You Want Labels and Boundaries That Reflect Neighborhood Reality? Call a Realtor!

realestate-272x300Last week, Dallas Morning News editorial writer Tod Robberson complained that the neighborhood boundaries used by North Texas Real Estate Information Systems are the “wackiest thing I’ve seen in a long time,” he wrote. He wished that NTREIS would get its act together and use “labels and boundaries that reflect reality, not fantasy.” He favors the neighborhood maps created by BC Workshop.


I think this is one of the best blog posts I have seen. Opens whole cans of thought. I have personally named this nonsense “Area Enigma”.

What Robberson was talking about was the lines drawn around neighborhoods for the North Texas Real Estate Information Systems. You’ve also heard them called “Areas”. Robberson’s point is that the map lumps together disparate neighborhoods in a way that, as he put it, “could give a badly distorted picture of actual real estate value fluctuations.” Or no values at all. A dramatic increase in Lakewood property values, say, has nothing to do with property values in South Dallas slumping but if you lump them together, they do.

Or, Lakewood goes up, South Dallas goes down, Area 12 real estate values are — what?

Oak Lawn is the worst: Area 17 reaches up into Farmer’s Branch. So when we are searching for neighborhoods or blocks of homes that have value changes, you cannot use the area figures. You have to go block by block. It’s a pain and archaic in this day and age. But it’s also why I’ve said it a million times: residential real estate is a LOCAL story.

I am not sure Robberson meant this gripe in a fiscal way, but I sure do. I was going to ask NTREIS why, why in the world are these area designations so silly? But Inman News (Matt Carter over there rocks), beat me to the punch. Here’s what NTREIS told Inman:

A spokeswoman for NTREIS — which provides MLS services to 15 Realtor associations in a 48,000-square-mile area of North Texas including the Dallas-Fort Worth region — provided the following response to a request for comment from Inman News:

“NTREIS, like all MLS systems, provides a variety of geographic search tools for MLS subscribers; area numbers and labels are just one of many resources available to a real estate licensee and were generated to easily narrow down a search within the 48,000 square miles of our service area. These areas are updated as requested by the shareholder Realtor associations we serve. For statistical purposes, professionals are able to analyze the information by school districts, ZIP codes and any number of other parameters. The particular map referenced in Mr. Robberson’s blog post is one used by his own employer, the Dallas Morning News — this map is not provided by the North Texas Real Estate Information Systems. The Dallas Morning News provides this information for general reference to inform the public; a consumer who requires more detailed information should always consult a Realtor professional who can provide a more customized analysis.”

You want the info, go get you a Realtor. That’s the answer they gave. Because all the information in NTREIS is owned by the company, which is a kind of giant mutual company owned by the agents themselves who pay dear fees to maintain that info. Update: and protect it!

Still, I’m not satisfied. Did these boundaries evolve? How were they decided? Who drew the lines? How many years ago? What about sub-neighborhoods? Here on, we are building a data-base on sub-neighborhoods — The Peninsula, Hillcrest Estates, Janmar, Hollywood Heights Santa Monica — and we get the info from Realtors who know the ‘hoods (as only Realtors can) and the homeowners themselves. In other words, we are going to the horse’s mouth bit by bit, not pulling and regurgitating a bunch of stuff off the internet.

Which is, I guess, kind of what you have to do with our Area neighborhoods.


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