Finding Property Online Can Be Tricky
Posted by David Rosenfeld on Nov 29, 2012 - 6:18:17 PM
LOS ANGELES—In this day and age, surfing the Web has become second nature to many of us. No matter what we may need, whether it’s finding a good restaurant, a local dental office or even a local realtor, the Web is able to provide us with nearly everything we may need.
Be careful when looking for homes online.
So much so, that we’re all seemingly becoming more and more Web savvy, whether we like it or not. So it’s not surprising when I hear clients talking about a great real estate find they saw online. I can see their excitement as they tell me about this seeming unusual find. But the smiles soon turn to frowns when I look into it and find the property was sold long ago or was never for sale to begin with. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that many Web sites are simply not well maintained nor well updated.
Just because a site looks flashy, includes satellite photos of properties and a slew of statistical information and links to banks, finance houses and real estate pros, it doesn’t necessarily mean it has the information you need to make a potential offer.
Zillow.com for instance, is a popular site with potential buyers and many real estate pros, with its slew of statistical information like square footage, estimated value, the value of nearby properties, as well as a variety of photos and historical data on past sale prices and property tax information, among other things.
Many swear by it, but while the site, which is free, has some value with its statistics and links to various other resources, it is not updated frequently enough to reflect current value or whether the home is for sale at all. Its value estimates are frequently off since they don’t really reflect the current down economy and market fluctuations. You may well input your own home address to see what its current value is, but you’ll be sorely disappointed once you compare it to what a real estate professional’s resources will tell you.
Likewise, Trulia.com (another free site) has a lot of information, but also has dated material that is not helpful to potential buyers and real estate pros. Buyers are looking for up-to-date information that’s accurate and useful and having a flashy website with lots of data and links is not enough for those looking for their next home.
Trulia has a lot of data on foreclosed homes, but much of it is too dated to be useful for those hoping to find a good buy. Unfortunately, this leads to frustration that is often taken out on realtors who are working with these potential buyers. Often, they’ll receive a call from angry clients asking “Why didn’t you tell me about this house I found on the Web?” But once they learn the home was sold long ago, the frustration sets in.
My answer to all this is to deal directly with a real estate professional and let them do their job. These pros have the resources and knowledge of the market that will give you the opportunity to find the kind of property you’ve been looking for. You’ll receive accurate information and often real-time data without the frustration of a fruitless Web search.
But not all the news is bad when it comes to the Web. Realtor.com is the best site for the potential buyer. The site is free with data that is frequently updated and covers every state in the country. Though it’s not as showy as Zillow or Trulia, it offers lots of good information that makes a good starting point for your search for a property with the assistance of a real estate professional.
There are many things the Web can do to make you a real do-it-yourself type. But real estate is not one of them. Computers and databases have not replaced the human being just yet in this area. And given that buying a home is one of the most important purchases in your life, it’s most beneficial to have a real professional on your side.
David Rosenfeld is a Real Estate broker and president of Advantage Real Estate, a Real Estate and investment firm in Santa Monica, and a Rotary Club member. He has more than 20 years experience in commercial and residential property investments and financial counseling.