Sure, Zillow and Trulia are popular portals for consumers to shop for homes, and there are a lot of fantastic luxury properties marketed as hip pockets, but does that spell the end for MLS systems everywhere?

Sure, Zillow and Trulia are popular portals for consumers to shop for homes, and there are a lot of fantastic luxury properties marketed as hip pockets on select sites, but does that spell the end for MLS systems everywhere?

Inman contributor Creed Smith wrote a column published on the real estate news site suggesting that the system real estate agents use to access listing information, the Multiple Listing Service, was on the way out. It ignited a heated debate among Inman staffers and commenters, earning a reply from Inman managing editor Matt Carter. 

If the real estate industry were invented today, there would be no NAR (National Association of Realtors) or MLS (multiple listing service), and perhaps no franchises — there might not even be real estate brokers.

The MLS was built for three reasons:

  1. To place all information on homes for sale and sold homes into a central location for brokers.
  2. To create a percentage of sale price payment agreement between brokers.
  3.  To elevate NAR and the MLS companies to almost godlike status with monopoly power.

The marketplace now demands a system built on their desires, not those of NAR. How would you build a system for selling and buying homes based on market desires with today’s technology and market dynamics? You would offer an open-source international database (website … portal).

You can read Smith’s full-length piece on his Demon of Marketing website, but we wanted to get the perspective of local brokers and Realtors on the cutting edge of real estate here in North Texas as to whether we should be writing a eulogy for the MLS system.



Homefacts App Home Page Homefacts App - School Details Page

We love a good app here at CandysDirt, and when RealtyTrac announced their new Homefacts app, we had to give it a test. We’ve reviewed several good real estate apps before, and some of them are great for just run-of-the-mill home shopping (, Zillow, Trulia, and Redfin), some give you a more visual clue on a property ( Doorsteps App), and there’s even an app to see if you can afford a home before you get pre-approved.

But the Homefacts is a horse of a different color. It’s a much more comprehensive real estate app in that it uses GPS data or an address search to dissect areas not by homes for sale, but by other factors that may affect a neighborhood’s desirability, such as relative proximity to convicted sex offenders and former drug labs, school performance, unemployment, crime risk, median home value, and disaster risk.



This morning when I was doing my regularly scheduled RSS blog-reading binge, I noticed this post from D Magazine‘s Tim Rogers, asking just where Museum Tower officials came up with the figures in their recent marketing email:

In 2013, growth in Dallas’ high-rise neighborhoods was truly remarkable. According to MLS there was a 36.4 percent increase in the number of units sold, and a 49.6 percent increase in volume.

Increasing demand for luxury high-rise homes generated a 9.7 percent rise in prices during the same time period. Nearly 25 percent of Museum Tower’s square footage has been claimed by residents with an appreciation for the unconventional and uncompromising.

Tim asks in his FrontBurner post, just where the Museum Tower folks came up with that number? According to his calculations using Dallas Central Appraisal District data, only 13 percent of the Dallas Arts District highrise is actually sold.

Well, we know that DCAD data isn’t always the most current information when it comes to real estate. MLS data is updated every nano-second it seems, so that would seem more pertinent. But regardless, we wanted to know where the figures came from, too. That’s why we asked Barbara Buzzell of the Buzzell Company, Museum Tower’s PR rep, where the marketing information came from. As you might expect, the real explanation is a lot less sensational:

“Not every home at Museum Tower is the same size,” Buzzell explained. “As you may know, we have nine different published floor plans. Because of the many variable home sizes sold, we have released the aggregate amount of saleable square footage sold. That number is nearly 25% of the building’s total saleable square footage.”

Seems logical, especially considering how many different floorplans there are. I’m not a math major (understatement of the decade), but this seems kosher to me, especially considering that Buzzell would have access to the most recent sales figures, which won’t post to DCAD for some time.

So the questions we pose to the Realtors out there in the field: are you showing Museum Tower? Are people buying? How long is the lag time between sales and what is recorded in DCAD — Candy has been told six to eight weeks. And finally, are Museum Tower sales unusually slow for a luxury high-rise condo building priced at just under $1,000 per square foot that has been open for sales now for just one month over a year?

