FAQ: Why Are On-line Search Sites Unreliable?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with New Paradigm Partners LLC EB #1326335

If you're searching for a new home, odds are you've been using one of the big on-line search sites. And it's likely that you have seen a home you really liked, but when you asked your agent to show them to you, he told you that it was either already under contract or sold. And this has probably happened to you more than once.


So what's going on? Why can't we trust these sites to provide accurate and timely information?


Here's what I was told by some experts when I asked about this:


Data OverloadThe big search sites aggregate listing data from perhaps as many as 800 - 1,000 different Multiple Listing Service (MLS) systems. Each of these MLS systems is independently operated, and many of them are using their own software and systems to provide data to their members. The data that is included, the way it's handled internally, and the way it's made available for outside use can vary greatly. So it's essentially a data nightmare when the big aggregators try and take all of these different data streams and combine them smoothly.


As an example, take how my local MLS handles the basic issue of a home's availability for sale. Our "active" category has three subcategories - active, active/backup and active/first right. And we also have a pending category.


Active homes are on the market and haven't yet entered into a contract for sale.

Active/backup homes have a contract, but are still available for showings and will consider backup offers in the event that the accepted contract falls.

Active/first right contracts have a contract with a contingency - perhaps the sale of an existing home. If another buyer wishes, they can attempt to bump that first contract by making an acceptable offer - if the first contract isn't able to remove their contingency, they are bumped and the second contract becomes effective.

Pending means there are no more showings, and that usually contingencies for inspection, loan and title have expired or been removed.


So what does the big aggregator site do with this? Often, all of the active categories are just lumped into being shown as active. It's not ideal, but take that example, multiply it by the ways that all of the many other data categories are named and handled, and then multiply that by all of the different MLS systems - it's amazing we get anything useful at all.


So, what can you do about this?


If you're in northern Colorado, the answer is easy. Our MLS operates a public mirror site - Coloproperty.com - that is directly tied to our MLS and provides completely up to date information. If Coloproperty says a home is available, you can pretty much count on that. The site is free and easy to use.


Or even better, we can set up an on-going search based on your criteria and feed the MLS results directly to a website set up particularly for your use. Properties that are posted to your website are maintained in real time, so you'll not only know what homes are for sale, but you'll also be informed when their status changes to backup, pending or sold. And you can see all of the listing data, keep notes and save to different categories like favorites, maybes or trash.



You're not considering buying a home anywhere in the US - you're looking here, so why not use a local and accurate search site specific to the area you'll be living in? You will be searching without doubt or confusion, and when you find something good, you'll have confidence that your excitement isn't misplaced.

Posted by
Mary & Dick

Mary & Dick Greenberg
New Paradigm Partners LLC
2601 S. Lemay Ave. #41
Fort Collins, CO 80525


Data Source: IRES MLS


Re-Blogged 2 times:

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John Marshall - FORE!
The K Company Realty - Cherry Hills Village, CO
Specializing in Golf Course Properties

Dick, this is so good, the mega sites pull from such ridiculous places just to get eyes on them, early on I was working with a buyer and they found a "pre-foreclosure" on one of these, imagine everyones surprise when I take my buyer to the home knock on the door and tell the owner we understand they are in a dire situation and my buyer would be interested in making an offer, the seller was late on one payment and Mega site picked it up and advertised it as a for sale pre-foreclosure, I apologized profusely, my buyer learned to never trust these sites and one PO'd homeowner who had absolutely no intention of moving was beside themselves.

Trust the professionals!

Jun 14, 2017 07:01 AM #31
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

Great post Dick! Congrats on the feature. 

I actually saw this on my Facebook feed.  So it is getting a lot of syndication. 

I have seen this personally many times where clients ask me to check on a home and I spin my wheels looking for it only to find it has been off the market sometimes for months! We all need to do a better job getting this info out for our clients. 

Jun 14, 2017 07:31 AM #32
Susie Kay
Ultima Real Estate - Plano, TX
North Dallas Specialist

Wonderful blog and a nice website.  Good job Dick Greenberg !

Jun 14, 2017 07:43 AM #33
Realty One Group Alliance - San Mateo, CA
Broker Associate & Licensed Architect

Thank you for sharing such great blog. 

Jun 14, 2017 08:53 AM #34
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

Glad to see this featured. We are continually educating buyers ( and sellers) about the problems with the big search sites.  It's an uphill battle. ;) 

Jun 14, 2017 08:58 AM #35
Pat Starnes, Brandon, MS
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
Broker Associate, ABR, 601-278-4513

Clients get frustrated, understandably, when they look at a property on one of the big search engines and they think it's available when it isn't. They TRUST these sites although the information is not accurate, and I think it makes the industry look bad. When in doubt, please call the local expert who can get you current information regarding what's for sale.

