Scouting Report, the Morning After

Inside Redfin

Scouting Report, the Morning After

When Redfin first launched our home-buying service, David Eraker sent an email to the whole company that I’ll never forget:

“Strap in Team Redfin. We’re in for a wild ride.”

No truer statement has ever been made about Redfin’s journey, which took another turn last week when we launched Redfin Scouting Report. We made big mistakes. And we heard from some data providers that we couldn’t access their data.

First, I want to apologize for our mistakes and explain what we’ve been doing about them.

Days on Market: Immediately Fixed (But That Was Really Bad)

Our most egregious mistake was miscalculating how long many agents took to sell their listings. It was a bug that crawled into the code right before we launched, and we corrected it on the same day. Many thanks to Holly Weatherwax in Northern Virginia for being the first to identify the error.

Wrong Brokerage for Some Phoenix Agents: Fixed Today!

For about 10% of Portland, Phoenix and Las Vegas agents, we showed the wrong brokerage, saying for example that the agent worked for Coldwell Banker when he or she worked for Century 21. We fixed Vegas and Portland on Friday, and Phoenix this afternoon.

Only Two Years of Past Sales in Denver and San Diego: Fixed Today!

In Denver, we claimed to show sales going back to January 1, 2008, but for the most part we only had data going back to October 1, 2008 and in Boulder we had less than that. So that our data are complete and reliable for the entire Denver area, we are only going to show one year of sales there. We had the same issue in San Diego and Long Island, but will be able to show sales going back two years, to October 3, 2009. These changes will be complete this afternoon. Thanks to Bob Connors for first noticing the problem.

Dual Agency and Self-Represented Buyers: Fixed Today!

We described some agents as having represented both buyers and sellers on one deal, a controversial practice known as dual agency, when in some cases the buyer was unrepresented by an agent. This is a problem in the source data we get from Multiple Listing Services, so we can only provide a more nuanced description of dual agency, which includes the possibility of unrepresented buyers. This description will be posted throughout the site this afternoon.

Dual Agency on Phoenix REOs: The MLS Can Help!

Our old, good friend Greg Swann in Phoenix has told us that many Phoenix listing agents don’t give the buyer’s agent credit on a deal, especially when the listing is a foreclosure being sold by a bank. This is a problem in the source data maintained by the Multiple Listing Services (MLSs) used by real estate agents to share listings and record deals, so we asked two MLSs today for their guidance on the issue. Both recommended that the buyer’s agent contact the MLS compliance department to get credit for representing the buyer in that sale. These MLSs have a process for this type of issue and will work with both agents to get it fixed.

Sales Withheld from our Feed: Fixed Today!

We have also found that some agents sell a property but don’t get credit for it in Scouting Report, because they withhold a record of the sale from our data feed, known in the industry as a Virtual Office Website (VOW) feed. Sometimes, the agent allowed the sale to be included in the feed, but it disappeared due to a bug in the feed. Without that record, we can’t locate the deal on our map, determine its price or show its pictures — but we can include it in the agent’s total deal count, with a note explaining the discrepancy. We’ll do that later today. We would also encourage agents to include every sale in the VOW feed; it’s good for you, and good for every agent’s customers to see all the sale records.

Teams Where a Team-Member Is Not Listed as a Co-Agent: Email Us

We also have had agents such as Carol Carnevale contact us because deals completed by a member of their teams, under a different license number, did not show up in the team leader’s profile. When two agents list one property as co-agents, the original Scouting Report handled this well, but when an agent doesn’t do it that way, we have no other way of knowing when two agents work together as a team. We are handling this on a case-by-case basis; if you as an agent would like your deals combined with that of another agent, contact data-issue (at) redfin (dot) com.

Data Licensing Problems: Washington DC Area & the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area

We also have data-licensing problems. In Washington DC and the East Bay of San Francisco, our data partners have asked for a more careful review process. We are suspending access to the Scouting Report in these areas until we can complete that review. In neither case have we discussed a specific rules violation, so we shouldn’t jump to any conclusions yet about what this means or where it’ll end up.

Sayonara Sacramento

In Sacramento, we have come to our own conclusion that Scouting Report violates data-sharing rules. We’re contacting our data partner there to confirm this, but expect to remove Sacramento access to the Scouting Report later today.

Half the Data Isn’t Good Enough: We Should Never Have Launched Atlanta Scouting Report

In Atlanta, we have become more pessimistic about the possibility of getting complete data on every agent there, so we are disabling the Atlanta Scouting Report. We should have waited to publish the Scouting Report in Atlanta until we were ready to jump through all the hoops — from both providers, not just one.

Southern California, Denver and Portland: Registration Now Required

To comply with rules from our Southern California, Denver and Portland data providers, we are requiring consumers there to register before seeing Scouting Report.

Three Data Providers Affirm that Redfin Scouting Report is Within the Rules

And the good news is that in three major areas we have heard from our data providers that Scouting Report is within the rules, which bodes well for the many other areas that have similar data licensing contracts.

Here’s a summary of how everything has ended up, in every area that Redfin serves:

Real Estate Market Initial Availability Current Availability
Phoenix Real Estate Yes Yes, restored today but for now with two — not three — years of data
Sacramento Real Estate Yes No
San Francisco Real Estate Yes, except in the Wine Country Yes, except the East Bay also suspended at least for now
LA & Orange County Real Estate Yes Yes, but two years — not three — of data for the time being and registration now required
San Diego Real Estate Yes Yes, but two years of data, not three & registration now required
Palm Springs Real Estate No No
Denver Real Estate Yes Yes, but one year of data, not three, with registration now required
Washington DC Real Estate Yes Suspended for now, hopefully coming back
Atlanta Real Estate Partial No & this was our decision
Chicago Real Estate Yes Yes
Boston Real Estate Yes Yes
Las Vegas Real Estate Yes Yes
New York City Real Estate Yes Yes
Westchester County Real Estate No No
Portland Real Estate Yes Yes, but registration now required
Austin Real Estate Yes Yes
Dallas Real Estate Yes Yes
Seattle Real Estate No No

What’s Next?

Who knows! Surfacing millions of records that have never seen the light of day before is always a bit like opening Pandora’s Box. But it’s worth it in the end if you can get it right. That’s what we’re trying very, very hard to do, working late in the night and through the weekends. Again, we are sorry for all the ways we screwed up in presenting data from dozens of feeds, based on thousands of rules.

Though we will not shy away from our responsibility to be authoritative and reliable, we also think it’s a mistake to set ourselves up as the sole authority on an agent’s performance. We already encourage agents to contact us with corrections, but we will at some point add a more public way for an agent to comment on what we’ve published about him or her.

That said, we’re not interested in Scouting Report becoming a marketing vehicle for agents who work for other brokers; promoting a brokerage’s agents is, after all, that brokerage’s role. But we do think it’s important that the brokers, and not pay-for-play media sites, provide the most reliable record of what agents have done and where. It’s hard, but not impossible, and it’s worthwhile. Redfin is just the first broker to do this, not the last.

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