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RISMEDIA, Sept. 2, 2008-A real estate industry study released last week shows that most popular consumer real estate search engines offer home seekers only a small fraction of the homes actually available on the market-and that many of the listings are inaccurate or out of date. Real estate searches on these popular sites in three sample markets – Miami, Dallas and San Diego — failed to provide users with as much as 92 percent of available listings in their home searches.

The study, commissioned by Roost.com and conducted by the WAV Group, points out the stark contrasts between different online property search methods available today and concluded that the most accurate source of listing information is the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). According to the company, the WAV Group specifically researched how popular consumer real estate search sites including Trulia, Google and Yahoo!, among others-which aggregate listings from a variety of third-party sources – stack up to sites like Roost.com, which are enabled by the MLS. The MLS is the real estate industry standard database for sharing information on local homes for sale and is available only to licensed real estate agents and brokers; all the listings on the MLS are derived from local agents and brokers. To serve the needs of agents wishing to make MLS property search available to consumers, MLS boards nationwide have deployed a standard called Internet Data Exchange, or IDX.

The three cities were chosen as the best sample markets to test the IDX model versus aggregator models. Roost.com, through unique relationships with real estate brokers and local MLS boards, can also offer IDX data to consumers across the nation. In fact, Roost is the only search engine online today that offers consumers access to all MLS data in covered markets as well as for sale by owner and new construction listings.

Top-line findings in the detailed study showed some aggregator sites with accuracy rates as low as eight percent. In Dallas, for instance, Google fared the best among the aggregators for listing accuracy by displaying 56 out of 81 possible listings, or 69 percent accuracy. In San Diego, Yahoo! was missing 70 out of the 76 listings found in the MLS, or listing accuracy of just eight percent. Trulia and Zillow also had mixed results from city to city. In Dallas and Miami, they both displayed about 50 percent of the listings.

By contrast, according to the company, researchers established that searchable housing information on IDX-powered broker websites, like Roost.com, is one of the most accurate public home searches available – usually 96 percent to 98 percent accurate. The small percentage of differences occurs because IDX data is typically refreshed once a day. Any home that gets sold, newly listed, expired, or has had a price change gets updated within 24 hours.

In each market, “accuracy” was defined as a percentage of listings on a site that matched the MLS.

“This study is important because it shows that many people looking for their dream home have had much of their time wasted on having to search through screen after screen of bad data. It really is a case of buyer beware,” said Alex Chang, CEO of Roost.

The study evaluated real estate listings for single family homes in three cities, Dallas, Miami and San Diego, and compared three methods of acquiring property search information: results provided by local Realtors; information from Internet Data Exchange-powered MLS Web sites; and listings from advertising-driven Web sites including Trulia, Google, Yahoo! and others.

Data was normalized across all the subject sites to provide an “apples to apples” comparison. The search criteria for all sites were identical: single family residential homes for sale and homes with exactly three bedrooms and exactly two bathrooms. The search was performed on each site on the same day and in as short amount of time as possible, closely mirroring typical consumer behavior. Price points for home searches were identical across all sites as well: Dallas, $250,000-300,000; Miami: $450,000-500,000; and San Diego, $300,000-350,000. These criteria were selected to narrow the study to a statistically significant and manageable sampling of homes for sale within each market. At the time of the study, there were more than 35,000 homes for sale in the sample cities.

“We were careful to tease apart the data, to be sure we were making an apples-to-apples comparison of the listings in these markets,” said Victor Lund, founding partner of WAV Group. “The data here clearly show, as they did in a national study we conducted earlier this year, that a site based on information from a local MLS will give consumers a more accurate picture of what’s available in a local market. In comparison to IDX-powered Web sites like Roost or the MLS listings in Dallas, Miami or San Diego, sites like Google, Yahoo!, Trulia and Zillow are still struggling to collect a comparable, comprehensive data set of accurate listings.”

For more information, visit http://www.roost.com.

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