All New, Except for All Those Months Before

By Dave Fratello | March 26th, 2008
We had once sincerely hoped that the whole DOM issue would just go away. But it won't.

We'll write up some current activity on this front now, but henceforth we'll try to confine references to re-lists and True DOM to our twice-monthly market updates.

The bottom line for now is that the old tricks seem to be back. Our faith that Mr. MLS would solve this issue is largely broken, and the practice of bogus re-lists survives.

To recap: As is well-documented in MBC's 1-year history of public market tracking, it's a deeply embedded practice among local real estate agents to cancel and re-list properties that have gone stale. We call the tactic a "bogus re-list." The new sheriff in town, Mr. MLS, calls it "churning," and also a "deceptive business practice." Nice. We agree.

Getting ready for the Feb. 4 transition, Mr. MLS notified our local MLS members of its "data integrity policy" prohibiting churning. Individual agents would no longer be able to cancel listings. They'd need broker approval – a step that, in Mr. MLS's experience, had "virtually eliminated the practice" of churning. (We're quoting from Kaye Thomas quoting the memo. See our Jan. 20 story here.)

So how is this new regime working? In our view, impressively, but not perfectly. We've seen one bogus re-list get reversed (3009 Poinsettia), while another that some view as arguable was let stand (1413 Pine).

Now there are 3 new examples.

Heading the new bogus re-list parade is 2309 Pacific, new construction that was first put on public offer on May 18, 2007. (Click address for details via Redfin.)

About 10 days ago, the listing with MLS # S951920 was canceled. This week, it's back with a new price and a new MLS # S08042842. This one began in May at $2.299m, got re-listed in July 2007 at $2.239m, trimmed a bit before dropping off and came back at $2.099m – $200k in reductions over 300+ days.

An alternative tack is being taken over at 516 24th. The old listing has not been canceled. There are 2 active listings for the same home. Click to see the old listing under MLS # S961440, or click the new MLS # S08042231 to see the same information there, with fewer DOM.

The existence of two listings for the same home creates the bizarre spectacle captured here in a screen grab from Same home, same details, but one is "New this week!"

There may be some perfectly reasonable explanation for the dupes on 24th. F'rinstance, the older one is listed as Sand Section, while the new one is Tree Section. Wait, that's not an explanation for the re-list.

There is also the matter of the change in construction date listed for this home – from 2007, to 2008. It's a small detail, perhaps. But the fact is that the home was first offered in October 2007, and it was quite complete then – staged, even. MBC featured the home in "Mrs. MBC's Xmas List," and also in a year-end column in the Easy Reader, because we like it. However, since it's now said to have been built in 2008, we have to conclude that the completion date was changed willfully while freshening up the listing.

Finally, another re-list has hidden the history of 473 31st. This brand-new home first came on in early November 2007. The listing with MLS # S957772 expired recently, but the home began a new life right away – how very nicely in keeping with the season! – with a new clock and a new # S08039357. (There's also a dupe of this one on CLAW MLS.) Best that can be said: The "CDOM" (combined days on market) field for this one properly states 140 CDOM.

Two of the listings above meet the "new product" test, put forth by a prominent local agent in the Daily Breeze earlier this year:
"My contention is that when you have a piece of property, and you change it $100,000 in price, it's a new piece of property. It shouldn't be penalized by the number of days on the market that it was at another number. It's a new product."
Of course, we'll watch to see if Mr. MLS takes any action to un-re-list these properties, but we're skeptical. After all, if "broker approval" is all that's needed to make a re-list legit, we've got plenty of brokers in town who will gladly give their approval. That, we have learned.

As we wind down this perennial discussion, after all the battle-line-drawing, back-and-forth debating and you-don't-get-it lectures, what have we learned?

First, the number for "Days on Market" means something other than the "number" of "days" that a property has been "on market."

Second, there's an unbridgeable gap in perspectives on this issue between agents and consumers. Some people view re-listing as "deceptive" and some don't. Here's wondering if we can come together on the idea of changing new-construction completion dates.

Third, there's still a need for independent tracking to keep more accurate records of our local RE market. MBC will keep doing that, and we'll try to stop explaining why we need to.

Finally: caveat emptor, but then, you knew that.

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