Jun 14, 2017 10:45 AM #36
Melissa E. Spittel
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Westminster, MD
"Achieving Results Together "

You have provided great insight into why on-line search sites are unrealiable. When will the public get it? Like most agents, I have had buyers ask me over and over about different listings they foud on "those sites". More times than not, those homes are either under contract, or were sold months or even years ago! 

Jun 14, 2017 07:23 PM #37
Kasey & John Boles
Jon Gosche Real Estate, LLC - BoiseMeridianRealEstate.com - Boise, ID
Boise & Meridian, ID Ada/Canyon/Gem/Boise Counties

I have a client who had a neighbor tell her that her home was showing up as a pre-foreclosure on one of those sites.  She was mortified because they were not in default at all, so the info was inaccurate but people, including friends and neighbors had seen it.  She got it sorted out and removed and it was found before she started getting the letters and door knocks from people seeking the pre-foreclosure market, but it wasn't good that it even happened in the first place.  She still doesn't know why or how they got any kind of information to stick it in that category. -Kasey

Jun 14, 2017 08:37 PM #38
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

I love the post. I hope home buyers and sellers will read this post and learn from it.

Jun 15, 2017 03:26 AM #39
Steven Beam
RE/MAX Alliance - Parker Colorado Real Estate. - Parker, CO
Parker Colorado Real Estate

Great post. We need to as a group get the consumer off Z&T and onto our local MLS sites and apps. 

Jun 15, 2017 07:44 AM #40
Patricia Feager
Selling Homes Changing Lives

This is a great explanation for properties in the MLS. I checked your link for Coloproperty.com and thought it was very well done! I like the ease of selecting major cities and the organization from lowest price to highest on each page. It's very efficient! I wish our MLS mirrored this concept. It would make life so much easier because it's ridiculous how much time is wasted by each individual and agent hunting down properties that aren't truly active! Colorado does it right. Dick Greenberg does it even better!

Jun 15, 2017 01:39 PM #41
Dave Halpern
Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827 - Louisville, KY
Louisville Short Sale Expert

The major aggregators are causing chaos and confusion to the detriment of end consumers. 

Jun 15, 2017 03:15 PM #42
Melissa Jackson
United Country Real Estate FW - Fort Worth, TX
REALTOR® Matching Buyers & Sellers

Great information. We discussed this very topic today.  I always encourage clients to use my search engine.  

Jun 15, 2017 10:03 PM #43
Luke Acree
ReminderMedia - King of Prussia, PA
Making Agents Memorable

I think public mirror sites are a great way to give prospective buyers the best information possible.

Jun 16, 2017 07:11 AM #44
Debe Maxwell, CRS
www.AtHomesCharlotte.com | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Homes for Sale - Charlotte Neighborhoods

Absolutely SPOT-ON, Dick!  I spend an inordinate amount of time answering calls, responding to emails and texts from buyers who find homes on one of the NATIONAL sites that are no longer available - heck, some of them have been CLOSED for over a year!

It's mind-boggling why, when they know that we have low inventory and have access to our LOCAL search site and everything that fits their criteria, they go looking on the national syndiacted sites, hoping to find something that's JUST NOT THERE!  I tell them to be patient and something will come up - soon!  

Jun 17, 2017 11:04 AM #45
Adam Feinberg
NYC Condo, Co-op, and Townhouse specialist

NYC doesn't have an MLS- though there is a brokerage community site that is somewhat close to being an MLS as is Streeteasy- available to the public (now owned by Zillow).  It's pretty common here to not update any of the websites for any number of reasons. That said, the process is so very different here - especially the heavy use of attorney's and due diligence of the building financials, meeting minutes, etc.

Jun 17, 2017 05:30 PM #46
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Interesting.  I didn't know you guys in Colorado had a public site with data from the MLS.  Interesting!

Jun 20, 2017 07:19 PM #47
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Dick. This is terrific! In NJ where I practiced many advertising websites never removed listings. I would often gets calls years later.

Jun 21, 2017 05:43 AM #48
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
Keller Williams 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce - Short Sale

We explain this constantly to both buyers and sellers.... a MUST Read for the greater education of both sides of the transaction.

Jun 23, 2017 01:43 AM #49
Jim Cheney
Saint Francis Property Santa Rosa, CA - Santa Rosa, CA
Rincon Valley Realtor 707.494.1055

Very nice explanation why a customer should refer to the local public MLS sites Dick Greenberg 

Oct 07, 2017 07:21 AM #50
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