We hear the doom and gloom on the real estate market everyday on the news. We remind ourselves and our clients regularly that all real estate is local and what they read in the Wall Street Journal may not translate to their neighborhood. So when we make the decision to post a market report about our own area don’t we have a duty to make sure that the data we post is accurate? Will our market reports picked up by Google and spread throughout the blogosphere create more concerns if they are inaccurate?
Recently I’ve been doing some “fact checking” on local market reports posted on a variety of blogs across the Northern Virginia area and found some major discrepancies in market data. We tend to forget that most of the data we have access to ourselves is also now available to the average person with a computer. So not only can other agents “fact check” our market reports but so can a savvy buyer or seller. I often check the MLS sales data against the local county tax records something that anyone can do. Not all sales are reflected in the MLS at the time they happen. New home sales may not appear until the end of the year, if an agent was involved and never if there was no agent involved. The same is true with FSBO transactions. Then you get into the naming conventions in a neighborhood. Not all agents know that what might look like one neighborhood in a basic MLS search might actually be multiple sections of a neighborhood with different names.
If we are going to post a market report are we ready to stand behind our data. If a consumer reads our reports and asks the question how accurate is our report can we provide the data to back it up? If market reports are close then it would be easy to say that it was the time that the agent compiled their data but if they are significantly different how do they decide who is right? Recently I came across a market report that showed only one townhouse sale in a Prince William neighborhood in 2008 and only two currently on the market. Since I had sold a townhouse in the neighborhood I knew that data wasn’t correct. In fact 18 townhouses have sold in the neighborhood in 2008 and 4 under contract. That is not an insignficant difference in data.
If as agents we want to help stem some of the fears of our clients and our prospective clients then we need to be diligent that the data we post is accurate. No one is expecting us to be statisticians and get every analysis dead on. I took two semesters of statistics in graduate school and there is not way I’m going to even come close to knowing all the formulas needed to compile 100% accurate variables. However, consumers do rely on us for basic accurate information and if we don’t get that right then we need to be ready for a long cold winter.