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In this month’s National Association of REALTORS® Power Broker Roundtable, industry leaders discuss what big data is and what the industry is doing with it.

Cindy Ariosa, Senior Vice President, Regional Manager, Long & Foster Real Estate, Chantilly, Virginia; Liaison for Large Firms and Industry Relations, National Association of REALTORS®

Matthew Gardner
, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate, Seattle


Joan Docktor, President, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach REALTORS®, Philadelphia


Lacey Conway, President, Latter and Blum, Inc., New Orleans


Mark Stark, CEO/Owner, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Arizona, California, Nevada Properties, Las Vegas

Cindy Ariosa: Big data! We have only to look at the pop-ups on our computer screens to know that Big Daddy Data knows more about us than many of our closest friends, from what we like to read in bed to where we’re dreaming of going on our next vacation. As brokers, we have more big data readily available than many of us yet understand, much less use, to give our agents a competitive edge…or to give consumers a better real estate experience. So, we begin this month’s discussion with a man who’s been using big data for the better part of his career. Matthew, what do we need to know?

Matthew Gardner: To begin with, as we’re all aware, we can’t look at housing in isolation. The market is influenced by many things: demographics, interest rates, joblessness, the economy—a whole range of facts and figures to be interpreted. For me, it’s pulling from a plethora of sources —the Labor Department, the Census Bureau, the Case Schiller Index on forbearance, construction lending, to name a few—and parsing through the data to pull out the trends that can aid in making housing predictions.

CA: The kind of indicators you share with the industry through your quarterly Gardner Report…

MG: Right. It’s one of many data insights real estate professionals can use to help them win and sell more listings.

Joan Docktor: RealScout, a listings alert platform we like, uses our own listings and the Buyer Match by Buyside solution. It pulls together all the buyer data in our databases and matches it with our listings. Our agents like having it all in a single dashboard. It’s smart data that brings them closer to their clients. Whether it’s platforms like these or the chat feature on our website, AI is such a powerful tool.

Lacey Conway: No question, most of these aggregated data platforms know our customers better than we do—and sometimes we feel like we’re not on the cutting edge if we don’t dive in to make the most of it. At the same time, it’s a delicate topic. We know it would give us a better understanding about buyer and seller behavior, but our agents are a little wary about sharing their CRM client data.

Mark Stark: We use Buyside, too. It’s been a great prospecting tool—especially during the health pandemic with listings scarce and buyer competition intense. But we’re careful about the analytics we adopt. To your point about enhancing the customer experience, Cindy, every decision we make is based on what’s best for our customers—so the technology we use has to be hyperlocal and provide real-time data. We’re not out of touch, but we’re not there yet with all these analytics.

CA: You don’t see them as a way to move the needle?

MS: Analytics don’t create deals. If there are 5 million sales in a year in the country, how much is my share going to change if I pay for more analytics? I’m just not sure yet.

JD: Ideally, these services complement each other. We don’t want technology on top of technology, leaving less time for human interaction. But we’re open to listening to the vendors who come to us with amazing programs—and thus far, the ones we are using are cost-effective as well as productive.

MG: For one thing, they answer the questions our clients ask us every day: Is this a good time to buy? Where are prices trending? We want our agents to be trusted advisers. Big data can help them do that.

JD: In today’s world, it’s hard for agents to keep up with all the data out there. Automation does the research for them, and in a way that helps them go face to face with their clients armed with the best, most current guidance.

MS: Vendors call us all the time. I’m open to listening, but I’ve not yet seen an economic model that works for us financially.

LC: We are using Buyside, and I see the value. We are certainly more aware of the data. Sometimes, it’s almost scary how AI gives you information whether you want it or not—like Netflix telling us what we want to watch. But we haven’t been focused on evaluating platforms. Maybe it’s time to do more of that.

CA: I agree. It can be almost spooky, all this big data floating around. The best we can do is try to corral it and hopefully make the best decisions about how to use it.

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