According to the National Association of Realtor, over 90% of buyers begin their home search on-line. The most popular sites are Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com with individual brokerage sites such as Keller Williams Realty, Re/Max and others coming in a distant second. All of the outside companies work with the various Realtor Multiple Listing Services around the country to make real estate listings available for consumers at no charge. However, if you are going to use these sites to search for homes, there are a few things to consider.
First, there may be a lag in updating the information on these sites; they do not update in real time. Therefore, you may see an available listing on Zillow, for example, only to find out that there is a buyer contract on the home and it is no longer available for purchase. This happens because there is a delay in getting information from the Multiple Listing Services (MLS) syndicated out to the various sites. The exception is Realtor.com who updates every 15 minutes according to their internal sources.
Second, many of these sites will continue to show homes that are “under contract” or off the market so pay close attention to the status of these listings when searching. A “pending” listing is the same as under contract and is no longer available. “Off market” means the home has been sold and likewise is no longer available. Off market can also mean that the seller decided to withdraw the home from the market or that the listing expired without selling. Only “active” or “available” are the listing statuses that can be shown to buyers who are looking to purchase.
Third, once you are working with a Realtor, you have every available listing at your fingertips. As a real estate professional, I meet with every buyer-client to discuss both their needs and wants. I know where they want to live, how much they are approved to spend and a list of other particulars. I then create a search within our two MLS systems to ensure that every available listing matching their criteria is sent to them in real time. In this competitive market, it is essential that buyers receive every new listing as quickly as possible.
Finally, for each of my buyers, there is a personal website within our MLS created of all listings matching their criteria. These listings are emailed to the buyer to review and are then housed on this website for future reference. This site is interactive so the buyer can comment on each listing giving them a thumbs up or down.
Searching for a home is an exciting yet stressful experience. It is important to use every tool available such as the Zillow and Realtor.com sites but it is also equally important to value the work done by your Realtor. After all, one of the benefits of using a Realtor is to have every listing at your fingertips.
Disclaimer: The answers provided apply and are customary to home purchases in the Metro Atlanta area.