GIGO: It stands for “Garbage In/Garbage Out” and one of the main tasks we have here in the IDX engineering department at iHOUSEweb is to turn that into displayable, searchable data. The garbage in this case is raw data we pull from over 525 MLS’s and the result is what you and your customers see when they search for a home on your website.
What we get from an MLS is really not garbage, but if we were to just throw all of what we get up on your website, unprocessed, you would certainly be giving us a call. We create software that translates the various data points into data our system can use to create fast pull-down menus and checkboxes, to make searching for properties a breeze.
We also, when permitted by the MLS, clean-up misspellings, try to “normalize” certain bits of data and remove corrupted or otherwise unusable data. Some areas have cities that can be spelled a number of different ways. Like St. Augustine, or Saint Augustine, or S.Aug, or worse. We do what we can to consolidate all of those into one value recognized by everyone (in this case St. Augustine) so that you pull-down menu of cities does not have multiple values for the same exact place. This can be tricky and some MLS’s do not permit us to change any of their data so we sometimes just have to leave things as they are.
Other bits of data we cannot change? The “Remarks” on a property have to be left as is. Are they in all caps so that they look like you are YELLING AT YOUR CUSTOMERS? Sorry, can’t fix that without retyping it ourselves and to do that would delay data updates by days. What about mapping? Many of the MLS’s we get data from provide latitude and longitude coordinates, or “geocodes” that we can directly use for putting all of the listings searched for onto a clickable map. If your MLS does not provide those, we do our best using a database from the USPS to look up the geocodes for the listings. Our success rate is about 60%, so if your MLS does not provide those to us, you ought to request that they do. Maps make it so much easier to narrow down a property search.
The other half of our job here is to download the property photos from the MLS and then make them available for display on your website. For most MLSes, the ones that provide us a RETS feed, this is simple and we can quickly update a single listing’s photos as needed. There are a few MLSes out there that have not upgraded to RETS however and still rely on FTP, or some other in-house method for supplying vendors with photos. Replacing missing photos for those MLSes is a time consuming process if it’s possible at all, so it’s in your best interest to make sure your MLS provides a RETS feed. We do our best to make your website work and look as great as we can!