come from multiple listing services. According to the Redfin blog, the Scouting Reports have been taken down — possibly forever.
Redfin stated that it ran into some problems with the MLS data. The company claimed that only a fraction of the data was inaccurate, but that was enough to destroy the credibility of the reports. Some of the issues were caused by how sales are recorded in the MLS when agents work in teams.
It would be nice if everyone that uses and inputs MLS data, or any other type of data, cared that much about data accuracy.
The announcement of the launch of the Scouting Reports was not well received or embraced by all real estate practitioners. As always, the people who do not actually sell real estate were more in favor of giving consumers the ability to look at agent productivity than the agents were.
This reminds me of a kerfuffle last year over agent reviews. There were agents who were worried about public reviews and ratings while our industry leaders and experts appeared to be doing the "happy dance."
They acted as though agents are evil, and that it is their mission to protect the general public from us. Personally I would like to see agents share a database of bad clients.
What was lost in the debate: consideration of what is good for consumers, and helping agents improve their skills. Instead, the conversation too often seems centered on how MLS data can be used to make money, or how to drive consumer traffic to websites by having agent reviews on them.
If there were agent numbers published based on our MLSs, they would end up just like the rest of the data: We would probably find several different ratings for the same agent on several websites. There would likely be websites claiming to have data for all the agents, though some agents would undoubtedly be missing from the list.
Consumers would be asking us to explain the data that they found, just like they now ask us to explain home values and other information they find on third-party sites.
How exactly would consumers use agent data in the decision-making process? Would they want to list with the agent who has the most listings or the agent who sold the most listings? Would they understand the numbers, and how relevant would those numbers be?
Is the agent who makes the most money the best agent? If consumers distrust real estate companies, are they going to trust agent data provided on a real estate company’s website?
None of this ever really seems to be about consumers or transparency — it is about leveraging data for profit. The only way to get agent buy-in is to say it is all for consumers and that they want the information.
In most cases, agent support is needed to make rating and review systems work.
It would be nice if there was some way to point out the bad agents. Here in Minnesota, consumers can look agents up on the Department of Commerce website and see how long they have been licensed and if there are any complaints against them. Consumers don’t seem to use it much, or even know about it.
The idea of agent rankings and providing actual data on agent productivity gives us something to write about and discuss, but the issue does not seem to be on the radar of the average consumer or real estate agent.
In most cases, consumers do not pay us a dime until property changes hands and there is a successful closing, and agents pay a huge price when we cannot sell a home or find one for a buyer.