I was reading a post today from the recently departed Trulia employee, and industry veteran, Todd Carpenter, called Data Accuracy is a Community Effort. I went into this article, and through a couple additional readings, thinking that Trulia and Zillow were to blame for all the inaccurate data displayed on their sites. I’ve come away with a different understanding now.
The pre-foreclosure property information Zillow offers I think is still a big mistake and a source of consumer misinformation. For that, I still hold them responsible. When it comes to listing data from brokers and agents however, I think the finger needs to point a different direction.
Trulia & Zillow are out to make a buck, and with a combined market cap of $2.6 billion, there’s a crapload of investors out there that think they can. So in the early days they took any and all listing data they could. Well that worked for a while but then REALTORS and the public got tired of lousy data. So in the last year or so they’ve both been making large inroads into improving their data quality.
By offering to work with local MLS’s and direct broker feeds, they have both offered solutions that could ensure listing data accuracy as good as any MLS. But their listing data quality continues to be an issue to this day. Who’s fault is this? The brokers and agents who post listings and never update them.
Some brokers, including mine, have decided to stop publishing listings to Trulia and Zillow for accuracy concerns or competitive reasons. For them, the decision is that the only winning move is not to play. Regardless of whether you agree with that position or not, these brokers are not at fault for bad data.
For those brokers that have worked to get MLS or broker-specific feeds working with Z&T, they’ve taken the commitment to ensure their listings are accurate. Bad data isn’t their fault either.
For the rest of the brokers that have not enabled a systematic process to keep their listing data accurate and current on Zillow and Trulia, the bad listing data on those sites is their fault. When they posted the listing without having appropriate mechanisms in place, they were ensuring a high probability that the data would become inaccurate at one point or another.
The REALTOR Code of Ethics Article 12 requires that: “REALTORS shall be honest and truthful in their real estate communications and shall present a true picture in their advertising, marketing, and other representations.” So one could easily claim that once the listing data an agent/broker posted becomes inaccurate, that are no longer presenting a “true picture in their advertising.”
So while I don’t think Trulia and Zillow are totally blameless in the whole thing, I think it is time to lay the brunt of the blame with who is ultimately responsible for it: the broker and agent who posted it. Either fix your data quality issues brokers or back away from the game.