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Will real estate professionals ever trust Forbes again?

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Journalist’s data questioned

Last month, Forbes released a list of the top ten worst real estate markets, using Zillow data as their primary source of information. This list, naming Denver as one of the worst markets, was called into question by Colorado practitioners due to the article’s data conflicting with their local market data. Forbes had reported just ten months earlier that Denver is the best place in America to buy a home, leading agents, reporters and even a Gubernatorial candidate to question Forbes’ reporting.

Our position was that Forbes has always and continues to be a trusted media outlet and that their poor choice in using a poor data source doesn’t constitute poor journalism. Since then, we’ve noticed that they are no longer using Zillow as an information source, most likely due to the disparity between Zillow data and local MLS information.

Although Forbes ran an article explaining their methodology and their take on the situation, the article has since been removed. Originally, it noted why they chose Zillow and responded directly to Denver bloggers and politicians.

David Gibbons of Zillow said, “The resolution between Forbes and Zillow to ensure that this doesn’t happen again was in fact to strengthen our relationship – Forbes reporters will contact Zillow PR in future when they plan to use data from our site. We respect Forbes, enjoy working with them – as unfortunate as the error was, we understand how it could happen.”

Forbes changes its tune

This week, Forbes reported on “Five reasons why you still need a real estate agent,” which although it is possibly unrelated (and written by a different journalist than the controversial article), it appears to me that Forbes is offering an olive branch.

Forbes writer Tara Struyk writes, “While there are certainly people who are qualified to sell their own homes, taking a quick look at the long list of frequently asked questions on most “for sale by owner” websites suggests the process isn’t as simple as many people assume. And when you get into a difficult situation, it can really pay to have a professional on your side.”

As an interesting side note, the article names “real estate agents” as the trusted professional but doesn’t mention Realtors, which means the Realtor brand (managed by the National Association of Realtors) still has room for improvement.

Is it enough?

With Forbes switching away from using questionable Zillow data and writing a positive piece on the value of a real estate agent, will agents that are still frustrated and angry with the Forbes reporting in April accept Forbes’ olive branch?

CC Licensed image courtesy of thorinside via Flickr.com.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Eric Hempler

    May 28, 2010 at 7:34 am

    I guess I’m wondering why Forbes used zillow as a source? If they had done their homework they would have known how inacurrate Zillow is. Isn’t the best source for market data the Realtor Associations?

  2. Jonathan Benya

    May 28, 2010 at 10:11 am

    Why should agents have trusted forbes to begin with? Go to their website, and search “why you need a Realtor”. The first 2 returns are a May 3rd, 2010 article “Why you don’t need a real estate agent”, and a March 25th, 2010 article called “5 Reasons why you still need a real estate agent”.

    This sort of double speak is not unusual for them, and it underscores that Forbes is far more interested in selling copy then they are in presenting a full picture of anything.

    There’s nothing wrong with creating info like this to sell, it’s not misleading, but it’s not a complete picture, either. Take what they say with a grain of salt, refrain from using them as gospel, and accept it for what it is.

  3. Justin Boland

    May 28, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Yes, definitely. We’re a nation of short memories. People still read the WSJ and they have a truly abysmal track record.

    Authority is self-perpetuating as long as there’s a budget behind it.

  4. ShortWoman

    May 28, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Heh, I wrote off Forbes as a “news source” a long time ago. Every now and then I will see that somebody has linked to a story predicting doom and gloom for Vegas and then supporting it with outdated, wrong, or meaningless data.

  5. David G from Zillow.com

    May 28, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Lani,

    I wish you’d contacted Zillow for comment on this story.

    While I appreciate your earlier coverage of the Forbes retractions, you could not have it more wrong now:
    1) The Forbes article was not retracted because Zillow’s market data is unreliable. It was retracted because a) there were doubts about the method used to formulate the list and b) they had misinterpreted the single Zillow statistic they had pulled from the site.
    2) A Forbes reporter contacted a Zillow PR representative just yesterday looking for data for a story.

    The resolution between Forbes and Zillow to ensure that this doesn’t happen again was in fact to strengthen our relationship – Forbes reporters will contact Zillow PR in future when they plan to use data from our site. We respect Forbes, enjoy working with them – as unfortunate as the error was, we understand how it could happen.

