Why Won't CLAW Give Us the Square Footage?

Since August, I’ve been posting up to five times a week on this blog about real estate trends in Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Westwood.  Redfin gives us bloggers leeway in what to blog about, but when we’re writing about specific properties, it asks us to include several details that readers always want to know about.  Among them:  square footage and lot size.confusion.jpg

I’ve been handicapped in this endeavor, because the Combined L.A./Westside Multiple Listing Service, a.k.a. CLAW MLS, which covers L.A. from downtown to the ocean, almost never includes square footage or lot size in its online listings.  This is in contrast to other MLSs, such as CRISnet and SoCal MLS, which serve the Valley and Long Beach, which include them in every listing, from what I can see. Click here for an example of what I mean — CLAW listings almost always have dashes where the square footage and lot size should be.

To get square footage and lot size, I’ve relied on the great site Property Shark, which gives you everything you’d ever want to know about a property.  But Property Shark includes only data from the last sale, so if the place has been remodeled, that square footage won’t show up.  Also, it’s time-consuming to chase information that should me at my — and your — fingertips.

I’ve wondered all along why CLAW doesn’t include this information.  In fact, I blogged about it  when I first started.  I asked a local agent about it recently. I won’t mention the name, since the agent didn’t give me permission to quote what was said.  The agent said that CLAW doesn’t require square footage, and that that was fine with many agents who feel that listing square footage would work to their disadvantage.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided it was time to go straight to the source and ask the folks in charge of CLAW MLS what their reasoning was.  Maybe I was just missing something. 

Unfortunately, my voicemails, phone calls, e-mails and, finally, a visit this week to CLAW’s Robertson Boulevard offices yielded no response.  So I still can only speculate as to what its reasoning is. 

Maybe this post won’t make any difference to the way CLAW does business.  But if you’ve noticed and/or been frustrated by this omission, voice your opinion, either to CLAW directly or on this blog.  Agents can urge CLAW to change its policy and include the information in their personal listings. 

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  • dancingstarr

    Thanks very much for bringing this up, Cindy. The fact that they don’t disclose square footage in the listings is one reason that I’ve simply stopped even looking at listings in the City. It’s just another deceptive sales practice from an organization that I’ve come to have little respect for.

  • Tom McCarty

    AS a longtime Realtor member, I can tell you straight up. Lawsuits. People do take advantage of anything they can. Appraisers measure outside diameter to get the square footage. Now builders may just use the living area or inside dimensions, but I doubt it unless the permit cost is based on living area. Some attics and basements, well don’t count as that would cost more on permits, water fees, etc.. so why confuse the public when all we get for telling the truth is problems from a litigious society.
    I am retired and have no dog in this fight. If a house fits, feels good, OK. Just don’t buy based on the cost of square footage, leave that to the commercial buyers.

  • Colin

    Just as an FYI, many real estate brokerages forbid their agents from posting interior or lot square footage from the fear that they will be sued for misleading information. It has happened in the state of California. Either way, it’s annoying when it’s not in the listing,,,,

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    Sorry, Tom and Colin, I just don’t buy that argument. All you need is a disclaimer that says “Square footage is approximate; buyer is responsible for determining actual square footage” or something like that. That’s what KB Home does; that’s what other MLSs must do, because they don’t seem to have a problem including that information. When you buy a house, you’ll get an appraisal, which will list actual square footage; at that point you can back out of the deal if it’s a problem.

  • ron

    To tom: that is why CLAW has categories by which to classify what the source of the square footage is. I.E. OW for owner’s estimate, AS for assessor VN for vendor enhanced, etc. CLAW is very good about protecting it’s members from lawsuits. It’s agents that make mistakes, or fail to prevent their own clients from misleading buyers.

    Cindy, if you’re really so angered by what you feel is a deceptive practice, and you’re not getting any answers through normal journalistic avenues, why not ask one of Redfin’s agents–who are members of CLAW–to address the issue?

    If there’s enough momentum behind it from membership, CLAW will change their policy. I have found they’re very responsive in my experience as a member.

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    Dancingstarr, thank you for your comment. I’ve forwarded the link to this post to CLAW’s CEO. I’m hoping that more people like you voice their dissatisfaction with the policy so it can be changed.

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    Ron, thank you for making the point about the square footage disclaimer. As far as the Redfin/CLAW connection, I don’t know anything about that. I’m sure Redfin agents will see this, and if they feel the same way, they can take it up with CLAW.

