Predictive Analytics - The Difference Between Creepy & Cool

Real Estate Agent with Chuck Willman 9334967-SA00

As more data has become available on line, more companies have arrived on the scene to crunch and normalize data for the use of making large financial decisions.

In real estate, that means that there are companies who will display a myriad of information regarding the details of a real estate transaction.

When this data is put under a microscope, one can deduce things such as: How much equity does a homeowner theoretically have? Who is most likely to sell in the coming months? If I were to buy a home in a certain neighborhood, how much rent could I charge?

These suppositions are possible through predictive analytics. There were very few companies offering such services a few years ago. Now there is an ever-growing field of companies providing such information for a fee.

Now. Is this information creepy?

The first time you saw the zillow zestimate for your home did you feel that the public now knew way too much about you?

If so, then yes. This is creepy.

When you wish to do certain things like: prepare to sell your home, buy a home, or wonder if it would make sense to further invest in upgrading your home, this information is helpful (dare I say cool?).

As a real estate agent, such information makes it easier to provide information that would benefit our clients. When used judiciously, it helps the agent to know more than the average person about local market conditions. It helps us spot trends. It makes us better at our job.

When such information is shared in a capricious manner, we can divulge far more information than is prudent. In such cases, yes, this is creepy.

I appreciate any energy employed in becoming a wiser agent. I do not enjoy that some of this data is slipping into the public domain that could create privacy issues.

I urge companies who offer predictive analytics products to take such issues into consideration when creating such products. So far I'm seeing that several companies that I've researched are taking precautions. Time will tell how long this will be the case.

Since Utah is a "non-disclosure state" (along with Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri (some counties), Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming) many of the details of a real estate transaction are more private than it is in other locations. So, predictive service such as Zillow will be less reliable. In other words, some pieces of information will be missing and the details found on line should be seen as less reliable.

Chuck and Lucy Willman are licensed real estate agents in the state of Utah and have been involved in thousands of real estate transactions in the last couple decades.
Chuck Willman: - Lucy Willman:


Graphics attribution: "Multidimensional Data Visualization" by Hiro Sheridan


Comments (19)

George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Chuck & Lucy Willman most things these days can be use for good or for bad, and date is no different.  The difference in the case of date, is that it can be the cause of great harm if abused.

Feb 08, 2018 03:35 PM
Chuck Willman

George Souto I think we've reached that point in which we have the tools. I would hope that the safeguards and benefits exceed the potential for harm.

Feb 13, 2018 11:52 AM
Hannah Williams
HomeStarr Realty - Philadelphia, PA
Expertise NE Philadelphia & Bucks 215-820-3376

Very interesting post - but things may be changing

Feb 09, 2018 08:30 PM
Chuck Willman

True Hannah Williams - hopefully the change has more upside but we are well aware that there is a downside as well.

Feb 13, 2018 11:53 AM
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce

There are many companies who have jumped on this bandwagon and the reality is sometimes not as they portray it to be....the fees they charge don't merit what they portray as "research."

Feb 10, 2018 01:34 AM
Chuck Willman

Sally K. & David L. Hanson - that is the other factor here. I'm seeing quite a few claims of artificial intelligence that has a price tag that seems to exceed the merit of the value proposition.

Feb 13, 2018 11:54 AM
Emily Medvec
eXp Realty LLC - Santa Fe, NM
Broker | Realtor | Serving Santa Fe & Northern NM

Great to read your take on "Predictive Analytics" Chuck & Lucy Willman  In the end, we provide the info about ourselves with every search and today it is packaged and sold as sales leads in nearly every industry, not only real estate. 

Feb 10, 2018 04:34 AM
Chuck Willman

Emily Medvec - that certainly seems to be the case, doesn't it?

Feb 13, 2018 12:00 PM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good afternoon Chuck & Lucy Willman ,

Glad to see your post featured in Carol Williams Second Chance Saturday Series. You make some valid points! I just subscribed to your blog.

Feb 10, 2018 02:29 PM
Chuck Willman

Thanks Dorie Dillard - I'm surprised that this post made it in front of some extra eyes. I'm glad that you pointed it out to us.

Feb 13, 2018 12:01 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Hi Chuck and Lucy- I too saw your post via Carol Williams Saturday post! Very interesting subject too!!

Feb 10, 2018 07:03 PM
Chuck Willman

Thank you Kathy Streib . We have employed quite a bit of research into our real estate operations. Some of the data has proven valuable, others- not so much. As all this new information has become available it's now a crowded landscape. It's hard to know which tools will be worth the time and money. It's also difficult to know if some of the information crosses the line of privacy and fair use.

Feb 13, 2018 12:05 PM
Michael J. Perry
KW Elite - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist

Agents need to know that if they sign up for one of these type of programs their ROI could be months down the road !

Feb 11, 2018 05:22 AM
Chuck Willman

Michael J. Perry If at all. I've done quite a few of my own data gathering techniques. It is nice to know the information that drives simple questions like, "how's the market?" I'm also confused though, by all the new analytics options. Some of it seems to be less valuable than I'd like- especially as one considers potential ROI.

Feb 13, 2018 12:03 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

We are certainly hearing more and more about predictive analytics and how they can be used. I do wonder about privacy issues, on the part of companies gathering and using this information, as well as what consumers can do, if they wish, to safeguard their information. Seems like much of it is beyond our control these days, like it or not.


