How to Hide the Truth About Your Listing

By Dave Fratello | June 14th, 2007
MBC has complained a few times about bogus re-listings. It's time again.

Re-listing is a common practice meant to wipe away the true listing history of a home. The tactic hides true days on market and the history of price reductions (if any) on the property.

The effect is to deprive potential buyers of valuable information, and to cloud the data used by many people to gauge the health or direction of the local real estate market.

Here's an example of how it's done:

Two brand-new, completed homes by the same developer on neighboring lots were put up on offer in late April. They were each assigned their own MLS #'s, and priced just a bit differently:
  • 925 27th: S945952, $3.250m
  • 927 27th: S945951, $3.285m
A couple of months later, in the glutted Tree Section higher-end market, there were no takers. The seller was ready to make a price reduction on each one.

Today, the "old" listings were canceled. Replacing them:
  • 925 27th: S948980, $3.125m (-$125k)
  • 927 27th: S948979, $3.195m (-$90k)
Those are "new" listings showing zero days on market at this writing.

Use this public MLS search tool, and you'll only see the new listings. The old ones are lost to the ether.

Use ZipRealty's search (free reg. required), and, for now, both old and new listings come up. Zillow has the updated prices, though it has no MLS affiliation.

Here's a surprise. Look at the site of the listing agent, David White of South Bay Brokers, and – whoops! – you find the old MLS #'s and old prices. 'Twould appear they're busy wiping the public records, printing up new fliers, etc., before updating the in-house stuff.

It won't be long before all records of the "old" prices and start dates are lost. Or that would be the case without MBC, we'd humbly suggest. Plug: Our twice-monthly Market Updates use only the real start date and price.

Savvy local realtor Kaye Thomas wrote just the other day that the local MLS had made a positive change in its report-generation system, showing "combined days on market" (CDOM) rather than mere "days on market" (DOM) in realtors' comp reports.

CDOM, in theory, is not subject to "re-listing" manipulations. But in reality, of course the database is regularly fooled. That's part of why the publicly reported average DOM is near 60 days while the true DOM is closer to 100.

Everyone thinks there are rules that restrict bogus re-listings. You have to be off the market 60 days, or go with a new broker, and so forth.

There's no enforcement, though. Who is going to punish whom? The folks with a stake in accurate, honest information aren't at the table. Caveat emptor.

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