    My purpose in putting this out there was to try to persuade CLAW to rethink its policy. If enough member agents and consumers agree with me that it needs to change, maybe it will, and everyone will benefit.

  • Francine

    I think CLAW is just hurting itself with this practice. Anyone who is surfing the web to look at houses can easily jump over to zillow or propertyshark or even the LA County assessor’s website to look at sq. footage if they want the information.

    However, I’ve found that the more houses I browse the less inclined I am to even do that. I just skip the listing and move on to the next house that DOES have that info.

    Problem for CLAW is, there are WAY too many fish in the sea, and I prefer the easy catch :)

  • Janet

    Most MLS associations are less than cordial. They’ll be sure to contact you though, if they are pushing some political agenda.

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    Exactly my point, Francine. If I don’t see the information I want — whether it’s a car ad or an apartment ad — I get irritated and move on.

  • http://westwoodmarket.blogspot.com Scott McIntosh

    Hi Cindy,

    Claw RE agent here. I find that a majority of the listings have sq ftg. info posted in the areas I track. Sometimes if there has been some remodeling and the sq ftg isn’t known, then the agent won’t post it. Sometimes if the place is really small the agent won’t post the sq ftg. But other than that I find that most listings will have the information posted. Is it specific regions you find this happening in Cindy?

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    Scott, if you go to Redfin.com and punch in 90024 in the Search field, which is Westwood’s ZIP code, the area you cover, you’ll see that the square footage field on homes for sale is blank. (“Sold” properties do include the square footage.) So I don’t know how you can say “the majority” of listings include square footage, because, in my experience in doing this every day for seven months, almost none do. Redfin takes its information directly from the local MLS, so if square footage isn’t listed, it isn’t listed on Redfin either. Maybe you could ask CLAW folks about this and get back to us.

  • BlogReader

    I disagree with you Scott. I do not remember seeing the square footage on any of the CLAW listings.

  • BlogReader

    Also Cindy, I really do appreciate you bringing up this issue.

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    Thank you, BlogReader. I really appreciate your saying that. I so hope we can get CLAW to make this change.

  • http://westwoodmarket.blogspot.com Scott McIntosh

    Cindy,

    I apologize but I cant speak for how Redfin pulls the data from the MLS, but I can speak for the information I get directly from the CLAW MLS. There are 19 listing active in 90024 according to CLAW MLS. 18 out of the 19 have all the square footages posted. Only 10405 Holman Avenue doesn’t have the sq ftg. posted for either lot size or house size.
    Now if this is an issue about public mls (guest site) versus the agent subscription section, then thats another story.

  • http://westwoodmarket.blogspot.com Scott McIntosh

    Here is a list that I pull directly from the Claw MLS raw data for active listings in 90024. The columns are ADDRESS-PRICE-BED-BATH-HOUSE SQFT-LOT SQFT-YEAR BUILT

    As you can see, only one listing doesn’t have sq ft listed.

    253 CONWAY AVE
    $3,800,000
    5 5.00 4,200 11,040 1929
    10511 ROCHESTER AVE
    $1,997,000
    5 3.75 4,800 6,500 1939
    1747 ENSLEY AVE
    $2,295,000
    4 3.00 3,700 8,058 1953
    10450 HOLMAN AVE
    $1,550,000
    3 2.50 0 0 1925
    10743 LINDBROOK DR
    $2,125,000
    4 3.50 2,761 11,325 1931
    1545 KELTON AVE
    $1,350,000
    3 2.00 1,477 6,708 1939
    1435 CRESTVIEW CT
    $2,150,000
    4 4.50 3,792 6,751 1940
    311 S MAPLETON DR
    $19,950,000
    7 12.00 14,890 39,204 2008
    10632 OHIO AVE
    $1,325,000
    3 2.75 1,933 6,500 1925
    530 HILGARD AVE
    $2,995,000
    4 5.00 2,822 11,020
    10521 KINNARD AVE
    $1,500,000
    3 2.00 1,757 6,630 1931
    271 S MAPLETON DR
    $14,995,000
    1 1.00 1,098 60,548 2000
    271 S MAPLETON DR
    $14,995,000
    1 1.00 1,098 60,548 2000
    924 THAYER AVE
    $2,299,000
    4 4.50 3,407 7,623 1939
    807 WESTHOLME AVE
    $2,149,000
    6 4.50 4,000 5,790 1970
    10709 OHIO AVE
    $1,195,000
    3 1.75 1,583 6,141 1938
    675 WARNER AVE
    $4,495,000
    6 4.50 4,435 16,560
    10446 WILKINS AVE
    $1,545,000
    3 3.00 1,678 6,882 1939
    722 S BEVERLY GLEN
    $3,495,000
    4 5.00 4,521 11,586 1930

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    Scott, it may be true that the square footage and lot size is included in the data that agents see, but on Redfin, which gets its information from the MLSs, it does not show up. Same is true on realtor.com. So if you know of a consumer-accessible site that provides square footage and lot size on CLAW listings, please post the link.

