Data Fields to Lure More Buyers

MLSs eye tools to supplement property data with extras

Beyond square footage and curb appeal, financing holds considerable sway with home buyers looking to make a purchase. In today’s market, buyers are particularly interested in which federal, state, or community housing assistance programs they qualify for, as well as which special bank financing programs are available to them.

Yet, navigating the growing array of available assistance programs—from affordable fixed-rate mortgages to community-based anti-foreclosure subsidies to federal workforce housing grants—is time-consuming and difficult. Then there are the complex eligibility requirements.

Recognizing the extent to which financing can make or break a sale, several MLSs have partnered with a new service that matches home buyers and properties with financial assistance programs.

The service, called Down Payment Re-source (DPR), offered by three-year-old -Atlanta-based company Workforce Resource, is licensed directly to Multiple Listing Services and REALTOR® associations, among others. Workforce Resource’s subscriber list includes Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED), Northern Nevada Regional MLS, My Florida Regional MLS, NorthstarMLS, and Empire Access MLS, which combine to cover more than 90,000 REALTORS® and 824 homeownership programs administered by 128 housing finance agencies.

At MRED, the DPR application scans MLS inventories nightly, tagging with an icon properties eligible for assistance programs. The program also determines whether buyers may qualify for assistance programs based on a brief questionnaire they or their REALTOR® fill out.

NorthstarMLS President John Mosely says the DPR’s “value proposition is that it helps put commission income into the pockets of agents from deals that might otherwise never have happened because the buyer couldn’t make the financing work.”

National, state, and local housing finance resource providers input and maintain their own data in the DPR matrix at no charge. Currently, Workforce Resource partners with the National Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies, among others. The number of assistance programs listed in any one area depends on the participation of local housing resource agencies.

The Tucson Association of REALTORS® integrated DPR into its MLS in May and absorbed the expense as a subscriber benefit. “The cost of the program is negotiated individually, and we offer it free to members,” says Philip B. Tedesco, RCE, CAE, CEO of the Tucson Association of REALTORS®. “We feel that the DPR program is the most comprehensive we have seen.”

Dawn of MLS “Public Service Apps”

In addition to direct financing, energy efficiency and transportation costs are also tipping points for home buyers in determining the affordability of home ownership. With that in mind, MLSs are now offering data on both.

MRED soon will install in its systems the Walk Score application, which evaluates the walkability of a neighborhood. According to Walk Score, “Our vision is for every property listing to read: Beds: 3 Baths: 2 Walk Score: 84. We want to make it easy for people to evaluate walkability and transportation when choosing where to live.” MRED is also working with a local organization to compile energy usage ratings and transportation costs for home ownership throughout the region. “These kinds of things are important because, although not related directly to the cost to purchase a home, they do relate directly to the cost of maintaining and the affordability of a home,” says Bergeron.

Bergeron coined the term “public service applications” to describe the array of new services MLSs are now offering that provide subscribers and consumers with additional data beyond basic property descriptions.

Other public service applications in the works for MRED, according to Bergeron, include expanded “green” property descriptions and member ratings.

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