Show me the market!

You may have noticed I am a big advocate of putting real estate market information into the hands of consumers.

During most of the boom years, buyers and sellers made life-changing decisions based on thin slices of information. A few comps fished from the MLS. County-level market trends. And, too often, uninformed or skewed interpretations from their agent.

Sure, there were the monthly numbers from NAR. Or the Case-Shiller Index. But they lagged badly. “Recent” sales data on the web were not recent enough.

Zillow and Trulia improved the situation and should be commended for it. They served up tons of market metrics and nailed the user experience. But they were based on some of the same old data, or used fresher data that represented but a fraction of the total available in a given market.

This lead to my bullishness for the MLS: For they have fresh data, all of it. The problem is that MLSs and the brokers they support generally have no idea how to shape that data into something usable.

That is now changing.


Here are some examples:

The Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS, in partnership with Northstar MLS, recently launched a suite of market reports that are very well done. A detailed summary for their entire region is produced each week; numbers for 100 area communities are published monthly. The visualization of the data is excellent and intelligent commentary is paired with the hard numbers. MAAR even created a blog — “The Skinny” — through which they publish and comment on the data.

Jeff Allen, Research Manager at MAAR, tells me the information is being gobbled up by consumers and professionals alike.

There are obvious limitations here (that reports are only available via PDF is the most problematic), but they intend to address them in the coming months.

I have discussed Redfin’s use of IDX to create market metrics before. They have done an amazing job. But Estately appears to have made some nice moves in this area as well. They offer neighborhood level market pages that present at-a-glance views of the price median, inventory and days on market. This, again, is based on their use of IDX.

Top Producer made an early move with their Market Snapshot product. While it’s a vastly superior option for agents looking to move beyond marketing with recipes and saccharine proclamations of home ownership dreams come true, it suffers, in my opinion, from some data visualization issues.

I understand MLS data aren’t perfect. And, yes, brokers in some markets still play hard-to-get with their listings. But the bottom line is clear: The MLS is the fountainhead of possibility for delivering consumers current, reliable, hyperlocal real estate market information. Brokers, associations and technology companies are starting to tap into it.

And that’s exciting.

Brian Boero