How Long Does It Really Take To Sell Your Home?
By SHANNON BEHNKEN The Tampa Tribune
Published: Feb 10, 2007
TAMPA - Seventy-eight days. That’s the average length of time Hillsborough County real estate agents report it’s taking to sell their clients’ homes. That may not be accurate, however.
A flaw in the computer system that tracks listing data allowed agents to shield from buyers a clear picture of how long a property has been on the market, according to the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors.
The association calculates the listing numbers and releases statistics each month. “Some agents were somewhat deceptive and massaged the numbers so it would look like they sold the property in two days,” said Brad Monroe who sits on the board of the Mid-Florida Regional Multiple Listing Service. The service supplies data to agents in Hillsborough and 14 other counties.
“This is false advertising.”
The listing system is being revamped to ensure that Bay area homebuyers aren’t misled by agents who relist houses several times to avoid single listings that last for months. It will take several months before the new system can provide an accurate figure for how long it takes, on average, to sell a home, said Monroe, who is also a Tampa real estate agent.
Under the new system, buyers will be able to see the cumulative number of days a property has been on the market. Under the old system, only real estate agents could tell that by going into the listing history on the property.
The regional MLS database tracks, among other things, the number of days it takes to sell a home. Under the old system, however, if an agent took a home off the market and then immediately entered it into the system again, the day counter would reset at zero. If it sold, the relisting could result in it appearing as if the home sold quicker than it did.
Consider the recent listing of this home in the Cheval neighborhood:
The home originally was on the market for 161 days priced at $899,950. The listing was withdrawn, and then the home relisted for $799,950. It sold 34 days later for $793,500.
The MLS showed 34 days as the total number of days on the market - instead of the accurate 195 days.
This kind of relisting skews the data two ways, said Tom Scaglione, president of the regional MLS and a Tampa real estate broker.
First, an inaccurate figure for days on the market was recorded. Plus, the data shows the home sold at 99 percent of the list price, when it actually sold for 88 percent of the starting list price.
“This lets the agent say, ‘Look what I did,’ but not tell the whole story,” Scaglione said.
It Wasn’t A Problem Until Recently
When the real estate market was booming, relisting properties didn’t create much of a problem, Scaglione said. Now that it’s taking longer to sell homes, though, it’s important to change the system so homebuyers make informed decisions, he said.
“If a homebuyer made an offer on a home they thought was on the market for 15 days and it was actually on the market for 120 days, the information may have changed their offer,” Scaglione said.
The Mid-Florida Regional MLS, changed the system in December to add a new field including the “cumulative days on market” in information sent to buyers and sellers. Now, relisting a home won’t reset this counter. The only way to reset it is to wait at least 60 days before putting the home listing back in the MLS system.
In another change, it is now a professional violation for agents and brokers working for the same company to relist a property, unless it’s been off the market for 60 days.
With a record number of existing homes on the market for sale - 17,154 in Hillsborough County alone - accurate information is important for buying or selling a home, Scaglione said.
Pulling a listing out of the database only to relist it immediately has become common practice among some real estate agents who want to reach more potential buyers. Homebuyers working with agents are typically set up on an automated e-mail system that will send them information on homes in their price range. When a home that matches the buyers’ criteria is listed in the system, the buyer is notified by e-mail. Entering an existing listing as a new one means those buyers will see the listing again.
Numbers Bent The Truth
Some agents did it, under the old system, to boost their sales record for potential clients.
Brenda Wade, an agent with Signature Realty in Brandon, said this practice can be annoying when agents use the data for advertising purposes.
For example, one of her clients received a flier in the mail from a competing agent who claimed to have sold nearby homes quickly.
The flier included addresses of other homes in the client’s neighborhood and listed how many days it took the agent to sell the homes.
“They said, ‘Why are all these homes selling and mine isn’t?’” Wade said. “It was confusing to my seller.”
Wade said all the examples on the flier were homes that had been re-entered into the listing system - either by the agent directly, or because the seller changed real estate agents, which also results in a new listing. All the listings had been on the market much longer than the flier advertised, she said.
Wade said she understands why agents want their listings to look new and has re-entered listings in the MLS herself in the past. Wade said she would wait until a listing expired and enter it back into the system, resetting the “days on market” field, instead of extending the listing.
“It can be to the advantage of your seller,” Wade said. “But it’s not good for statistical purposes.”
Reporter Shannon Behnken can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 259-7804.