The Problem With Real Estate Listing Sites

The Problem with Real Estate Listing Sites

Public real estate listing and brokerage websites – including, but not limited to, Trulia, Zillow, and Redfin – have revolutionized homebuying over the years, for better and for worse.

On the one hand, homebuyers can use many of the tools offered by these sites to get their foot in the door when it comes time to start the homebuying process; they’re great for getting the feel for the market of a neighborhood or city, and can help put curious buyers in contact with capable agents. All of that is worth applauding!

Expert Tip: Contacting these sites directly about viewing homes can cost you the representation of your own real estate agent and/or can cost you actually money out of pocket. Talk to your agent before you request info from one of these third-party sites!

With that said, like all tools, these sites aren’t without their own set of limitations.

Most often, we see buyers bump up against the limits of what these sites can actually accomplish when they attempt to use one to supplant or replace their real estate agent, often by attempting to find additional homes beyond what their broker is presenting them with.

We understand the impulse! It is your home search, after all; why wouldn’t you want to find every option possible? We get it, sincerely. But we also get that seeking out listings on these brokerage sites can actually be counterproductive to your buyer’s journey overall.

To help explain why you should trust your agent to send you properties, rather than relying on a third party real estate website, let’s shed a little bit of light on how these sites work:

What You Need to Know About Redfin, Trulia, Zillow, and Other Sites 

A great place to start when it comes to understanding the benefits- and drawbacks – of these popular real estate websites is to understand how they actually aggregate the listings that they present to interested searchers like you.

You see, the source of data for Redfin, Zillow, Trulia, other brokerage sites is actually the real estate broker’s system of record, ConnectMLS (in Chicago and surrounds.) Anything you see on those additional sites is there because it’s also in ConnectMLS.

So, with that in mind, remember that your real estate broker does actually have access to the same pool of homes available on those public sites. In truth, real estate professionals actually have access to more homes total than these public-facing sites – and there’s likely a reason that your broker isn’t showing you a property that popped up in your search.

Why Am I Seeing Homes Online That My Agent Hasn’t Brought Up?

The primary reasons for seeing homes on these additional sites that your broker didn’t bring up during your search are:

  1. The house may already be off the market. The sites we’ve been discussing often lag when it comes to property status – meaning that the property might be sold, canceled, or otherwise of the market and still showing as active on, for instance, Redfin. Sometimes these update in 24 hours, but sometimes their data can be eight or nine months out of date.
  2. The home doesn't meet the criteria we've set up. The third party sites don't use all the data that we’ll use for your search, for example, so applying some filters simply isn’t possible. But, more often than not, our clients send us homes that are outside of a boundary they defined, that don't allow pets (although our client has pets), that won’t have any parking, or sufficient parking... We could go on.  

Once we receive properties from third parties, we take care to look them up individually in ConnectMLS and see where the disconnect is. Sometimes it is obvious – the price point is wrong, say, or the home is already under contract. Sometimes it is less so (i.e., pet limitations, just outside a school boundary, or some other disqualifying criteria that may not be immediately evident when searching on a third party site).

The Bottom Line

With all of this being said, we recognize that the Chicago marketplace is rich and ever-changing, and we welcome input – this is your dream home, after all!

If you're finding properties on third-party sites that we don't send you, and you don’t know why, let us know and we can adjust your search criteria appropriately. That will let us get you everything you want in an efficient manner, ensure you don't have elevated or unrealistic expectations, and allow us to have enough information to advise and schedule you to maximum success.

It may be an iterative process, so we're happy to look at what you've found elsewhere and improve our process for you!

Have any other questions about working with a broker in Chicago? Looking to start the search for your new home today? The Real Group team is here and happy to help! Drop us a line today to get the conversation started!

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