(Full Disclosure: Museum Tower is an advertiser on

Since our Monday Morning Millionaire is so fresh to the market, we didn’t even have interior photos to share earlier today. But now we do! And talk about a poster child home for perfection, 5543 Edlen (listed with Vicki White, Keller Williams Elite, but not yet in MLS) is it! I am loving those baby’s butt smooth as silk wall finishes, the curved ceilings, the limestone and wood floors, the huge master. And you know how much I love “Keeping Rooms”! Well, this one is a keeper! Coming up: the Master Bath!edlen entry Edlen living room edlen dining Edlen family Edlen kit (2)Edlen keeping rm edlen study Edlen master Edlen pool Edlen rear pool back edlen patio

MetroTex logoI’m off to a meeting, but just read this fascinating article that bears a look/see.

Do you think we could ever live without an MLS? These Chicago folks say no way. But I think there could be changes… what do you think?

Lots of news to report to you on what’s happening with MLS’s around the country and the syndications: Austin’s out.

Also, a lot of folks I know are in San Francisco either at NAREE or the National Association of Realtor’s conference. We will have reports on that next week.

9800-Rockbrook-back-sweep-575x383I don’t know if you get the Dallas Business Journal or not, but as of late (like ever since I started this blog,) they have been tinkering with residential real estate. Tinkering I say because like most media outlets, the poor journalists have to cover about five different subject areas and mop the bathrooms after five, plus report, write and blog. So I understand how things run behind or not at all. But this truly gave me a chuckle.

You have to pay for a subscription to the DBJ, so I will quote Carlisle’s piece for you:

“Interestingly, I’ve discovered that not everyone lists multimillion-dollar properties on the market when they’re for sale.”

Eureka? Have we not been talking about these things called hip pockets since, oh, about March or May?

(Killing me: Don’t give me such shocking news, Candice. Excuse me, Candace.)

Then she quotes  Rogers Healy,our Rogers Healy (who sold the M Mansion by Auction), who is practically my son, as saying that not listing an expensive home doesn’t hurt a mansion’s chances of selling, and in some case can help it.

“There’s some exclusivity of not putting a house on the market,” Healy told the Dallas Business Journal in an exclusive tour of a $12 million mansion that’s for sale, but not listed on the Multiple Listing Service. “When you look at who buys a multimillion dollar mansion, these people aren’t searching MLS.”

Selling homes in a hip pocket sale — a residential real estate industry term for an off-market deal — has gained traction in recent years as the housing market heated up, Healy told me.

The house they were touring was 9800 Rockbrook, which we showed you over a month ago. Rogers told Carlisle that the no-MLS route gives buyers the illusion of exclusivity, and has been working positively for the Rockbrook mansion on the market. He said he has shown it, a 10,600 square foot home on 1.73 acres, to three interested buyers. The story posted on on August 21, 2013.

This got me thinking: we know that having properties in the MLS increases exposure to more, way more buyers. In fact, Rogers himself says “With a number of out-of-state relocations bringing high-end buyers to the Dallas-Fort Worth market, Healy said he expects the luxury home market to continue to remain hot for some time.”

Question: how are those out of town buyers going to find any homes to buy? They will be on the internet looking for homes, and if the home is not in the MLS then it won’t make it to a third party portal. They could find it here on CandysDirt, of course, the agent is smart enough to call me, as Rogers did. Which may be why he had three serious showing.

Or smart enough to get Candace Carlisle to write about it.

I just don’t understand how sellers expect agents to sell homes, in MLS or not, if they cannot market them. You need to tell the world, rich and poor, about the house so the right buyer perks his ears up. You cannot be all anonymous and find buyers. I mean, can you?




Shopping for a house requires the organizational skills of a master planner. How do you remember every detail of the listing you just looked at—never mind the house from last week or last month?

It can be nerve wracking to say the least. So we’ve put together a list of iPhone apps to help you pull everything together (many are also available for Windows and Android). Arm yourself with these tools and you’ll never forget which charming 60’s ranch house has a water heater in the guest bedroom.

Do you have a favorite app? Let us know about it in the comments.

Snap it, measure it, look it up — owning these apps creates a library in your pocket.

The Real Estate Dictionary

dictionaryMost real estate dictionaries cost between $4 and $10. Some are even $50. This bare-bones, no-cost app stands out among the free options.

Assets: It’s an easy to navigate and comprehensive dictionary of real estate terms—from construction to contract. When your home inspector is blathering on about a cracked collar beam, you can quickly discover just what that is.

Liabilities: There’s no search function, so users have to navigate to a letter tab and then scroll.

