By Sam DeBord
I talk with home buyers and sellers every day. Most are in the initial stages of deciding if the market is right for them. They’re searching on Google for real estate sites with local home listings and prices. The first search results they receive are often big, national websites that aggregate listings and look great.
These usually include sites like Zillow and Trulia. While consumers gravitate to these sites because of the high-end user experience, very few realize that they’re missing a huge portion of the market. It seems counter-intuitive, but for all of the programming horsepower of the largest nationwide sites, there are actually far more timely and accurate listings on the average real estate agent’s site than there are on these monstrous property portals.
Big Portals Have Fewer Real Listings, More Duplicates and Expireds
To cite just one example, a recent study compared agent websites to portals in the Seattle market. While agent websites with a regular MLS feed had 100% of the agent-listed homes available, on that same day, Zillow had just 72% available on their website. Trulia only had 63% of those same homes. Consumers searching on these sites for homes were literally missing out on 30% or more of the market.
How can this be? It all comes down to where real estate listings are created and how they’re distributed.
Agent Websites Receive Direct Feeds While Portals Patch Together Secondary Sources
Real estate agents create and enter their “for sale” listings into the local MLS database. Those listings are available for the public to see, the very same day, on the website of every real estate agent that signs up for the listing feed. It’s fairly simple. The day the listing goes live, it shows up on the agents’ websites, and the day it’s sold, it goes away. There are no outdated listings or duplicates, just the raw list of homes for sale, straight from the MLS.
With a big property portal, on the other hand, there are a multitude of different sources being pulled in to attempt to construct a full market picture. Some agents send their listings directly to the portal, some brokers do it for them, some indirect feeds are pulled in, and some listings are just never submitted to the portal at all.
The inefficient process creates delays in the display of new home listings, and a backlog of sold and expired listings that remain on the portal websites long after they should be gone. The inventory of listings on a portal site balloons with outdated listings, while the newest homes often show up days or weeks after they’ve already been on the market.
Serious Home Buyers And Sellers Are Using Their Agents’ Websites For Listings
While it’s clear why a consumer would enjoy browsing homes on a beautifully-designed portal website, it’s also important that real home buyers and sellers are informed about their choices. If you’re truly looking to buy a home, or to assess your chances of selling, you need to see the entire market picture to make a good decision. Portal websites’ beautiful graphics and charts notwithstanding, inaccurate data in an attractive format will not overcome missing out on that perfect home, nor will it help you find the right set of comparable homes to make a good decision for your sale.
So, if you enjoy browsing real estate on a national portal’s website, just remember that while the local information and statistics are interesting, the listing portion of the site is merely an advertising platform, not the full picture of homes for sale. If you’re a serious buyer or seller, use an agent’s website. If you use your favorite local REALTOR®’s site, you’ll feel much more secure knowing you can see that perfect home on the first day it’s available. In a market where many homes are selling within a week, you’ll never miss out because you were looking in the wrong location.