What to Ask: Searching for a New Property Data Partner

Are you looking for a new property data partner? Do you know what questions to ask in order to find the best solution for your organization?

That’s the situation that the Central Oregon Association of REALTORS® (COAR) faced when they began researching their first-ever tax data platform. They selected two solutions to investigate further, and ultimately decided on CRS Data.

We spoke with COAR’s CEO, Casie Conlon, to find out how they chose which property data vendor to go with. Here are the questions that helped them make their decision.

Assess your needs: An all-in-one solution or best-in-class?

First, your organization needs to decide what type of solution you want. Do you want a dedicated tax system, or a solution with multiple functionalities, including property data?

For COAR, the choice was simple. “There are two models of vendors in this industry,” said Conlon. “You’re either trying to be everything to everyone, or you’re trying to do one thing well, and I personally lean towards the people that want to do one thing well.”

Why COAR chose CRS Data: “I think that CRS Data is trying to be the best at one thing instead of being the best at 50 different things, and I like those types of partners. I would rather vendors focus on the one thing I’ve contracted with them to do, to do the absolute best it can be done, and to do the best for my members.”

What do the tax system’s uptime/downtime stats look like?

The best solution is one that your members use, and if your property data platform is always down, no one’s going to use it—which means you’re paying for nothing. Ask any vendor you’re evaluating what their uptime/downtime ratio is like. Be wary of any company that won’t provide a straight answer.

Why COAR chose CRS Data: “We heard a lot about the other platform we were looking at being down,” said Conlon. “We’ve never had any downtime since integrating with CRS Data.”

Where does the data come from?

Does the tax vendor you’re researching get their data from third parties, or directly from your local county? Data that comes directly from the source tends to be more accurate, more recent, and better for the Realtor who ultimately uses the data to do their job.

“One of the things I’m constantly looking at when I’m evaluating vendors is where they’re getting data from and where they’re sending data to,” said Conlon. “If they can’t give me a good answer on where the data is coming from or where it’s going, that’s not really a company I want to do business with.”

In addition to asking where the data comes from, be sure to ask each vendor what their process is like for correcting inaccurate data.

Why COAR chose CRS Data: “When we were looking at the different platforms, one of the things that really impressed us was CRS Data’s willingness to come out and work with local counties to get data online if it wasn’t available in the format that they needed. They will send somebody out to the county office and help get records off of postcards into a system that our MLS can use.” Conlon continues, “Certain parts of our jurisdiction are super rural, so some of the county data is not easily accessible. Now all the data is available for members throughout the whole jurisdiction.”

Can we customize the system?

“When you’re working with vendors for MLS systems or even Realtor associations, a lot of times what you get is what you get and they’re not willing to customize all that much,” said Conlon. “That’s because their product is being offered to clients across the country, so if they make one change here it could affect things system-wide for other MLSs.”

Considering the varying rules, names, and situations in locales across the country, that can be a real problem for a tax platform. “Different parts of the country might call the plat map one thing, and other parts of the country call it something else.”

Ask your vendor if they’re able to customize your system to match your local needs and vernacular—this helps reduce confusion among your members and makes things easier to use.

Why COAR chose CRS Data: “I was surprised at CRS Data’s willingness to help us customize the system, which is another thing I really like about them,” says Conlon. “CRS is willing to get the data in a format that my members can understand, and they’re willing to customize the things that my members see to make it as user friendly as possible.”

CRS Data was also willing to undertake complicated customizations for COAR. “I have a very random scenario with an unincorporated city in my MLS that’s governed by an HOA, which is probably unlike anywhere else in the country,” said Conlon. “The property owners use a different address than what is in county records. It’s a different address than 911 uses. It’s a different address than the internet company uses. CRS has offered to work on a way to customize a commonly known address field so that members can see it. It’s a very small community, but CRS Data was willing to work with us to help those local members get the most out of the system.”

What’s the service and support like?

A property data system is going to see heavy use from your members. And as a partnership that will presumably last years, it’s important that your vendors offer robust service and support options. Think about the training options each vendor offers, and evaluate the efficiency and channels of support available.

“I want companies that have a dedicated staff person,” said Conlon. “Having support for any members that are trying to troubleshoot the system is also key.”

Training for members is also important. After all, Realtors who don’t understand how to navigate a new solution are less likely to use it. Evaluate if your members need in-person training, webinars, or a combination of both.

“I personally really like on-site training,” says Conlon. “I know a lot of vendors prefer to do webinars to cut back on travel costs, but for certain things it just doesn’t work. Members need the on-site, hands-on, I’m gonna pull out my laptop and follow along approach versus I’m gonna watch you on a video and hopefully remember all these steps later.”

Why COAR chose CRS Data: “I know I can contact CRS Data anytime, and they’re really great if there’s a data discrepancy (which is few and far between), or another issue. It all gets handled promptly.”

CRS Data also offered COAR members in-person training for launch, and currently hosts periodic on-site sessions, as well.

“Our CRS Data rep has gone out to all of our different communities for training. Our jurisdiction is about two-and-a-half to three hours from one side to the other, and the communities are spread out,” says Conlon. “That’s something I really appreciate in our partnership with CRS Data, that they’re willing to do that. I think in-person training is really important for the members and to increase usage of any product that you have.”