Technology

Outdated GreatSchools ratings on Redfin raise concerns

Using a third-party data provider creates a lag between Redfin and GreatSchools' ratings

The school ratings on Redfin are a nice way for consumers to check out local education before they buy a house — but those ratings with GreatSchools might not be up-to-date.

Redfin has displayed outdated school ratings in the past, raising concerns that some buyers who use the broker’s property search website could unwittingly write off listings that they would otherwise choose to visit.

The inaccuracies were brought to light by Chicago Real Estate Daily but had been corrected by the time the news outlet’s article had published Tuesday, according to Angela Newman, a spokeswoman for Redfin.

Chicago Real Estate Daily pinpointed discrepancies between the school ratings shown on Redfin’s website and ratings displayed on greatschools.org by GreatSchools, which is the source of Redfin’s ratings.

The GreatSchools ratings on Redfin’s website and the GreatSchools ratings on greatschools.org are different because the third-party data provider that feeds GreatSchools ratings to Redfin updates GreatSchools ratings on a weekly basis only, according to Newman.

That raises the possibility that a number of other property search websites that might receive data from the same data provider could also sometimes show outdated GreatSchools ratings.

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Inman couldn’t substantiate that theory, possibly because that data provider apparently had just recently updated the GreatSchools ratings it feeds to clients.

Because the data provider doesn’t update GreatSchools ratings for Redfin as soon as the GreatSchools ratings are updated, Redfin may show outdated GreatSchools ratings again in the future, Newman said.

“Regarding future inaccuracies, if something changed tomorrow on GreatSchools, it would not be updated immediately on Redfin.com until the next update – so, yes, that is a possibility,” Newman said. “We are working on a solution that prevents this type of lag.”

Redfin’s website previously showed that one school had a GreatSchools rating of 5 out of 10, even though GreatSchools gave that school a rating of 8 out of 10, Chicago Real Estate Daily reported. Another school got a GreatSchools rating of 10 on Redfin’s website, compared with the rating of 5 that the school received on greatschools.org, according to the publication.

Because the data provider has transferred updated GreatSchools ratings to Redfin since Chicago Real Estate Daily reporter Dennis Rodkin flagged the discrepancies, the brokerage’s website now accurately reflects current GreatSchools ratings, Newman said.

Redfin would not name the third-party entity that provides GreatSchools data. But Redfin’s listing pages indicate that the brokerage gets some neighborhood data from Onboard Informatics.

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Onboard Informatics sells a school data package that includes GreatSchools ratings, as well as school attendance zone boundaries. Those attendance zone boundaries allow some property search sites, including Redfin, to enable buyers to easily find all listings served by certain certain schools.

“We do work with Redfin on a variety of content,” Jonathan Bednarsh, president of Onboard Informatics, wrote in an email. “However, I’d prefer you contact Redfin directly in regards to anything on their website — it’s not really our place to comment.”

Maponics is another data provider that sells real estate websites a school data package that includes GreatSchools ratings. It also feeds school attendance zone boundaries to some real estate search sites.

Maponics told Inman that Redfin “does not license our school ratings data.”

A GreatSchools rating typically only reflects a school’s performance on standardized tests compared to other schools in their state. The organization is also incorporating additional data into the ratings of schools in some states.

Regardless of whether that’s a fair way to rate schools, GreatSchools previously told Inman that its ratings reached over half of U.S. families with school-age kids in 2013. And some of the most popular real estate search sites layer GreatSchools ratings onto listing pages and search maps, including Zillow, Trulia and Redfin.

Given that school quality is a top concern for many buyers, it’s understandable that some real estate agents would be miffed if a real estate search site showed outdated GreatSchools ratings.

“If you’re a young couple looking online for a house and Redfin pulls up a 5 out of 10 for the local school, you might cross that house off the list of homes you tell your agent you want to see,” Brian Grossman, an agent at Chicago-area brokerage @properties, told Chicago Real Estate Daily.

”And you’ll probably even stop looking at any others in that neighborhood. Then if you found out the school really got an 8 but Redfin has it wrong, maybe you’ve missed out on a neighborhood that could have been right for you.”

Some real estate observers say online school ratings are playing an increasingly influential role in many homebuyers’ search decisions.

Buyers have long paid premiums for homes served by top-rated schools. But research has shown that simplifying school ratings can magnify those premiums.

And that’s just what online school ratings are doing: distilling school test results into scores ranging from 1 to 10.

Andrew Schiller, founder of data provider Location Inc. and the website NeighborhoodScout, previously told Inman that the proliferation of school ratings has already produced “a greater discrepancy in home values between the haves and have-nots of good-quality schools than there has been in the past.”

Email Teke Wiggin.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to note that Maponics said that Redfin does not license Maponics’ school ratings. 


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