Mortgage Calculator Pro

mortcalcThere are a ton of free mortgage calculator apps out there, and you get what you pay for. This is the single non-free app in the survey, but it’s worth every penny of the 99 cents it costs.

Assets: Users can save various loans and loan configurations, so there’s no need to retype the information each time. This makes it easy to add or subtract variables, such as HOA fees, maintenance costs, different interests rates, and play with the numbers. Users can send loan info and amortization schedules to contacts via email. It also has features for auto and other kinds of loans, so it’s not a one-and-done purchase.

Liabilities: There’s no option for interest-only loans, it’s not free, and it’s brown … so much brown.


homesnapHomesnap is a little creepy. It lets users search a map of listings,  just like the major listings-search apps below, but its main feature is to “snap” a photo of any house and dig up its county appraisal and recent sale info. Homesnap also has a “stealth” mode that identifies houses near the user’s GPS location and serves up the same kind of goods.

Assets: Immediately identify the tax appraisal and see other interesting info on homes surrounding any listing.

Liabilities: Immediately feel like a creep.

Magic Plan

magicplanThis app is so good that it should actually cost something. Magic Plan allows a user to capture the dimensions and features of any room in a house. The process is just like taking a series of photos. The app then returns room dimensions and door locations so users can easily determine whether or not they can wedge their grand piano in the study.

Assets: Create a floor plans for multiple houses quickly with photos and notes. Users can email room plans in pdf and jpg formats for free. The app also allows users to send the data to Home Depot flooring departments, share it on social media and more.

Liabilities: It can be difficult to use in narrow spaces like galley kitchens and other oddly shaped rooms.


evernoteWhile not specifically related to house hunting, Evernote is a do-it-all note-taking app that has uses even after the closing papers are signed.


Assets: Evernote is actually a suite of tools that lets users capture web pages, bundle photos, record voice notes, and just type plain old notes. Each can be organized into an individual notebook that can be synched among all of a user’s computers and devices, and shared with friends, whether they are Evernote users or not.

Liabilities: None. Download it now!

These apps all do the same basic thing: They allow you look at homes on the market. Plug in a ZIP Code or a neighborhood, a price range, and parameters such as number of bedrooms and baths, and the apps display the results on a map or on a list. All have websites that synch with the user’s phone, so a search saved on a laptop shows up on the user’s mobile device. All have photo galleries, MLS information and agent info.

What makes one better than the other? Let’s plow through their strengths and weaknesses:

realtorcomAssets: Like other apps of its ilk, uses your phone’s GPS to display nearby properties. Its standout feature is that it allows the user to draw a circle, square or any other closed shape on the map and shows only listings within the boundary. Buyers can also share favorite properties and other information with their agent from within the app.

Liabilities: Searches for recently sold listings don’t show prices, but they do show the amount under or over the asking price for which the property sold. Users can’t save sold listings as favorites.

For Sale By Owner

fsboAssets: This is the most useful app to find listings that aren’t on the MLS, and DIYers will find it intuitive to use. Its search results highlight pending sales, new listings and regular sales, and it keeps a history of results, which is handy if you forget to save a favorite.

Liabilities: There is limited information on each property and there are fewer properties to view than on the MLS. The app also doesn’t offer links to schools, tax information or similarly helpful info.


truliaAssets: Trulia’s best feature is its ability to plot neighborhood amenities on a map. Buyers can see the nearest grocery stores, parks, gas stations banks with ratings and reviews from Yelp. Users can also toggle map overlays for information on crime, flooding, earthquakes and more.

Liabilities: Trulia app doesn’t default to residential property searches, so the user will want to dial in specific settings—unless they just happen to like looking at vacant industrial lots. Map overlays for crime are very general “heat maps” and don’t display information on number or type of criminal activities.


redfinAssets: This app includes decent mortgage calculator that allows a user quickly summarize monthly ownership costs, including insurance, taxes, and bills. It also provides the most detailed information on sold properties in its class, including prices. Users can take notes and add their own photos to favorite properties.

Liabilities: Agent features work only with Redfin agents.


zillowAssets: Zillow presents clear, easy-to-skim listing info with multiple graphs and charts that summarize financing estimates and the home’s position on the market, including Zillow’s own estimate of its worth. There are direct links to a property’s listing on the county tax sites, and summary of its tax history in the app. The app also allows users to get custom mortgage quotes from online brokers.

Liabilities: Map icons are subtle and can be difficult differentiate from one another. There is no rental search.


