Redfin’s Scouting Report Debaucle is Over
Just a few days ago, Redfin unveiled it’s newest, latest, greatest thing in real estate – The Scouting Report. The Scouting Report ignited a firestorm in the real estate community almost immediately. What seemed to be designed to help consumers evaluate turned out to have alot of bugs and inaccuracies. Redfin admitted, a day after launching The Scouting Report, that there were at least 12 bugs with the program. The quirks in the system weren’t the only problems with the program. It appears that Redfin was also indexing agents’ names. This means that if a consumer searched for an agent through Google, then Redfin would pop up in their search as one of the top options. If the agent is not a Redfin agent this can cause some problems. The brokerage disclosures for each agent were not readily apparent to the sites’ readers. This directed internet traffic away from the agent’s brokerage and to Redfin. This practice is frowned upon in the real estate industry because of the way information was presented to the public. Many agents expressed that they do not mind their sales statistics being available to consumers; they just want that data to be accurate.
What I think it boils down to is that statistics don’t tell the whole story. The Scouting Report reported information on average days on market for an agent’s listings, average number of listings that had price drops, average sales price and sales price range, etc. While Redfin now acknowledges that there were “bugs” in the days on market data; seeing an accurate number of days doesn’t tell you if an agent is good or not. There are a variety of reasons why a home sells quickly or languishes on the market. Many consumers would think that less days on market would be a good thing. However, less days on market may be due to under pricing, or having a specific buyer in mind when a property is listed. A lengthy time on market may mean that the seller has set a list price that is higher than what the market will bare. Or, the property is very unique and requires a unique buyer. The numbers mean nothing without context. This is just ine example of why a rating system, such as this one, is not what it may seem on the surface.
After many complaints and several Multiple Listing Services pulling their agent information from Redfin all together, The Scouting Report 1.0 has been taken offthe Redfin site. The Northern Virginia MLS (MRIS) was one of the mls’s that took this action. It seems that The Scouting Report is a good idea in theory, but there are just too many variables in real estate transactions to make it work effectively and accurately. MLS data relies on mls members (agents) to inport accurate data. Let’s face it, mistakes are made. If any rating system pulls human-imported data, then there is a great chance that errors will be reported as accuracies. Redfin’s reference to their report being a 1.0 tells me that they may try to relaunch at a later date. It will be interesting to see if that system will also be an “opt-out” instead of a “opt-in.”
So, what’s the best way to evaulate a agent before you hire them? It’s simple. Ask questions. If sales stats are important to you, have the agents you interview bring their sales stats with them. Every agent knows how many deals they have successfully completed. It shouldn’t be hard for them to answer questions about them. You can also check the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation for any state regulation violations. You will need the agent’s full name to look up this data. See if the agent has a Facebook profile, Facebook business page, and/ or Twitter account. You can learn alot about a person by how they interact online. The important thing to remember is that any agent rating system will be flawed. Be prepared to seek out those flaws and do your own research.