RESO CEO Sam DeBord and CMLS CEO Denee Evans led a three-part conversation about data access, privacy and policy, and how it impacts real estate.

If you’d like to catch a video replay of this Connect Now session, and access the other 25+ hours of video content from Connect Now, tickets are still available. Click here to access.

Knowledge is power, and for real estate agents, having easy access to reliable data about the market is a vital part of creating a solid business and becoming a trusted expert. However, consumers, more than ever before, are aiming to become experts in their own rights by asking for the data gates to be opened. So, what is the industry to do?

On the Connect Now digital stage, Real Estate Standards Organization CEO Sam DeBord and Council of Multiple Listing Services CEO Denee Evans led a three-part conversation about data aggregation and dissemination, best practices for analyzing and applying data, and how to improve the data process.

Part One: Using data to understand community dynamics

Pocket listings have been a hot-button topic in the real estate industry for years, as some professionals question the fairness of marketing a listing to an exclusive segment of buyers.

Where some professionals may see pocket listings as smart marketing, Full Circle Real Estate broker Colin Mullane explained that exclusive listings create a slippery slope that can easily lead to discrimination.

Colin Mullane

“You really move down that hole of discriminatory practices because that’s telling the consumer you have a special set of homes that nobody really else has,” Mullane said during the first session of the one-hour Connect Now data track. “What story are you telling your buyer or seller? What if they request it?”

“Have they been fully exposed to the true ramifications of exclusive-style listings?” he added. “You may be losing quite a bit of money by not exposing yourself to the broadest part of the market.”

He continued, “If you’re concerned about privacy and confidentiality, that can still be managed with a broader exposure. From a discrimination standpoint, the greater the buyer pool that has access to the data, the better.”

MIBOR CEO Shelley Specchio echoed Mullane’s statements and shared a first-hand example of how limiting data access impacts the buyers and sellers across the spectrum.

“We want to start a conversation at the community level,” Specchio said of MIBOR’s move to hire an in-house data scientist. “It’s important to use MLS data for its transparency to not only help our members help their clients make informed decisions, but also to help our communities make intentional decisions about the future of our community.”

With data in hand, Specchio said MIBOR has increased its involvement in city planning and zoning discussions to advocate for affordable housing.

Shelley Specchio

“We’ve been trying to break down the ’Not in My Backyard’ problem so we can get people to understand what we mean when we talk about the need for diversity in housing as well as all the other aspects,” she said. “In some cases, we’ve actually seen development. We’ve actually seen product built as a result.”

“It all goes back to the data,” she added. “Everything is supported by the data in the MLS.”

Both Specchio and Mullane encouraged real estate professionals to complete the National Association of Realtors’ ‘At Home With Diversity’ certification to gain the tools and awareness needed to wield the power of data properly.

“It was a real eye-opener for me on how we discriminate without really knowing,” Mullane said. “[It covers] what bias really looks like and how our business practices can get on the wrong track without us really knowing.”

“We have to fully comprehend where we’re prone to making those mistakes and not treating the data and our clients in a fair and diverse way.”

Part Two: Using data to understand the market

As states begin reopening, real estate agents have two primary questions in mind: What is happening to the market and how can I prepare?

Altos Research, Inc. CEO Michael Simonsen told the Connect Now crowd the coronavirus pandemic has flipped the real estate market upside down, bucking historical inventory and pricing trends for this time of year.

Michael Simonsen

“The thing that we’ve noticed is that we have record low inventory and record-high pricing,” he said. “We started 2020 at record lows. Each year we’ve had subsequent record lows.”

Simonsen said the coronavirus has stunted the spring and summer inventory boost, meaning that a hoped-for buyer’s market is off the table as home prices rise in response to an imbalance between supply and demand.

“But we’re still declining week over week,” he said while noting this is the most severe inventory drop Altos has tracked in the past 15 years. “[But] what’s totally taken me by surprise is how well demand has held up at this time.”

According to Simonsen and Clareity Consulting and Security CEO Gregg Larson, home searches and the requests for virtual showings spiked during the lockdown as renters yearned for extra space and homeowners’ wish lists grew to include offices and other amenities.

Both men encouraged real estate agents to use data and digital tools to strengthen trust with current clients and create trust with new ones.

“Especially in an uncertain market, information is the antidote to that fear,” Simonsen said. “Everyone wants to know what’s going on.”

Gregg Larson

“Price reductions are a leading indicator of demand,” he added while noting the lack of price reductions in the current market. “You can measure demand by transaction volume in a restricted market.”

Lastly, Larson encouraged agents to rely on digital tools to keep their business going and create a reputation as an agent who knows how to pivot and work for clients — no matter what.

“Sell the house like you normally do,” Larson said. “The showings are going on.”

Part Three: Understanding how to streamline data aggregation and dissemination

When asked about how Realogy handles gathering, analyzing and sharing a wealth of data to 300,000 agents and countless consumers, Product and Innovation EVP Simon Chen’s answer was short and sweet: “It’s tough.”

Brad Bjelke

Chen and CEO Brad Bjelke both lamented at the hoops brokers and companies must jump through to gather data and transform it into something actionable for professionals and consumers alike.

“The current process as it stands is broken,” Chen said in reference to data policies that require every feed to have its own fees, policies and licenses.

Chen, Bjelke and DeBord said the key to improving real estate’s relationship with and use of data is streamlining the rules and licenses required for each part of a broker’s tech stack — which includes multiple tools.

“It’s about introducing that efficiency,” Bjelke said while suggesting vendors with multiple products should receive a single handbook that outlines how to properly use and protect data for each product. “You should be able to go in and configure a feed quickly.”

Simon Chen | Photo credit: Realogy

On the consumer side, Chen said Realogy and other industry leaders are working on creating an Amazon-like experience for buyers and sellers during their online home search journeys.

“The home search is nowhere near that,” he said in reference to Amazon’s ability to suggest the correct items for consumers. “It’s still a very rudimentary process.”

“As consumers and producers we have to continually push the envelope,” Bjelke concluded. “The holy grail is to take what we have and make it better.”

Email Marian McPherson

If you’d like to catch a video replay of this Connect Now session, and access the other 25+ hours of video content from Connect Now, tickets are still available. Click here to access.

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