Marc LeeMarc Lee is a freelance writer and film buff who loves real estate almost as much as Candy herself. He lives in Dallas. Contact him via

(Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of our “Outside the Frame” series that offers the insights of Dallas’ leading real estate photographers on subjects that are both important and often controversial in the industry. Check out our first installment here.)

Today we have Richard Sharum, founder of one of the area’s most popular real estate photography firms, Shoot2Sell . To read Sharum’s perspective on how much editing is ethical for listing photos, jump. What do you find is the biggest misconception sellers and Realtors have about hiring a professional photographer for MLS photos?

Richard SharumRichard Sharum: That because cameras are so abundant, everyone can shoot architecture for the purposes of marketing it.  Shooting property is a fine art and not be taken lightly.  One inexperienced person can actually make a property look worse than in real life, resulting in no interest and a bad reputation for the listing agent.

CD:  What is the most important shot and why?

Sharum: I believe it is the primary front, or what we call in the industry the “default front exterior”.  But then again, sometimes, especially on older homes, all the greatness is inside.  But first impressions matter.  I am always telling agents that if there are really strong images on the interior or backyard, don’t be afraid to use that as your “primary” to get interest.  Don’t forget, this is marketing.

CD: What is the least important shot and possibly the one to avoid at all costs?

Sharum: The irrelevant ones.  The shots that are being put in as filler as a requirement from the agent or the Seller.  We, as professionals, are looking to bridge the gap between Art and Information when shooting architecture.  That is our style.  But when we are forced to shoot beyond our standards by either an agent or seller who do not know anything about photography, it only weakens the overall portfolio, which is what we are trying to avoid.  We want strong imagery, top to bottom.

CD: How much alteration of a shot is acceptable? Greening the grass? Adding blue sky? Getting rid of cords?Are there quick fixes you can do if a client requests? Where do you draw the line about representing a property?

Sharum: Great question! We are highly ethical in that we will not alter an image if the subject we are altering is a fact of the structure, i.e.- a hole in the wall.  We will green grass because 99% of the time brown grass is not permanent.  Same thing with cords.  Those are not a permanent part of the structure.  We cannot, however, put grass where there is none, or erase stains out of carpet, as those are considered permanent until proven otherwise.  And we get proof from our clients before we go back and alter those images.  These ethics, sadly, are not repeated from some of the other “photography companies” out there.

CD: What is the optimum height to shoot a room photo from? There seem to be lots of creative angles, wide angles, shots from the hip, literally,  these days. Are those helpful or a hindrance.?

Sharum: When shooting architecture properly, every room has a different height theory.  All of our photographers are trained using these theories.  Most bad MLS photos are shot way too high, as if a giant has entered the room.  Too high photos are worse than too low, in my opinion.

CD:  So we have 25 photos we can put on MLS. What if there are not 25 good shots? Do you shoot more angles of the same room? Add photos of the neighborhood?

Sharum: We always try to add amenities shots.  We prefer this method of filling up 25 than shooting irrelevant images .  Great photos of a community pool are much more desirable to buyers than ANOTHER shot of the guest bathroom.

Photographs of amenities offered in a location can help to round out the number of  MLS photos.

Photographs of amenities offered in a location can help to round out the number of MLS photos.


CD:  Have you ever had to decline a shoot or walk away because a home was not ready?

Sharum: Absolutely.  Ever since the beginning, my goal with my company was to raise the standards for the benefit of EVERYONE, including agents.  I believe we have made huge strides in what is considered acceptable marketing for architecture in DFW as a result of our standards.  It only helps the agent, their reputation, their sellers’ experience, the buyers’ experience, and makes our jobs easier. Everyone wins when we all pay attention.  We were also the first to come up with a “photoshoot checklist” that gets sent to the Seller to get them prepared.  At the time we started that, it was almost seen as revolutionary in Dallas as no one had put that kind of effort out there before.

CD:  Any funny stories about having to avoid shooting something unusual in a home?

Sharum: Oh my goodness.  Stories for days.  Some too explicit to even mention unless we are at a bar!

CD: Parting shot?

Sharum: We are still the only Architectural Photography company in Texas who have photographers who are trained to shoot architecture.  Period.  We do it because we love helping people look great at their professions and we love people (sellers and buyers).  We love helping a family move on to their new chapter easier by shooting their property to be sold, and we love having a great relationship with our clients.  That is what makes us.