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    P.S. to Scott: The fact that you’re able to get that information as a CLAW member means the information is available, but that CLAW is choosing not to release it to consumers.

  • http://westwoodmarket.blogspot.com Scott McIntosh

    Well I just wanted to clear up that CLAW/agents do post the information and it is available. I do not know why when Redfin pulls its data feed from CLAW that the sq ft information is not given. May have something to do with policy between the two sites. Complete information is available through agents and I do not know of any consumer accessible sites that has complete info. Hope that helps.

  • Corntrollio

    This is yet another way realtors fail to provide good service for their clients. As Scott McIntosh seems to imply, realtors have access to square footage, whereas buyers do not. Why? So that realtors can pretend they add value. Without square footage, buyers can’t do comps without undue effort. It’s in realtors’ interest not to have buyers be clueless and in the dark so that they can increase their fees.

  • Corntrollio

    (strike the word “not” in the last sentence — that’s what I get for editing on the fly)

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    Scott, we KNOW agents have this information. The point of my post is that CLAW is failing to share this information with consumers. Other MLSs, like SoCal and Crisnet, DO share this information. The world has changed: People like to shop online for homes. It doesn’t help anyone to withhold information that consumers need and deserve to know. CLAW would serve buyers and sellers better if it simply provided all relevant information about a property, just like other MLSs do.

  • http://westwoodmarket.blogspot.com Scott McIntosh

    Cindy, I definitely don’t disagree with you that times are a changing. I’m not sure why they choose not to include square footage as part of the public data feed. I wouldn’t see a problem with including it. Hopefully for the communities’ sake, things will change regarding that. As a realtor, I believe it’s the intangibles, knowledge and service that provide value. Not with the coveting of public information. I freely distribute information all the time at my open houses, on my doorknocking material and my blog.

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    Scott, I’m glad you agree in sharing as much information as possible. Maybe you could help by impressing upon the folks at CLAW how important this is to people, and maybe the powers that be will revise this policy.

  • ron

    Cindy,

    Abe Chang, Erin Eckert and Erik Van Joosten are agents on CLAW roster who are listed as working from the Redfin office. I cant think of a better way to institute thoughtful change like you’re provoking than by working from within.

  • http://blog.redfin.com Cynthia

    … the discussion continues on Curbed: http://la.curbed.com/archives/2008/03/yes_why_doesnt.php

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  • Jeff

    I’ve repeatedly been a buyer in West Los Angeles. While most agents do not list the square footage in the MLS, they almost always will tell you face to face – however it is incredibly unreliable and never matches what the appraiser comes up with during the inspection period. I’ve seen it off by 20%.

  • http://www.planomatic.com Kori Covrigaru

    Readers,

    I wanted to take this opportunity to chime in as a virtual tour (interactive floor plan media) provider. This withholding of square footage and other data is a huge inconvenience for us and all users associated. I too have tried to think of reasons why CLAW would withhold this valuable information and I can’t find a reason myself. We work with many MLS systems across the country, and this is the only one that seems to make our every day lives difficult. I hope this blog posting makes a difference and CLAW conforms to the standards across the country.

    Best,

    Kori Covrigaru, CEO of PlanOmatic
    http://www.planomatic.com

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    Kori, excellent comment, and thank you for your support and confirmation that CLAW is one of the only MLSs that is doing this.

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    Hi, Jeff; thanks for your comment. I think most consumers realize that square footage is often off. There are disclaimers that let agents off the hook, and appraisers who will get everyone the exact figure. Even ballpark figures, however, are better for consumers than no figures at all.

  • http://guests.themls.com clawmls

    I’ve been following this post and since I work for CLAW MLS, I’d like to respond to some issues and concerns raised in the post and in the comments.

    First of all, do you know who you have spoken with or which e-mail address have you used?

