Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fargo Buyers Alert: Don't waste your time on Zillow,Trulia and Homes.com

Most real estate home buyers are obsessed with finding the next great deal.  So much so that they stay up into the wee hours of the night scouring the internet for properties,  As real estate agents know, our livelihoods depend on the accuracy of the data we analyze and for that reason I’m begging you to PLEASE stop searching for real estate on nationwide portals like Trulia, Zillow and Homes.com - amongst many others!

For the past 12 months brokerage after brokerage has decided to withdrawal their listings from the nationwide real estate search portals citing, among other things, horribly inaccurate information and in some cases outright scams.

Very Inaccurate Real Estate Search Results
National portals like Trulia and Zilliow are slow to show new listings.  When a property is listed for sale it hits the local MLS in a matter of minutes, usually about 15, but can take as long as 9 days to populate to nationally syndicated sites according to studies on the subject.  To real estate investors ready to pounce 9 days might as well be 3 months.  By the time the home owner sees the listing, sees the property and submits an offer sufficient time will have passed that there could be one or more competitive bids or quite possibly the property could have sold already.  A seasoned real estate agent knows how important timing is and getting all of your real estate listings even 24 hours later than your competitors will cause you to miss out on great deals.

Bad Data
The real estate company Redfin was hired recently to assess the accuracy of sites like Trulia and Zillow and their study found that approximately 36% of the listings shown as active on Zillow and Trulia were no longer for sale in the local MLS, compared with almost 0% on local brokerage websites.  The study further found that brokerage sourced listings using their local MLS feed displayed 100% of the MLS homes listed for sale on their websites but Trulia only displayed 81% and Zillow 79%.  So let me summarize – over 1/3rd of the listings you are seeing are NOT ACTUALLY FOR SALE and you only get to see 4/5th of the listings that are actually for sale.  LOL.  I could go on but really there’s no need.  Obviously anyone searching for properties in a city would like to have access to all of the listings that are for sale and none of the ones that aren’t.

What’s My House Worth? (Don’t Ask Zillow)
I considered writing an entire post of the accuracy…or inaccuracy, of real estate portal pricing tools like the famed Zillow Zestimate.  For those who aren’t familiar with Zillow the website offers an opinion of a listed house value called a Zestimate and it is prominently displayed on each property’s listing page.  Sounds great right?  Unfortunately the Zestimate values aren’t even close to the actual values that the properties sell for.  If you’re wondering how I can be so sure it’s because, to Zillow’s credit, they actually publicize the accuracy of their Zestimates city by city. To measure the accuracy of the Zestimate Zillow compares the actual home sale prices of homes with their Zestimate and they’ve found that the Zesimtate is within 5% of the actual sale price around 33% of the time and within 10% of the sale price around 50% of the time.  What To Do?

For real estate home buyers in need of accurate and timely data national search portals like Trulia and Zillow are not as reliable as other options available.  Instead of searching for properties on these websites real estate investors should focus on smaller, local brokerage based websites, establish relationships with local real estate agents or get a real estate license and pay to join the local MLS where they invest.  These steps will assure that you are getting the most accurate and up to date information and will give you a competitive advantage over those who are searching for real estate with websites like Trulia and Zillow.

Find out the value of your home from a local real estate professional, using local market data and accurate listing information. Find out your homes value here.

What do you think? Do you use Trulia or Zillow?

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Finding a good real estate agent / broker

Finding a good real estate agent / broker is essential to enjoying a painless real estate transaction. The saying is "20% of the agents do 80% of the business," and it is true. The question is how can you find a good real estate agent? The best agent for you doesn't necessarily work at the largest brokerage, close the most transactions or make the most money. The best agent for you is an experienced professional who will listen to you, conduct herself in an ethical manner and knows your market.

1. REALTORS® and Real Estate Agents

All Realtors® are licensed to sell real estate as an agent or a broker but not all real estate agents are Realtors®. Only Realtors can display the Realtor® Realtors belong to the National Association of Realtors and pledge to follow the Code of Ethics, a comprehensive list containing 17 articles and underlying standards of practice, which establish levels of conduct that are higher than ordinary business practices or those required by law. Less than half of all licensees are Realtors®.

2. Referrals

Most real estate agents stay in business because satisfied clients refer them to friends, family, neighbors and coworkers. Ask the people around you who they have used and ask them to describe their experiences with this real estate agent. Successful agents make customer satisfaction their number one priority and put their customers' needs before their own. Try to find an agent who goes above and beyond her responsibilities. She'll be the agent whose praises your friends sing loudest.

3. Search Online for Agent Listings

There are plenty of Web sites that will refer agents to you but that is no assurance of quality. The agents they refer are those who have paid the Web site owners a fee to be listed in their directory. A better bet is to Google the top real estate companies in your area, go to those Web sites and look up profiles of individual agents at offices near you. Agents who are experienced will tell you but newer agents might have more time to spend with you. Look for customer testimonials.

4. Attend Open Houses

By going to open houses, you can meet real estate agents in a non-threatening working environment and interact with them. Collect business cards and make notes on them. If you're thinking about selling your home, pay attention to how the agent is showing the home. Is she polite and informative; appear knowledgeable? Does she hand out professional-looking promotional material about the home? Is she trying to sell features of the home? Or is she sitting in a corner reading a book, ignoring you?

5. Track Neighborhood Signs

Pay attention to the listing signs in your neighborhood. Make note of the day they go up and when the sold sign appears. The agent who sells listings the fastest might be better for you than the agent with the largest number of "for sale" signs. Results speak volumes.

6. Using Print Advertising

Real estate agents run real estate ads for two purposes. The first is to sell specific real estate. The second is to promote the real estate agent. Look in your local Sunday newspaper for ads in your targeted neighborhood. Then look up the Web sites of the agents who are advertising. These agents could be specialists in your neighborhood. Call and ask them about their experience.

7. Recommendations from Professionals

Ask other real estate agents for referrals. Agents are happy to refer buyers and sellers to associates, especially if the service you need is not a specialty of the agent who is referring you. Some agents specialize in residential resales while others work exclusively with new home builders. Other agents sell only commercial or investment property. Mortgage brokers are also a resource for agent referrals as many brokers have first-hand knowledge of exceptional agents. Pros tend to refer pros.