Tell Me Again How the MLS is the "Gold Standard" of Data Accuracy?


I’ll have some thoughts on Realogy/NRT’s new later, but I couldn’t resist this brief observation.

I kinda knew the problem existed, but until this splashy website came along, we did not have the visual impact/evidence. If accomplishes nothing else, it really ought to wake up the industry (particularly the MLS) about the problem with data in the MLS.

Let me explain, with pictures. Touts the MLS

One of the basic value propositions of is that it uses accurate, fresh MLS data. Don’t take my word for it; look at the screenshot above.

And of course, for years and years, we’ve had everyone from brokers to agents to Zillow itself talking about the MLS as the “Gold Standard” for data accuracy. That may be true on a relative basis, but…

About That Error-Checking and Compliance and Stuffzorz

Here’s a partial screenshot of a listing search results page:

Listing Search Form - Search for Real Estate Properties

For slightly more than half of what News Corp paid for Move, Inc., you too can own this fabulous 4BR/3BA home in Boca Raton!

Seems that neither Zillow nor Trulia have this awesome, amazing single family home listed for sale. does, however. (Yay #AccuracyMatters!) Except that has it as a PENDING SHORT SALE at $499,000:


Since the MLS is the Gold Standard of data accuracy, clearly, is dead wrong (despite its Special Relationship and direct MLS feeds and all that) and this lovely two story Spanish style home of 3,108 sq.ft. is going for half-a-billion dollars.

And then you have this lovely mansion in Los Angeles:


Oops. “Not real, don’t call” eh? Funny how that made its way through the compliance system.

Good thing isn’t misleading consumers and presenting inaccurate, stale data, isn’t it?

Snark Aside, Maybe It’s Time To Take Another Look at Fundamentals?

There’s a book written by Chris Sajnog, a former Navy SEAL firearms instructor called (surprise) How to Shoot Like a Navy SEAL. One might think that such a book is filled with amazing secrets of the elite soldiers, and would teach one how to shoot a target a mile away while hanging upside down with one hand off a tree branch in total darkness.

Turns out, it’s actually filled with lessons on the fundamentals of shooting: grip, stance, sight control, etc. The very basic fundamentals that anyone who has ever taken even a basic course would have learned. It is the opinion of a Navy SEAL Firearms instructor of many years that if you master the boring fundamentals, you become elite with practice and time. Only after you master the fundamentals, can you become elite… ever. Screw up your fundamentals, and nothing in the world can help you become truly excellent.

This same lesson gets repeated in the world of sports, ad nauseam. (The NFL Combine just happened, and I’m almost tired of hearing commentators talk about fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals.)

Seems to me that the world of MLS could borrow a page from Sajnog’s approach. Virtually every major conversation surrounding the world of MLS these days is filled with Really Cool Ideas, like the Broker Public Portal, or Solds Over IDX, or Broker AVM, or what-have-you. MLS’s are spending money on a whole variety of products and services, all aimed at “making our members more productive”, from public facing sites to showing time scheduling to seminars on using social media for lead generation.

Meanwhile, a half-a-billion dollar error makes it through the MLS to be displayed to the world on an important initiative by the country’s largest and most important brokerage. Problem is, we all know that it isn’t just this one mistake; it’s merely the most visible and prominent mistake.

Brokers and agents have told me time and again that the data in the MLS is not always accurate. Most of it is human error, a listing agent who didn’t do her homework, and put the wrong dimensions in for a room, or wrong square footage, or wrong school district, etc. etc. But the whole raison d’être of the MLS, the reason why it’s the “Gold Standard”, is that the MLS checks the data for accuracy. Compliance is a big part (if not the central core) of every MLS’s mission and value.

So here’s my thought for the day:

If Compliance is not the #1 budget expense item at your MLS, maybe your MLS has its priorities mixed up.

Maybe it’s time to go back to the fundamentals and master that completely. Yep, that takes time, resources, and work; hence, see above about budget priorities. But master that fundamental, and maybe the MLS — and the brokers and agents who rely on it — will find that being elite, competing with multi-billion dollar multinational corporations, will come naturally. Fail on the fundamentals, and I’m not sure I see anything that could help the MLS, brokers, or agents do much of anything all that well.


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Rob Hahn

Rob Hahn

Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

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