Does your real estate agent know what town your home is in?

YoChicago’s parent company, Data Based Ads, has built sophisticated ad management systems that have, over the years, handled millions of print ads for its major real estate broker clients throughout the country. At the dawn of designing those systems it quickly became apparent that we needed to build automated processes to clean up the garbage data that real estate agents entered into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). MLS systems typically do a pathetic job of validating the data that’s entered into them.

At one point, as I recall, the substitution table that corrected misspellings of “Chicago” had more than 50 entries in it. Real estate agents had found more than 50 ways to misspell just one city.

It’s been years since I’ve had hands-on experience with the systems that run our business – our professional IT staff now builds and maintains what I used to. A day doesn’t pass, however, without a reminder of how careless real estate agents can be about checking the information that they or their clerical staff enter into the MLS. The most common errors I spot are an incorrectly spelled street name, an improper directional indicator, an erroneous ZIP code, or a combination of all three – W Lakeshore Dr 60607, for example.

Most of the time these errors are harmless, but some can be costly to home sellers. Earlier today I looked at a listing that’s been on the market for more than 8 months. It has the street name incorrectly spelled out and the correct ZIP code, but the wrong suburb name. If you search the ZIP code you’ll find the property. Search by the name of the suburb – the more common form of search – and you won’t find it. Is the agent’s error a factor in the property’s extended market time? Perhaps.

TIP: If you’re selling a home or condo, ask for a printout of all of the information that’s been entered into the MLS about your property and proofread it carefully. Insist on seeing a revised printout with all corrections made.

TIP: Assume that any agent you interview is completely ignorant about the major attractions of your home’s location. Ninety-five times out of a hundred your assumption will be correct. Don’t hire an agent who doesn’t have substantial experience in selling homes in your immediate area. That will minimize, but not eliminate, the complete ignorance factor.

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