How to Avoid the Online Real-Estate Headaches

Why you should avoid Zillow, Trulia and

In a society obsessed with social media, we are bombarded by content, especially while shopping for anything from shoes to houses. Today, anybody can post information online and just because a website’s popular doesn’t mean it’s accurate. Now more than ever, we need to be very conscious of where our information comes from. Do the founders of Trulia or Zillow have a motive for posting certain content? Other than revenue, what’s the real reason Trulia exists?

In real estate, most websites exist to extract your contact information. They’re traps created as a lead machine for Realtors (the ones who pay anyway). Websites such as Zillow, and Trulia are all designed with the sole purpose of creating (cold) leads for Realtors, and in turn, revenue for the website. At the same time, these are the exact sites where buyers begin their home search and where sellers look to find the value of their current home. This creates a variety of problems due to the false advertising and inaccurate data.

Of all the real estate databases, Zillow is probably the worst and the most commonly used site by consumers whose information is then sold to multiple Realtors. I understand sales jobs are competitive and finding good leads is the #1 key to survival, but is this even a way to obtain strong, profitable leads? I doubt it.

Zillow creates a lose-lose situation. The potential buyer is angry, the agent is paying way too much money to compete with way too many agents, and it’s overwhelming for a buyer who is only on Zillow to browse through the home photos. During the timeline of these first searches, many buyers are in no way ready to act on a property. I’m sure some Realtors thrive using Zillow leads, but it puts a sour taste in my mouth. It’s not honest, and it’s not accurate. Who is winning here by creating revenue? Zillow.

Inaccurate information for buyers

Many of the homes listed on Zillow or Trulia may not be for sale. For example, a client of mine was intrigued by a house they saw on Trulia. Trulia’s data showed the house was currently for sale, had been on the market for almost a month and was in the area and budget they wanted. What I found via the MLS is that the house had sold in three days a month prior and for over asking price. Apparently Trulia doesn’t update the site as often as it should and  of course there’s money to be made with inaccurate content.

Another way Zillow or Trulia may provide inaccurate information is through the agent listed with the property. You would think this is the “listing agent” or the “seller’s agent.” Wrong. It’s usually attached to a paying Realtor client of Zillow or Trulia. It’s misleading advertising, and it’s taking advantage of people. So instead of turning to a massive online real estate database like Zillow, turn to friends and family. A simple social media post asking for a great local Realtor will probably get you great results!

For sellers

Zestimates are Zillow’s algorithm-produced appraisals for the purpose of establishing a sale OR rent value. They provide people with a ballpark estimate of what a particular property is worth. Zestimates are rarely accurate. According to economist John Wake, the typical Zillow Zestimate error is $15,000. “You don’t know if it’s $15,000 too high or $15,000 too low. And it gets worse because HALF the time Zillow Zestimates are off by a lot more than $15,000”. How can they be accurate when there are so many factors to determine how much a house is actually worth. No two houses are the same, thus impossible for a computer to determine a value. Zillow uses a computer generated algorithm based on what has sold in the area, the square footage and the number of bedrooms. The basics. They don’t have inspectors checking out each property making sure their data is accurate.

Unwanted Communication

If you enter your information into online real estate databases, expect your phone to start buzzing. A consumer’s information will potentially be shared or sold to hundreds of agents. The house you were simply curious about has now caused you hours of annoying calls and emails from different Realtors and depending on the persistence of the agent……this could last for months.

If you’re working with a Realtor, they’ve probably set you up with a home search. I know it’s still tempting to look on Zillow or Trulia. You may see homes that fit your exact criteria, and the price is great! But why hasn’t your Realtor sent you these? Unfortunately, the listing is probably not accurate or available. Realtors set you up with home searches which are directly from the MLS (Multiple Listings Service). The MLS will be the most up to date home search you can get, and it will come directly from a Realtor. With an MLS search set up via a Realtor, you will know the homes in your search are on the market. Also, if you set up your search with a Realtor, they will be the only one contacting you.

If you’re curious and not ready to buy? Please don’t waste anyone’s time!

Realtors work on commission, and most Realtors won’t mind helping you with a simple automatic home search. It takes almost no time! Realtors work in a competitive field and by going out of their way to help somebody now, they are slowly building a connection. A new client may use this Realtor in the future or even recommend them to a friend. If not? They’ve wasted almost no time. Not to mention saved somebody the headache of sifting through false material and dodging a million sales calls!

My best advice is to find a Realtor you like, perhaps a referral from someone you trust and let the agent do the work. This will not only save you time and headaches, but also provide you with accurate information to make clear cut decisions. Good Luck!



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