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Local innovation "The Thing" follows 70 real-estate markets

Sometimes an innovation is so welcome that it doesn't need branding.

When medieval Icelanders needed a name for their big invention, the world's first parliament, they settled on simply calling it the All-Thing.

This summer the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors (MAAR) faced the dilemma of naming its invention, an online, interactive database of local real-estate activity.

The MAAR staff took the Icelandic route. They called it The Thing.

Click on thething.mplsrealtor.com and you become the master of your own real estate data. Choose a Twin Cities neighborhood, a date range and a metric such as Days on Market, and colored lines appear, stretching across a chart to tell the story you want.

The Thing grew out of a desire to do better at communicating data, says Jeff Allen, who directs research at MAAR: "We were frustrated at our own inability to explain to our Realtors what was happening in the market in a way that was digestible and understandable to them."

MAAR "stumbled onto a business model" while trying to solve that problem, Allen says. Now its data-gathering arm, 10K Research, follows 70 markets for local realtors' associations. Some prefer a members-only approach to Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data, which is included in The Thing's database, but Allen says that in the Twin Cities the attitude is that "information should be transparent."

So far Allen says the "vast majority" of The Thing's users are real estate professionals seeking market information for their customers, says Allen. But the website is open to all and may eventually draw more lay users. "It's still in its infancy," he says.

Source: Jeff Allen, Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors
Writer: Chris Steller

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