    Secondly, as far as Redfin and square footage is concerned: this is an issue that you have to take up with Redfin, not us. We provide numerous data feeds to various organizations/websites and I don’t believe that Redfin specifically requested to receive square footage as part of their feed. We provide this data when asked for it. If your company submits this request via proper channels it will be reviewed and addressed in an expedient manner.

    In more generic terms as far as data availability at http://guests.themls.com and other sites, please do keep in mind that our organization primarily serves our membership and we do have to respond to their needs and wishes. The guest site is important to us and we want to make it a valuable destination and an important resource for the public; however we do have to balance interests of buying and listing agents, brokers and general public.

    Having said that, we are currently working on redesigning the guest site and we are exploring possibilities where we may include additional information with the listings. Hopefully you will find that it is vastly improved both from a design/experience perspective and the information that it makes available.

    Regardless of where you may stand on this particular subject, we do appreciate concerns and suggestions that you may have. We consistently monitor a number of blogs as well as other resources for feedback from agents as well as general public.

    We do want to interact with our users and we’ll try to be a more frequent presence on these pages. In the mean time, if you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to contact us at blogreply@themls.com

    Thanks

  • http://losangeles.redfin.com/blog/author/cindy.allen Cindy Allen

    CLAW MLS, thank you for replying. As far as who I contacted: I phoned Carlos Constanza, CLAW compliance coordinator, around March 6 and left a message on his voicemail. After receiving no reply, I called CLAW’s main number again, and was told the person I needed to speak with was Gigi Marina; I was given her e-mail address. I e-mailed her on March. 11.

    After receiving no reply, I paid a visit to CLAW’s offices on Robertson on St. Patrick’s Day and met Gigi in person. She knew who I was and told me she had forwarded my e-mail to Annie Ives, the CEO, who was at lunch. I was given Ms. Ives’ business card. I returned home and forwarded Ms. Ives my e-mail to Gigi along with another note explaining my inquiry. I asked that she respond by Wednesday. On Wednesday morning, after not hearing anything, I wrote to Ms. Ives and told her I’d be writing about the subject on Thursday’s blog and I’d welcome her comments until 5 p.m. I didn’t hear anything.

    When you say that you “provide numerous data feeds to various organizations/websites” and that Redfin needs to specifically request that square footage be included: Are there other public sites that you have provided square footage and lot size information to? I am unaware of any.

    I’m very encouraged to hesr that you will consider upgrading themls.com to include this information.

    Again, thank you for responding.

  • http://www.redfin.com Bryan

    Typically we do talk to all MLSs about making sure Redfin has all the listing data that is publicly available in an MLS on another site or through a data feed. For example, when we found CLAW MLS had open house times available on their public site, we asked to get that into our feed as well and they were great in providing us that data. We have open house times in LA thanks to their help.

    That being said, we in the technical team don’t always know what fields are possible to get in our feeds. It’s great to hear that we can get this square footage information added and we’ll definitely follow up with the technical folks at CLAW to get that data and any other we might be missing added as well.

    Regards,
    Bryan Selner
    Director of Product Management, Redfin

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  • Bart Hubbard

    Hi there. I used to work for CLAW and I was involved in the first set of data that was shared out to consumers via the public face of themls.com in late 2000. The decision then was based on what the CLAW board had deemed was good for agents. The information was available to realtor members of CLAW. I would suggest that in addition to contacting Mrs. Ives, that you contact the current CLAW Board members directly to get their explanation. Generally, the heads of BHGLAAR, Malibu Association of Realtors, and the Southwest Los Angeles Association of Realtors sit on the CLAW board. Pat Douglas was of SLAAR was one of the people on the board at that time and had a big say in what was put out to the general public. I’d keep in mind that CLAW serves realtor members first and foremost. Playing square footage close to the vest, keeps up the importance of the realtor in the role of buying a house.

    Best of luck,

    Bart Hubbard

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  • http://www.edhardyworld.co.uk ed hardy

    Most MLS associations are less than cordial.They’ll be sure to contact you though, if they are pushing some political agenda.

  • Guest

    Of course Annie Ives will not respond to any emails you've written or contact you in any way. She's too busy walking around with food in her mouth yelling at her employees violently! I have no idea how CLAW board members continue to allow such a person represent them as CEO of the company. She is rude, uneducated, and has terrible manners! Sad to see such poor leadership and poor work ethics.