    Your version of this story is quite far from the truth; I’d really appreciate a clarification. Thanks.

    • Lani Rosales

      May 28, 2010 at 12:33 pm

      David, I added your statement to the story for those who don’t read comments.

      I didn’t say the article was retracted because Zillow’s market data is unreliable, I said “Although Forbes ran an article explaining their methodology and their take on the situation, the article has since been removed. Originally, it noted why they chose Zillow and responded directly to Denver bloggers and politicians.”

      I can understand why you feel the above article is about you, but nothing could be further from the truth (which is why I didn’t nor do I care to ask Zillow their/your opinion)- this is about a news organization that for whatever reason upset real estate professionals and even politicians and our question remains, is their change in behavior enough to regain their former reputation?

  6. David G from Zillow.com

    May 28, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Lani,

    I beg to differ and as case in point, your posts still refers to Zillow as a “poor data source” and later in the post, you characterize it as “questionable.” Both statements are most certainly about Zillow and both neglect the truth (i.e. that the data used was misinterpreted.) I truly do wish you had asked – as you know we do our best to help provide useful background to AG stories.

    • Lani Rosales

      May 28, 2010 at 1:49 pm

      David, since you want this to be about you/Zillow, let’s make it about you/Zillow… you say that “Forbes reporters will contact Zillow PR in future when they plan to use data from our site.”

      So, should consumers call your PR department prior to considering data from Zillow too? If the data isn’t accessible to the common man and has to be evaluated and analyzed by an experienced real estate reporting team with their hands being held by a PR team from Zillow, then what the hell are consumers supposed to do? Not even a real estate reporter can distinguish what is or is not accurate on Zillow?

      If someone is considering relocating and wants to know what city is currently strong, should they contact the Zillow PR department to get data that accurately reflects the markets above and beyond what the Zillow website will return?

      I maintain however, that this story is NOT about Zillow- we’ve already discussed that in the former article which is where we outline the data and where comments about Zillow data belong. If this article were about Zillow, we would have contacted you for a comment as we always have. This article is about asking whether or not the real estate community will trust Forbes again, not about whether they’ll trust Zillow.

    • Joe

      May 28, 2010 at 4:49 pm

      …your posts still refers to Zillow as a “poor data source” and later in the post, you characterize it as “questionable.”

      Not sure if Lani will change her position, but I believe Zillow is a poor data source and can be characterized as questionable.

  7. BawldGuy

    May 28, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    With respect to both Lani and David: There are two things most certainly not open for debate.

    1. The post was about Forbes, and their seeming ability to be on both sides of some topics.

    2. Zillow’s reputation for relative accuracy in data isn’t stellar.

    The post pinpoints the main problem for anyone concerned with accuracy in real estate data with this phrase, taken directly from the post — …most likely due to the disparity between Zillow data and local MLS information.

    Does anyone, anywhere maintain Zillow is a source of data more accurate than MLS stats? Frankly, as soon as I learned Zillow, at least when I first looked at their numbers, was relying upon local tax assessor’s appraisals, I realized they weren’t to be taken seriously.

    That’s not to imply they don’t offer true and solid value elsewhere on their site. Data though? Not for me.

  8. Joe

    May 28, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    “…using Zillow data as their primary source of information…”

    Herein lies the problem. Zillow’s data is not reliable. Zillow is where they are at today because of the naivety of the real estate agent’s whose backs they have used to link back to their site. That is to say, if the real estate agents knew they were cutting their own throats by promoting Zillow (and it’s not just Zillow) they would have done differently. Oh well.

  9. Market Leader

    May 28, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Will real estate professionals ever trust Forbes again? https://bit.ly/djn4Xr @agentgenius #realestate ^danae

  10. HAR

    May 28, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    interesting debate RT @Market_Leader: Will real estate agents ever trust Forbes again? https://bit.ly/djn4Xr @agentgenius #realestate

  11. m_olson

    June 1, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    @agentgenius Will real estate professionals ever trust Forbes again? https://bit.ly/djn4Xr #Denver #Metrolist

  12. Metrolist MLS Denver

    June 1, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    RT @m_olson: @agentgenius Will real estate professionals ever trust Forbes again? https://bit.ly/djn4Xr #Denver #Metrolist

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