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What NAR’s Big Data Initiative is All About

Q&A with NAR’s new data analytics chief, Todd Carpenter

NAR this week announced the launch of a division to analyze large amounts of NAR and other data to help members make better business decisions. The new division is called the Predictive Analytics group and it will be led by Todd Carpenter, the association’s new managing director of data analytics. Carpenter is a 20-year veteran of the real estate industry and previously served at NAR as its director of digital engagement. He most recently worked at Trulia, the national home listing site, where he served as senior manager of industry engagement. Carpenter will be joined by a data scientist to develop the mathematical formulae for analyzing data and developing the tools that NAR will eventually be providing to members. To get a little more information on the goals of the new division, REALTOR® Magazine sat down with Carpenter for a brief conversation.

Carpenter, right, with NAR's chief technology officer Mark Lesswing

REALTOR® Magazine: What’s the nature of your new role?

Todd Carpenter: It’s to find ways to use large quantities of data to build tools that our members can use to make better marketing and business decisions. We’ll be using data that NAR already collects, such as its monthly existing-home sales data, and data that we’ll be licensing from others. With the NAR data, we have an enormous amount of information already at our disposal, so one of our jobs will be to find ways to analyze it mathematically so we can generate more insightful findings from it. We’ll also be looking into ways to layer consumer data we get from others against property data that we already collect to give us a picture of where different segments of the population are in terms of buying and selling scenarios.

RM: How about an example?

TC: Take the data that’s being collected from lockboxes. As these get accessed more, we know more homes are being shown and that might indicate a particular market or a particular type of home is attracting more interest, which can give us an indicator of sales 90 days down the road for a particular type of house in a particular market. We’ll also look into licensing data sets from others that can tell us something about consumers and their spending habits to help us predict when they’re likely to buy a home. That way our members can identify the best people to market to, which in turn enables them to make better decisions on where to spend their money.

RM: What led NAR to create this division and why is it happening now?

TC: The Center for REALTOR® Technology (CRT) and NAR’s Strategic Planning Committee have been looking at the idea of data mining for quite a while and trying to figure out how the association can better get its arms around it for members’ benefit. Also. the Data Strategies Committee, created last year, was launched in part with this idea in mind. So, data analytics has been at the idea stage for quite a while and it’s happening now because this is where our Strategic Planning Committee has guided us. It’s interesting, because when I first joined NAR several years ago as director of digital engagement [February 2009 to April 2012], part of my goal was to explain the newest digital concept to NAR members and their leadership, and at that time the newest concept was social media. My job this time around is similar to that, only the newest concept is big data.

RM: When can members expect the first of the new tools to come out?

TC: Well, we’re really excited to get started today but you won’t see a product tomorrow. This is going to take some time, and it’s just the first day. We have to look at a lot of data and conduct a lot of experiments first. We want to do this right. CRT will be heavily involved in building a lot of the platforms we come up with, but first we have to find the right data and what to tie it with to derive a prediction of the future or key analytic that’s going to help our members. So, it’s going to take a lot of mathematical experimenting in the beginning. Fortunately, there are a lot of open source analytic programs we can start working with right away. That will give us a strong foundation to build on. Over the next year or so, I hope to work with NAR Research, too, with the goal of helping them come up with even more insightful ways to analyze the data they collect.

More on NAR’s Predictive Analytics group.

Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is manager of multimedia communications for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. He can be reached at rfreedman@realtors.org.

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