Three Things to Keep in Mind when Looking at Online Listings

One of the most exciting and fun parts of looking for your first home is browsing the various online listings on sites like Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and any of the other portals now available. Nothing will get your juices flowing than finding a home online that checks all the things off on your list of a perfect home. With over ninety percent of people starting their search online when buying their first home, real estate agents and sellers have mastered the art of the perfect online post. However, there are some things to consider when shopping homes online. Here are three of them.

  1. Data will be out of date – One of the most disappointing things I have to do as an real estate agent is to tell a client that the perfect home they saw through online listings has been sold. The data on the portal is usually out of date. Why does this happen today when everything else online is so automatic? The reasons tie back to how the data is inputted originally and how it is shared on the Internet. Most real estate agents are members of an local association. These associations contract with a service provider to be the data providers for listings. This data is shared with other parties, who pay a subscription fee to gain access to the data (called syndication). Data transfers between the association service providers and the subscribers can have a lag time of 12 to 24 hours depending on the syndication agreements. In other words, you might find a great house on Zillow that shows it is still available. However, Zillow might not have received the data yet from the associations. How do you get around this technical glitch? You need to request that your agents set up a custom portal for you that ties directly into the association data in real time. Through this portal, you can check on the property to get the current status (if the listing agent has taken the time to update it)

  2. Photos show the good side – Most people fall in love with homes online through the pictures. If a picture shows a stellar place in online listings then it looks that way in reality, right? Not necessarily. Real estate agents have caught on very quickly that pictures really do speak a thousand words when it comes to property listings. Many of the agents will employ photograph tricks, like tricky lighting, wide angle lens, tripods for high angle shots, to make the home look spectacular. Most of the time, the pictures look a lot better than you will see in person. Also, often a home situation has changed such as the seller has moved out of the home so it is vacant. Vacant homes do not look as appealing in real life as the pictures with a staged room arrangement. It is always best to set your expectations when it comes to looking at photos online. More often than not, these pictures speak a different truth than the reality.

  3. Verify School Districts and other community information – Many buyers will also be looking closely at other data on the portal to confirm the property is right for them. For example, many buyers like using the online listings to check school district ratings, as many of the portals provide this data alongside the listing data. They will even include the individual campus for each of the age groups (Elementary, Middle School and High School). Crime rate is another favorite check for most of the buyers I assist. I admit that this data can be handy when evaluating external factors about a property. You don’t want your children to be going to a subpar school or be worried about crime. Please remember, however, to check other sources to confirm what these portals are telling you about the area. Many homes I have shown have been on the border of school districts/crime districts and the portal will place the property in the wrong location due to a faulty address. Nothing is more disappointing to find a home you like, in a community you want, to only find out none of the data is correct.