What can go wrong when searching online for a new home in Manhattan Beach, CA?
What real estate website do you have ear-marked? Zillow? Trulia? Homes.com? Realtor.com? Do you ever find prices to be waaayyy off? See a house you love listed for sale then call on it only to find it sold 4 days ago? How does this happen? Where’s the glitch in the system? How come the information can be so inaccurate on such reliable, name brand sites?
When using an internet service outside of a direct MLS link such as RedDoor, Zillow and the like, you can't always assume the information to reflect up-to-the-minute changes of what’s going on in the active Real Estate market. Here’s why . . .
Nowadays, a listing is built in the Multiple Listing Service by hand by a listing agent. That agent will input all sorts of important details about their listing that help make it stand out to buyers and also help reach the right buyer who is looking for those exact details. Depending on the MLS agreement with their local board & area, it is very likely and common that the listing will then automatically populate on multiple real estate related websites who have what is called an IDX (or internet data exchange) agreement with these sites. This is what we call in our industry, “listing syndication”. What this does for you, the buyer, is ensures that one way or another, you're going to stumble upon this house for sale on the internet somewhere. What is does for the seller is exponentially increase the web presence for their listing.
Some agents rely on the auto-population that their membership with their local board of realtors offers as an added benefit and bonus to their service. All Realtors who belong to the board receive the same amount of “automatic” syndication exposure as part of their membership. Others elect to invest in advanced memberships with particularly popular consumer websites such as Homes.com, Realtor.com and the like. They do this so that their listing will stand out above the rest. These featured ad slots can be very expensive, but many agents believe it is worth the investment to move the listing to the front of the millions of eyes that fall on that website every week. Syndication has become as vital to our marketing efforts as putting a sign in the yard.
Where the variances in information can occur comes from the process of syndication itself. What happens in syndication is that depending on the receiving website's platform (how it is built and functions internally) information from the MLS listing is grabbed and plugged into matching fields on the new website. Have you ever seen a home listed with 2 baths and stumble across the same home on another website and notice that it is listed with 1 and a half baths? That makes a difference, right? You may really need two bathtubs because bath-time at your current one and a half bath home is a nightmare most nights. Most likely, the home actually has 1.5 baths, but the receiving platform did not have an option to "pull in" a half bath into the bathroom count field, so it defaults as a 2 bath.
Another thing to understand about syndication is that it is not always immediate; when an agent changes a price in the MLS or changes the status from "active" to "pending" it can take up to 72 hrs for some syndicated sites to re-populate with the updated data! THAT's why you'll find that you can get your hopes up and fall in love with a property that says its available then you call your agent only to find that it went into escrow 3 days ago.
These are small examples with which I hope to help you understand why even though these websites are awesome to begin your search on, the best and most accurate way to get reliable information is working with a real estate agent.
If you are serious about buying a home, you need to be working daily with an agent. The best sites for accurate data are usually unique links provided to you directly from your agent’s personal access to the MLS. These links give you direct updates from the MLS and refresh information on an average of every 30 minutes. It's the only way to avoid having your hopes dashed when you find the home of your dreams and then come to find out that apparently it was someone else's, too. By working with an agent, another buyer found out about it before you did and got their offer accepted before the syndicated website you are using even had a chance to perform the daily (or weekly) update and pull the new information in from the MLS.
You can have access to my MLS information right now by visiting ListingBook, which is the consumer version of the same MLS information I use everyday to provide current and accurate information to my clients everyday. It’s free, it’s accurate, and it’s pretty cool. You can adjust your search easily, change how you receive your information everyday, ask me questions directly from the system without ever having to bother to call me, and search MLS information just like an agent.
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