Realtor Data Undergoes Reporting Change

Last Updated May 19, 2011 11:22 PM EDT

Popular corporate website EffectiveMeetings.com published an essay on the topic of statistics, which includes a shrewd observation: "The sad fact is that statistics are ridiculously easy to manipulate, and because we rely on numbers to tell the truth, the results can be particularly misleading."
With the best of intentions, ostensibly to bring rays of hope to a depressed housing market, Realtor.com has introduced some pretty significant changes in the way their analytics team processes inventory counts.

The differences become readily apparent using the example of the Savannah, Georgia market. Realtor.com's Real Estate Data Report for March 2011 showed the median age of housing inventory at 701 days. That meant home sellers could expect to have their properties listed for nearly two years before finding a buyer. Certainly not the most encouraging news.

However with the release this week of the Real Estate Data Report for April 2011, the fortunes of Savannah's wanna be home sellers have dramatically improved. Want to sell your home? The Realtors are estimating it will now only take 198 days.

Blink and you might have missed the changes, especially as the March 2011 report is no longer available online. But those who were able to catch the difference may have labored under the mistaken impression that the put-upon housing market had turned around in 30 days. Um, not quite.

So what accounts for the creative accounting at Realtor.com? Julie Reynolds, Vice President, Public Relations & Social Media explains:
We recently modified the way in which listing data is processed from our MLS partners to better ensure inventory counts are more up to date or current throughout the reporting process. This adjusted methodology affects historical listing counts such as year-over-year or month-over-month data, not current inventory counts.
In the past, we processed historic inventory data on a periodic basis, and have recently modified this processing to fall within a 24-hour window.

You will see inventory levels in many [markets] adjust up or down on the April 2011 report because some properties that had fallen off the market remained in our reporting system after report cut off dates for reports prior to the April 2011.

All year-over-year and month-over-month numbers have been updated and recalculated using this adjusted method that will be used moving forward starting with the April 2011 key measures report.

There's a lot of industry jargon in there, but essentially, Reynolds is saying that a lot of listings have been dumped from the system. But have these properties sold? What does "fallen off the market" actually mean?

What do you think? Are the Realtors telling us what we want to hear? If consumer confidence is key to putting the housing market back on its feet, is that ultimately a good thing?


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Ilyce R. Glink is the author of several books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and Buy, Close, Move In!. She blogs about money and real estate at ThinkGlink.com and The Equifax Personal Finance Blog, and is Chief Content Strategist at RealtyJoin.com, a community for real estate investors.

  • Ilyce Glink On Twitter»

    Ilyce R. Glink is an award-winning, nationally syndicated columnist, best-selling book author, and radio talk show host who also hosts "Expert Real Estate Tips," a Internet video show. She owns ThinkGlink.com as well as Think Glink Media, a privately held company that provides consulting, content and video services to companies and non-profit organizations.

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