Putting real estate data in useful packages

  • Article by: JIM BUCHTA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 5, 2011 - 10:15 PM

InfoSparks can provide agents with custom reports in an easy-to-read format.

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(left to right) Erin Milburn, Mark Allen, Greg Sax, Jeff Allen, Becca Walker, Breanna Vanstrom and David Arbit, of the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors have developed a new computer tool that agents can used to create custom reports about various markets. Photographed on 11/2/11.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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The Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors has come up with a way to streamline the loads of information often thrown at agents and their customers.

Early next year, the group will launch a report called InfoSparks, which can include sales, listings, community data and other information that helps buyers and sellers. Most users will be agents, who will share it with buyers and sellers. A division of the association, 10K Research and Marketing, is leading the rollout.

"The trend has been to flood Realtors and the consumers they work with data points upon data points with the idea that the quantity of data improves the experience," said Jeff Allen, director of research services for 10K. "But we've been disappointed with the solutions for turning that information into knowledge that makes sense to people."

Already, 10K has made a name for itself around the country by selling its services to professional associations around the country. The group takes sales statistics and turns them into manageable reports.

InfoSparks is an evolution of that effort, but it's distinct because subscribers can request specific reports depending on the needs of clients. For example, when agents take listings, they can request a report with highly detailed charts and graphs showing home sales and demographic information for that area.

Agents already have access to the data, but many don't have the skills or the time to gather, package it and present it in an easy-to-understand format that will be useful to their clients.

"We use informational graphics to tell the story of real estate including information that affects real estate decisions," Allen said. "We can bring Realtors the ability to do it in just a couple clicks and present in a way that's intuitive to a consumer."

The group is still in the testing phase of its project and has plans to launch it early next year. Its success is important not only as a way to help agents, but also as a way to make money. Professional associations are always looking to augment non-dues revenue.

David Arbit, a market analyst for the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, said that InfoSparks also helps fill a gap in the real estate industry, which is heavy on data but light on analysis. The unit will make money on the project by charging buyers for the reports on a subscription or fee-per-report basis. Price will depend on the amount of data the Realtor is seeking. Arbit also said agents can brand the reports as a way to promote their business.

The project is the result of a simple mandate: Find a better way to do your job. Knowing that employees are already operating on overload, the group implemented a monthly innovation meeting where attendees are asked to contemplate their jobs and look for opportunities to improve or transform the work they do.

"Every member is tasked with improving the process; it has to be a priority," Allen said. "With the amount of business we've brought on, it got easy to ignore innovation."

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376

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