The Southern Cal Multiple Listing Service (MLS) announced to real estate agents several weeks ago that it would be pulling DOM statistics, which represent the number of days a home has been for sale on the market.
So why is this being done?
The Southern Cal MLS claims that this change was implemented for the benefit of real estate consumers (namely prospective home buyers and including home sellers). The DOM numbers previously posted were apparently not accurate and were also overstated - higher than they should be, leading prospective buyers to make inaccurate conclusions as to how motivated the seller is to accept price concessions, etc. Real estate consumers, in the MLS view, do not have the expertise required to properly interpret what the DOM numbers really mean, and that such interpretation should be done through a qualified Realtor or real estate agent. The statistics are still available, but now prospective buyers must ask for them.
"The listing history record is complex and requires some interpretation," said Russ Bergeron, CEO of SoCal MLS. "The SoCal MLS (board) felt that clarity was best achieved by encouraging practitioners to have discussions with their clients about those histories where appropriate, and that the information is best conveyed through a discussion between agents and clients," he said.
Encouraging discussion and dialogue between a Realtor and a prospective client is a good thing.
But this move raises a lot of suspicion and more questions about the practices of the MLS and Realtors.
How does this policy change by the MLS impact the question of legal agency and fiduciary conduct?
If a prospective home buyer has this "encouraged discussion" with a Realtor, and DOM numbers are requested, which DOM numbers will the prospective home buyer receive?
Will they be accurate?
Will they include historical data?
And how will he or she as prospective home buyer know the difference?
What kinds of inferences are today's home shoppers making about a home that is 150 days on the market that need to be "corrected" by a Realtor?
One inference that is already being made in the market place is that home sellers want to hide the truth about the DOM statistics, and that the SoCal MLS and Realtors wish to be accomplices in this effort.
What is perhaps most fascinating of all - and you won't witness it in most industries of business - is the arrogance of these two accomplices: One is the largest national home listing service in Southern California. The other is the largest organization of real estate sales people.
Prospective home buyers are being beckoned by them both.
MLS: Come to us. Trust our massive listing service, second to none.
Realtors: Talk to us. Trust our local market expertise. Help us find your dream home.
Yet, at the same time, and perhaps without realizing it, given the new policy change in the listing of DOM statistics, the MLS and Realtors have just insulted the intelligence of Southern California prospective home buyers.
The truth is, real estate consumers are far more informed than Realtors or the MLS give them credit.
Prospective buyers are trying to do their own homework, except the SoCal MLS and Realtors apparently went to the school where it was OK to rip out pages from research information or just insert new data to support their version of events.
Why not just burn the information entirely?
There is no one correct way to interpret the data. Let is stand on its own, raw and untarnished.
Let it be what it is: profound or immaterial.
The MLS should show it all. Yes, Realtors should weigh in and provide their experienced council. Prospective buyers should also make their own inferences. Home sellers should be allowed to explain it.
Just don't hide or manipulate the information. And don't force less informed consumers to remember to ask for it. That's just deceptive.
This development, is just one example of why Realtors and the MLS system cannot be trusted by real estate consumers going forward.