Feb 11, 2018 08:06 AM
Chuck Willman

Jeff Dowler I too am concerned that privacy issues have been given too litle consideration. Plus, the competition to offer more data and insights is growing. So, I'm concerned that more personal information will leak out than the solutions merit.

Feb 13, 2018 11:59 AM
Debbie Reynolds, C21 Platinum Properties
Platinum Properties- (931)771-9070 - Clarksville, TN
The Dedicated Clarksville TN Realtor-(931)320-6730

It is amazing what can be determined by behavior a past uses. It is a bit creepy, too. Thanks for following my blog, Chuck and Lucy.

Feb 11, 2018 02:15 PM
Chuck Willman

Debbie Reynolds I believe it's important for us to know what is going on as opposed to running on old information. I'm not crazy about jumping to conclusions that the data dosn't support. In some of the analytical products it's important to know that, just because we have some new information, how much value do we place on this data.

Feb 13, 2018 11:57 AM
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Chuck and Lucy. This for me a bit scary particularly since most folks can't analyze what they are reading.

Feb 12, 2018 05:12 AM
Chuck Willman

You make a good point Sheila Anderson . I've seen people make arguments with data that doesn't lend support to the argument being made. So, interpretation of data is as important as other factors I discussed.

Feb 13, 2018 11:55 AM
Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

Thanks for sharing some of your thoughts. During the next few months we will see much misleading political information on social media sites.

Feb 14, 2018 05:20 AM
Chuck Willman

Roy Kelley - no doubt about the misleading aspect of social media. That has been a problem that hasn't yet seen a satisfactory solution yet.

Mar 05, 2018 07:21 PM
Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

You should use your blog settings to create an automatic signature for your blog.

Feb 14, 2018 05:21 AM
Chuck Willman

I wasn't aware that was possible. I'll be checking into this setting.

Mar 05, 2018 07:22 PM
Corey Martin
Martin Presence Group - Ruston, LA
Real Estate and Management Solutions

There is a fine line between creepy and cool in predictive analytics. Thanks for sharing. 

Feb 17, 2018 07:11 PM
Chuck Willman

Corey Martin There's certainly the means for being creepy. The user agreements we sign for all the web free services signs away quite a bit of information.

Mar 05, 2018 07:23 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Indeed the analysis is as good as the information that is placed in the data base. Since your state is a non disclosure state I see a bigger value on having a good Realtor vs the other platforms. Now keep in mind even Z admits to 20-30 error factors in my market...I would hate to be the buyer or the seller relying on such broad error factors.Endre

Feb 19, 2018 06:21 PM
Chuck Willman

So true Endre Barath, Jr. the error capability is a big one. The fact that a company is big does not guarantee that information is accurate.

Mar 05, 2018 07:24 PM
Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi
NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656 - New Lenox, IL
708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience

I was in line at a store not too long ago and in amazement at the personal info being shared by the consumer while opening a new credit account at the register .. little privacy involved. Whether in this situation or in regards to analytics, we must be more aware of personal data being shared, with whom we share it, and who is gathering it. We must be aware of that "creepy element" ...
Great post,

Mar 01, 2018 05:39 AM
Chuck Willman

Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi I remember sending in short sale contracts to fax lines at the banks. It would have been super easy for people at the other end of the fax line to do what they wished.

Mar 05, 2018 07:25 PM
Gabe Sanders
Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales - Stuart, FL
Stuart Florida Real Estate

Good morning Chuck and Lucy.  I think we're fighting a losing battle on this front since there are companies that know almost everything about us and there's little we can do to stop them.

Mar 04, 2018 04:28 AM
Chuck Willman

I hear you Gabe Sanders . The fact is: there is no turning back. A great deal of personal information is out there. Companies are mining this. It's difficult for us to know the extent to which this is used against us or our clients.

Mar 05, 2018 07:27 PM
JL Boney, III
Coldwell Banker - Columbia, SC
Columbia, SC Real Estate

It is a little on the creepy side what you can find out about people with very little effort online. Of course, many people simply give away all their info on social media these days anyway.

Mar 09, 2018 06:19 AM
Chuck Willman

JL- As we sign up for more "free accounts" we quickly agree to the terms and services. In this regard we automatically make our details available, as the recent facebook denotes. I found it odd (but true) that the CEO of Facebook said, "you agreed to this."

Mar 28, 2018 02:43 PM
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

For several months, I've been getting emails with the subject line, "creepy or cool?" so your post resonated with me. Definitely something to think about. I guess like anything else, it can be both based on what you do with the information. In other words, what are your intentions?

Mar 28, 2018 07:45 AM
Chuck Willman

Jill Sackler - have you noticed that we're suddenly seeing more articles about how we've all been giving away our rights as we join social media. Anyone who has done a facebook expert will see the types of data that has been mined and given to other services that we were unaware had access to much of this information. I get it. We signed our rights away when we join such social media. But, it takes another step up when our information is mined by aritificial intelligence scripts that attempt to calculate our next steps (such as likely to move in the next few months, ready to make a major purchase, etc.)

It's odd to think that the previous paragraph would seem (only a few years ago) like incoherent paranoid ramblings of a crackpot.  However, that's the type of stuff we agents are being pitched- artificial intelligence and predictive analytics based upon buying patterns.

Mar 28, 2018 02:49 PM