Progress in Miami for real estate buyers

Surprised woman

Betty Realtor: “You mean I shouldn’t do that? My heavens, I never knew!”

A Cuban refugee friend (from greenwich, not the island nation) sends along news that the Miami Realtor Association has announced that it will start fining its members $5,000 for manipulating MLS data.

Now, for every manipulation of MLS content, the association’s more than 41,000 members will be required to pay $5,000 per violation, according to an email obtained by The Real Deal that was sent out to all members on Monday.

The new penalties come nearly a year after Miami Beach Realtor Kevin Tomlinson filed a complaint with the Miami Association of Realtors against Coldwell Banker’s Jill Hertzberg and Jill Eber of The Jills, claiming they altered MLS data to hide homes that had been on the market for long periods of time. Tomlinson was arrested for allegedly trying to extort Hertzberg and Eber in August.  Later that month, Tomlinson cited 353 alleged MLS manipulations, including 30 changes to active listings in 2014.

The Jills spokesperson, however, previously told The Real Deal the MLS changes were unintentional, and only concerned expired listings.

A manipulation of the Multiple Listings Service includes but is not limited to property type, county, MLS area, folio number, five-digit zip codes, and the manipulation of property history and/or days-on-market information, according to the Miami Association of Realtors’ email.

“This is a response to different things going on in the marketplace, things brought to our attention by [anonymous] sources that our electronic error system was not detecting,” Deborah Boza-Valledor, COO and chief marketing officer of the Miami Association of Realtors, told TRD. Now, she said the error system has been tweaked so that it detects if certain fields of data have been manipulated.

Tomlinson spoke about the changes on his Facebook page, calling it a “systemic problem with probably every MLS in the country.”


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21 responses to “Progress in Miami for real estate buyers

  1. Publius


    Should I guess that the punishment for the crime in Greenwich of misquoting sq ft by including basement and garage space in house square footage should include being locked in the basement for a period of no less than 90 days or alternately the trunk of a car in the garage??? Sir?

  2. Anonymous

    FINALLY!!! So tired of dishonest realtors trying to manipulate data so they can sell overprice property. I overpaid for my house because the realtor lied about the sq footage; to this day it irks me every time I have to make a mortgage payment because I know I subsidized someone else’s lifestyle who was a liar and a cheat. There needs to be penalties for this type of bad behavior. If I lied in any other industry I would be fined or go to jail but not if your a realtor; that behavior is encouraged.

    • Anonymous

      So, let me get this straight. You either failed to do due diligence yourself, failed to hire a buyer’s agent (who should perform due diligence on your behalf), or you failed to notice that your buyer’s agent failed to perform due diligence, and now it’s someone else’s fault? Oh, okay.

      • Anonymous

        Malfeasance is worse than misfeasance.

        • Anonymous

          Honey, if you can’t tell the difference between 2,000 and 4,000 square feet, then whose fault is that? If you skipped hiring a buyer’s agent, because you are oh-so-much-smarter than everyone else and you’ve got the smartphone app to prove it, whose fault is that? Funny how it’s always someone else’s fault when people screw up. Better luck next time. Hopefully, you’ll have gotten a much-needed clue by then.

  3. GreenITCH

    So let me get this right . Often times a persons largest investment is their house and what we are suggesting is that with gobs of commissions to be earned , with very few rules governing Realtors and fairly low barriers to entry into the field ( ie licensing ) , we are suggesting that some form of additional self policing is the answer ? I guess its a step in the right direction but I am quite sure CF you have heard or seen many unscrupulous ways pricing and sales are manipulated .

  4. Anonymous

    zillow is increasingly the equalizer of publicly available data on pricing. yes it’s not the greatest, but it’s a start.

    for example, what does 98 north st. say in the gmls?

    in zillow it shows that the owners have tried, unsuccessfully, to sell this house since july of 2013:

    Date Event Price $/sqft Source
    11/25/15 Listing removed $3,750,000 $798 Coldwell Banke…
    07/22/15 Listed for sale $3,750,000-12.7% $798 Coldwell Banke…
    07/10/14 Listing removed $4,295,000 $914 Coldwell Banke…
    04/15/14 Price change $4,295,000-11.4% $914 Coldwell Banke…
    07/18/13 Listed for sale $4,850,000+22.8% $1,032 Coldwell Banke…
    12/22/06 Sold $3,950,000+108% $840 Public Record
    02/10/04 Sold $1,900,000 $404 Public Record

  5. Mickster

    Ladies, ladies!! Before we all get our knickers in a knot, realtors are SALESPEOPLE. When I list someone’s home I want to show it in the very best light. I will count every square foot of finished living space in the home. If that is more than the tax card states then I will explain the difference in my remarks. Easy Peasy. If I’m on the buy side I will do my due diligence to show my buyers exactly what they are buying. That is so easy now for everyone because much of this is already online. My buyers will know how long the property has been on the market and it’s full sales history. Bottom line, have a good buyers agent to protect your interests.

