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Monday, July 25, 2011

Is the Internet actually getting in the way of real estate?

I work with a number of buyers, most of whom are avid Internet users. That has actually proven to be a bad thing, rather then the good thing that one might have thought it would be. Many of these enthusiastic would-be buyers spend hours searching various Web sites each day in hunt of those illusive deals that I somehow have failed to send to them in my search results.
Of course, they find them. Then they pop off messages to me asking about this house or that, which they found on ObscureRealEstate.com or some other site that claims to have all of the real estate listings (Zillow and Trulia are a couple of biggies that many use). A helpful MLS listing number is seldom included in their messages, just a partial address or a link to some web site that itself doesn’t give much information unless one signs up to have an agent call.

This practice of trolling the Internet in search of previously unmentioned homes for sale has become an obsession for some, but for the most part it is a giant waster of time – theirs and mine. The main reason is that most of the Web sites that people end up on are woefully out of date and are set up mainly to draw the unsuspecting house hunter in so that a “lead” can be give to a agent somewhere.

About 30-40% of the time the great house that the would-be buyer has found has actually been sold for some time. Most of the big real estate sites are terrible at keeping updated, especially those that let agents upload their listings (agents are terrible at keeping things updated on those sites, too). I usually advise my local buyers to at least use the Realtor.com or Realestateone.com - sites that I know are updated every day.

The links to sites with the perfect house on it often resolve to some agent’s personal web site or some local web site of a franchise operation. In those instances there is usually not enough information to even figure out where the house is without signing up to be called by an agent. Those sites are there to generate leads for the franchise agents. They are also most often out of date, so go somewhere else.

Sites like Homes.com and Housevalues.com and Justlisted.com are for-profit lead generation sites whose sole purpose is to lure in unsuspecting buyers and sellers so that they can sell their personal information as leads to hungry Realtors. So, the bottom line is that a lot of time and effort is wasted, both by would-be buyers and by the Realtor that they may be working with in their house hunt. If you find yourself on a site that won’t supply information like the address or the MLS listing number, unless you sign up for something, run (don’t walk) away and find another site.

The Internet is a wonderful thing, but just because you saw something there doesn’t make it true. Just because you see a house “for sale” on a Web site, doesn’t mean that it’s still available. And, just because the pictures that you saw posted there looked great, doesn’t mean that you won’t walk into a real pit, if you visit the place. Let your agent do his/her job and you won’t end up wasting your time or your agent’s time.

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