The Problem With Statistics

Last night I was watching the Birmingham City Commission meeting on Comcast and one of the commissioners (it might even have been the mayor) misquoted a statistic that was wrong in the first place. He stated that “10% of Birmingham homes are in forclosure.” He was quickly corrected, or quickly corrected himself, and changed his statement to “10% of the homes in Birmingham are for sale.” Fortunately, neither statement is correct.

I am assuming his source of information is a factually incorrect post on the Birmingham Buzz, in which John McTaggart claims that 11% of Birmingham is for sale based on statistics he found on I will attempt to set the record straight here.

Some real estate brokerages in Birmingham use two mls’s, MiRealSource and Realcomp. If a home is entered in to both mls’s then it appears twice on, thus falsely inflating the number of homes on the market. Realcomp is clearly the primary mls service provider of choice for Birmingham brokerages, and if one wants correct market statistics Realcomp should be the source of information.

I checked Realcomp this morning and found that there are 727 homes and condos for sale in Birmingham. This is 7.96% of the 9,131 households in McTaggart’s article, and a far cry from the 11% figure that made his headline. Realcomp’s public record data, which is a different database than the MLS information, actually shows me that there are 8,938 households in Birmingham, so I would need to verify this base number with the city.

Regardless, I would be happy to provide accurate real estate statistics to the Buzz any time they need them. Our economy faces enough challenges right now that we do not need to have public officials overstating the issue based on faulty statistics.

[tags]birmingham mi, birmingham mi real estate market, birmingham mi home sales, birmingham buzz[/tags]


  1. says

    Two MLS’s servicing one area. Interesting. Our MLS stinks, sometimes I wonder if some competition might be good. But I can see from your post that having two certainly presents a problem…

    So if Realcomp is the MLS of choice, and it should be the source of info, what happens if a home is listed in MiRealSource but NOT in RealComp? Or does that even happen? If this does occur, seems the only way to get complete accuracy would be to merge the two MLS’s data and strip out the duplicates — which sounds like a horrific nightmare, at best.

    Statistics, the mainstream media and politicians. That’s quite the combination!

  2. says

    There was a data ownership war going on here between the two MLS’s, one broker owned and the other associations owned. The brokers wanted more control over the data. They lost the battle, but they fed the two MLS’s for years, resulting in fractured market info and a higher cost to the agents, who are the ones who pay for MLS’s to exist.

    I would assume that less than 1% of the homes in our market would only be in MiRealSource, it that much. Agents are able to pay to have one listing in the MLS that they do not belong to. Not listing a Birmingham home in Realcomp and only in MiRealSource would border on malpractice, in my opinion.

  3. says

    I hate to hear public figures giving false information….good for you for correcting the stats….that’s a huge difference!

  4. says

    This recently appeared on Google, courtesy of

    Three statisticians decide to go out hunting with their bows and arrows. They’re sitting behind a large rock in the woods when a large duck flies by. The first statistician takes a shot from behind the rock and he undershoots the duck by 5 ft. The second statistician takes a shot at the duck, but overshoots the duck by 5 ft. At that, the third statistician jumps up and screams, “You got him!!”

  5. says

    LOL! @ John Lockwood – Good One!

    Having been the victim of multiple MLS’s I can tell you firsthand that it is not good. Fractured is a great word to use to describe it.

    Recently many of the local area MLS’s here merged and made all data available to most of Southern California making our searches possible, not easier possible, which they weren’t before because sold information was not available outside of your MLS. How the heck are you supposed to do your job without that?

    Personally, I think that all MLS’s should be statewide, we are licensed statewide and capable doing business statewide, we should have statewide access.

    That’s my 2 cents.

  6. says

    Thanks for the correction. Too many false stats floating around out there. Not to mention the variables that make up a stat in the first place. Than, shake it all up and have the pundits interpret them. What do you end up with? A whole lot of nothing!

  7. says

    The problem with statistics is that. When it is out people tend to believe on it directly because of the fact that it has been calculated in numbers. Statistics doesn’t verify that it is really correct. It’s just same as prediction being interpreted in numbers.

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