    • Publius


      I think you miss the big picture because well…. you are conflicted. I cannot think of one area of the US economy involving a purchase of a good that is not regulated or over regulated EXCEPT real estate. Yet, it involves for most buyer’s a large financial commitment, perhaps the largest single transaction they will ever undertake, will very little in the way standards. Regulators run around beating the snot out of just about everyone involved in any kind of financial transaction, (See current DOL “fiduciary standard” cudgel and the CFPB an unaccountable agency) yet their is no standard for even presenting the square footage of a house. It is pathetic.

      Why so? Well the NAR is one of the largest lobbying groups in the US (well ahead of those dreaded Koch Brothers) pushing for no/light regulation and fighting for tax payer subsidized and risk subsidized mortgages so the middle class folk can buy million dollar houses. Neat trick.

      I believe in buyer beware, but in this case it seems to me that REALTORS get the pass while everyone else involved in larger complex situations are regulated to death. It is pathetic that the industry can’t even come up with some nationwide standards/ethics like that of other professions and actually enforce them. The fact that you have to hire your own “staff” to buy a house tells you that the process is broken. Yes, you should have representation, but if the reason to have representation is to make sure the other party isn’t f*cking you, well that says it all, no?

        • Publius


          There are professional people in every industry that go above and beyond to serve their clients and deserve every penny of compensation. I am a believer that relatively few bad apples can ruin the reputation of an industry and that it would behoove those who hold themselves to high standards to get rid of these bad apples.

          We complain about how broken and corrupt the government bureaucracy is and what should be done to make it work better, but when it comes to the private sector we turn a blind eye and defend the status quo.

          Chris, one correction if I may: I am not a spoilsport just an insufferable jerk

      • Riverside Dog Walker

        I think it is worse than you describe. My understanding is that NAR has obtained exemption from the know your customer rule. This results in overpriced Manhattan condos being bought by foreigners through an LLC in order to get money out of their country. They don’t care about overpaying, they care about having a hard asset outside their home country.

        I hear that at closing, it is common for the buyers or their representatives to bring briefcases of cash as payment. It is all wink wink nudge nudge because all parties concerned (including our esteemed government) want this money and the commissions, taxes, and profits that come along with it.

        • Anonymous

          I can’t speak to KYC rules, but generally, as a lender, a foreign national borrower is subject to the bank or nonbank’s lending criteria–that is, if they’re borrowing.

          As far as condo or co-op boards, speaking as one who’s on each, we run foreign national buyers through OFAC as well as domestic credit. If there’s a hit, there’s a lot of questions that need answering, because we care about ability to pay the ongoing monthlies.

          It’s a hot topic in NYC now, some of which surround privacy issues. Methinks it’ll be tested in court, soon. In our building, for example, we’re genuinely worried about concentration of foreign-based cash buyers and the process to foreclose upon them if need be. There’s only so many rights of first refusal a board can exercise, if at all. Co-op has a lot more flexibility there. Condos, not so much.

        • Publius

          Th exemption from KYC rules is true and it is a complete and total scam. The owner of this blog had an earlier post about rats leaving the ship, well where do you think the dirty money is going? Real estate. In the US. In Manhattan. It is complete and total BS and it completely undermines all the rules and regulations to clamp down on money laundering. Bad guys are moving money into this country by the bucketful, but if you wanted to open a financial account at a new institution, you would have to effectively have a financial colonoscopy to do so.

        • Ha! I remember one deal another lawyer in town and I were working involving a Stallion Trails home that had been destroyed by arson. It got quirkier and quirkier, and as closing approached, our clients announced that the buyer would be bringing all cash to the table.
          I forget which of us had the buyer and which the seller, but we both agreed it wasn’t worth our law licenses and freedom to accommodate two parties we didn’t know, and we bailed.
          I assume they found other lawyers to accomplish the sale, probably from NYC.

        • Anonymous

          the rulemakers used to be dumb. now they’re really dumb. bureaucracy begets workarounds like nobody’s business.

      • Mickster

        We realtors are at the mercy of each local town regulators. I guarantee you if I did a study of 20 towns in CT alone I would find at least six different methods of calculating square footage. Go nationwide and it’s mind boggling. That infamous case in California just a few years ago is a classic example where all the decking and massive patio areas were included in the house square footage. The standards should be set by HUD and then filter down but that will never happen.
        Should it just be heated space?
        Should it be finished space only?
        Should a detached garage be included?
        Should exterior decks and patios be included?
        Should carports or port cheres be included?
        What minimum height should the ceilings be to be included?
        The list goes on…

        • FF

          I of course have to mention that the NAR, the CAR and the GAR are highly Republican affiliated entities. But then again they donated to Peter Tesei so perhaps I’m wrong there

          • Your realtor friends hold a “Lobby Day” in Hartford each year – I assure you, they aren’t there to lobby powerless Republicans.

            It is true, however, that realtors tend to be supporters of property rights, so it’s natural that they’d shy away from the party so dedicating to destroying those rights.

      • Greenwich Gal

        What he said.