Are you looking for a new property data partner? Do you know what questions to ask in order to find the best solution for your organization?
That’s the situation that the Central Oregon Association of REALTORS® (COAR) faced when they began researching their first-ever tax data platform. They selected two solutions to investigate further, and ultimately decided on CRS Data.
Assess Your Needs: An All-in-One Solution, or Best-in-Class?
First, your organization needs to decide what type of solution it wants. Do you want a dedicated tax system, or a solution with multiple functionalities, including property data?
For COAR, the choice was simple.
“There are two models of vendors in this industry,” says Casie Conlon, COAR’s CEO. “You’re either trying to be everything to everyone, or you’re trying to do one thing well, and I personally lean toward the people that want to do one thing well.”
So why did COAR choose CRS Data?
“I think that CRS Data is trying to be the best at one thing instead of being the best at 50 different things, and I like those types of partners. I would rather vendors focus on the one thing I’ve contracted with them to do, to do it the absolute best it can be done, and to do the best for my members,” adds Conlon.
What Do the Tax System’s Uptime/Downtime Stats Look Like?
The best solution is one that your members use, and if your property data platform is always down, no one’s going to use it—which means you’re paying for nothing. Ask any vendor you’re evaluating what their uptime/downtime ratio is like. Be wary of any company that won’t provide a straight answer.
“We heard a lot about the other platform we were looking at being down,” says Conlon. “We’ve never had any downtime since integrating with CRS Data.”
Where Does the Data Come From?
Does the tax vendor you’re researching get their data from third parties, or directly from your local county? Data that comes directly from the source tends to be more accurate, more recent and better for the REALTOR® who ultimately uses the data to do their job.
“One of the things I’m constantly looking at when I’m evaluating vendors is where they’re getting data from and where they’re sending data to,” says Conlon. “If they can’t give me a good answer on where the data is coming from or where it’s going, that’s not really a company I want to do business with.”
In addition to asking where the data comes from, be sure to ask each vendor what their process is like for correcting inaccurate data.
“When we were looking at the different platforms, one of the things that really impressed us was CRS Data’s willingness to come out and work with local counties to get data online if it wasn’t available in the format they needed,” explains Conlon.
Can We Customize the System?
“When you’re working with vendors for MLS systems or even REALTOR® associations, a lot of times what you get is what you get, and they’re not willing to customize all that much,” says Conlon. “That’s because their product is being offered to clients around the country, so if they make one change here, it could affect things systemwide for other MLSs.”
Considering the varying rules, names and situations in locales across the country, that can be a real problem for a tax platform.
“Different parts of the country might call the plat map one thing, and other parts of the country call it something else,” notes Conlon.
Ask your vendor if they’re able to customize your system to match your local needs and vernacular, as this will help reduce confusion among your members and make things easier to use.
“I was surprised at CRS Data’s willingness to help us customize the system, which is another thing I really like about them,” says Conlon. “CRS Data is willing to get the data in a format that my members can understand, and they’re willing to customize the things that my members see to make it as user-friendly as possible.”
CRS Data was also willing to undertake complicated customizations for COAR.
“I have a very random scenario with an unincorporated city in my MLS that’s governed by an HOA, which is probably unlike anywhere else in the country,” says Conlon. “The property owners use a different address than what’s in county records. It’s a different address than 911 uses. It’s a different address than the internet company uses. CRS Data has offered to work on a way to customize a commonly known address field so that members can see it. It’s a very small community, but CRS Data was willing to work with us to help those local members get the most out of the system.”
What’s the Service and Support Like?
A property data system is going to see heavy use from your members, and as a partnership that will presumably last years, it’s important that your vendors offer robust service and support options.
“I want companies that have a dedicated staffperson,” says Conlon. “Having support for any members that are trying to troubleshoot the system is also key.”
Training for members is also important. After all, REALTORS® who don’t understand how to navigate a new solution are less likely to use it. Evaluate if your members need in-person training, webinars or a combination of both.
“I know I can contact CRS Data anytime, and they’re really great if there’s a data discrepancy (which are few and far between) or other issue. It all gets handled promptly,” says Conlon.
CRS Data also offered COAR members in-person training for launch, and currently hosts periodic on-site sessions, as well.
“Our CRS Data rep has gone out to all of our different communities for training,” says Conlon. “That’s something I really appreciate in our partnership with CRS Data—that they’re willing to do that.”
To learn more about CRS Data, please visit CRSData.com.
Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at email@example.com.