If you're searching for a new home, odds are you've been using one of the big on-line search sites. And it's likely that you have seen a home you really liked, but when you asked your agent to show them to you, he told you that it was either already under contract or sold. And this has probably happened to you more than once.
So what's going on? Why can't we trust these sites to provide accurate and timely information?
Here's what I was told by some experts when I asked about this:
The big search sites aggregate listing data from perhaps as many as 800 - 1,000 different Multiple Listing Service (MLS) systems. Each of these MLS systems is independently operated, and many of them are using their own software and systems to provide data to their members. The data that is included, the way it's handled internally, and the way it's made available for outside use can vary greatly. So it's essentially a data nightmare when the big aggregators try and take all of these different data streams and combine them smoothly.
As an example, take how my local MLS handles the basic issue of a home's availability for sale. Our "active" category has three subcategories - active, active/backup and active/first right. And we also have a pending category.
Active homes are on the market and haven't yet entered into a contract for sale.
Active/backup homes have a contract, but are still available for showings and will consider backup offers in the event that the accepted contract falls.
Active/first right contracts have a contract with a contingency - perhaps the sale of an existing home. If another buyer wishes, they can attempt to bump that first contract by making an acceptable offer - if the first contract isn't able to remove their contingency, they are bumped and the second contract becomes effective.
Pending means there are no more showings, and that usually contingencies for inspection, loan and title have expired or been removed.
So what does the big aggregator site do with this? Often, all of the active categories are just lumped into being shown as active. It's not ideal, but take that example, multiply it by the ways that all of the many other data categories are named and handled, and then multiply that by all of the different MLS systems - it's amazing we get anything useful at all.
So, what can you do about this?
If you're in northern Colorado, the answer is easy. Our MLS operates a public mirror site - Coloproperty.com - that is directly tied to our MLS and provides completely up to date information. If Coloproperty says a home is available, you can pretty much count on that. The site is free and easy to use.
Or even better, we can set up an on-going search based on your criteria and feed the MLS results directly to a website set up particularly for your use. Properties that are posted to your website are maintained in real time, so you'll not only know what homes are for sale, but you'll also be informed when their status changes to backup, pending or sold. And you can see all of the listing data, keep notes and save to different categories like favorites, maybes or trash.
You're not considering buying a home anywhere in the US - you're looking here, so why not use a local and accurate search site specific to the area you'll be living in? You will be searching without doubt or confusion, and when you find something good, you'll have confidence that your excitement isn't misplaced.
Mary & Dick Greenberg
Data Source: IRES MLS