On Big Real Estate Sites, Study Finds Gaps in Listings
By NICK WINGFIELD
Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press A house for sale in Los Angeles.
For some time, executives at Redfin, an online real estate
brokerage firm, grumbled to themselves that better-known real estate
sites like Zillow and Trulia didnâ€™t have all the property listings that
Redfin and other sites had. So Glenn Kelman, the chief executive of
Redfin, finally set out to prove it.
A study underwritten by Redfin to be released on Wednesday seeks to
compare the comprehensiveness and accuracy of real estate listings on
five sites, Zillow, Trulia, Redfin and the sites of two regional real
estate brokerage firms, Windermere and Long & Foster. The study,
conducted by a real estate consulting firm called the WAV Group, looked
at a sample of 6,401 home listings in 33 ZIP codes from 11 metropolitan
areas in the United States. It found that Redfin, Long & Foster and
Windermere all had 100 percent of the agent-listed homes for sale, while
Trulia had 81 percent and Zillow had 79 percent.
The study also found that 36 percent of the agent-listed properties
shown as active listings on Zillow and and 37 percent of those onÂ Trulia
were no longer for sale on the local multiple listing service, or MLS,
the local associations around the country through which agents share
their property listings. The study said that 0.1 percent of the listings
on Redfin and 1.7 percent of the listings on Windermereâ€™s site were no
longer for sale. All of Long & Fosterâ€™s listings mirrored their
status in the local MLS.
O.B. Jacobi, the president of Windermere, a big real estate brokerage
firm in the Pacific Northwest, said consumers should be aware that
local real estate Web sites provide the most complete view of properties
for sale. â€œIf Iâ€™m doing the largest purchase of my life, I want to see
everything,â€ Mr. Jacobi said.
Zillow and Trulia do not dispute that their listings have some gaps
and inaccuracies, though they dispute some of the particulars of the
Redfin study. Thereâ€™s a simple reason they donâ€™t have everything their
rivals do: neither of them belongs to the local MLSes, which provide the
most complete sets of agent-listed properties.
Thatâ€™s because Zillow and Trulia are not real estate brokerage firms.
Rather than making money by selling properties, the companies sell
advertising and other services that allow agents to reach home shoppers
and buyers through their sites. They have both built up big online
audiences by packing their sites with a variety of information services,
including real-time estimates of the value of properties.
Because Zillow and Trulia have such big audiences, they have been
able to form relationships with many local real estate brokers like
Windermere, which provide electronic feeds of all their listings. The
problem with that approach, said Redfinâ€™s Mr. Kelman, is that there are a
lot of small real estate firms because the barriers are relatively low
for entering the real estate businesses.
â€œMost of those mom-and-pop brokers donâ€™t upload their listingsâ€ to sites like Zillow and Trulia, Mr. Kelman said.
Sometimes agents that do provide feeds to the sites donâ€™t take
listings down quickly when the properties sell, Mr. Kelman said.
Although Redfin is an Internet start-up firm, it employs brokers, so it
gets access to MLS listings.
Ken Shuman, a spokesman for Trulia, said the company had a dedicated
team that was forming stronger relationships with brokers around the
country to improve the completeness and accuracy of its real estate
data. Mr. Shuman estimated that Trulia had about 90 percent of the
property listings in the United States at any given time.
Cynthia Nowak, a spokeswoman for Zillow, said it was making a similar
effort. â€œWeâ€™re always looking to improve accuracy,â€ she said.
â€œThere is no gold standard for listings data, so comparing Zillowâ€™s
MLS-only listings to an MLS isnâ€™t going to give you the whole picture.
For example, Zillow has hundreds of thousands of rental,
for-sale-by-owner, new construction and foreclosure listings, which
often arenâ€™t listed on an MLS,â€ she said.
â€œIn addition to these listings, home shoppers visit Zillow for deep
information on all homes, Zestimates, price cuts and community and
historical home data, all of which typically canâ€™t be found on a
brokerage site,â€ she said.
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