Real estate listing errors – a human or systems problem?

A recent syndicated column by Lew Sichelman in the Tribune warned of the problems occasioned by erroneous data entered into the Multiple Listing Service and propagated quickly to other sites when a property is for sale.

Sichelman’s column is what people in the newspaper business call an evergreen story – one that recurs regularly and can run at any time.

It’s pointless to rail against erroneous data entry in the MLS – I’ve done so often enough to know. It’s also pointless to try to correct the problem at the agent or seller level. There will always be a residue of dishonest agents who deliberately misstate facts.

The automotive industry uses a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to uniquely identify individual motor vehicles. The VIN encodes a variety of information, and “exploding the VIN” discloses detailed information about a vehicle’s make, year, model features, etc.

Each parcel of real estate in Chicagoland has a PIN – a unique Property Identification Number / Parcel Identification Number / Permanent Index Number.

Why doesn’t the real estate industry have databases that enable “exploding the PIN” to query reliable information that could easily be gathered about characteristics common to condominium buildings? About school district boundaries? About current property tax bills? Etc. Etc. A great deal of information is already available in a format that could easily be indexed to PINs in the MLS databases and made available to the public via auto-population of MLS fields.

It’s easy to understand the benefits of having accurate data automatically populated into the MLS once a PIN is entered, and easy to implement. So why doesn’t it happen?

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