Mary & Dick's Blog

FAQ: Why Are On-line Search Sites Unreliable?

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:


Data OverloadThe 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 - - 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

Mary & Dick Greenberg
New Paradigm Partners LLC
2601 S. Lemay Ave. #41
Fort Collins, CO 80525


Data Source: IRES MLS

Comment balloon 50 commentsDick Greenberg • June 12 2017 06:38PM


Hi Dick -- a very good explanation of why using "local" matters.  When someone is looking to make a move in the Northern Colorado areas you cover it makes more sense to retain the services of you and Mary for real estate representation.   

Posted by Michael Jacobs, Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393 almost 2 years ago

I have to address this one all of the time with those would-be buyers (and sellers) who find themselves wooed by Zillow. The Big Bad Z...this may be an explanation to use, and I also tell clients that they are NOT realtors, but an advertising site and they never want to delete anything because that gives them a long internet history which helps put them at the top of page 1. I use the example that you use, a buyer will see a property listed on this site and call to see it and it's been sold YEARS AGO. That's when the lightbulb goes on for these people and I can potentially educate another person as to WHY these sites are inaccurate.

Go LOCAL! or go home....or "and go home". Whatever. 

Posted by Gayle Rich-Boxman Fishhawk Lake Real Estate, "Your Local Expert!" 503-755-2905 (John L Scott Market Center) almost 2 years ago

Many sites take only some listing info and much of what they put out there is not accurate

Posted by William Feela, Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No. (WHISPERING PINES REALTY) almost 2 years ago

This is terrific information, Dick, and a well deserved feature. I feel like I am always explaining to buyers who are using various sites why what they find is often not accurate nor up to date.


Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) almost 2 years ago

Dick, I once had a buyer insist that a particular home was for sale because they had seen it on line. I eventually found an old listing for it and called the listing agent.  It had been sold several years prior to the buyer seeing it on line.

Posted by Sybil Campbell, REALTOR® ABR, SFR, SRES Williamsburg, Virginia (Long and Foster REALTORS® 5234 Monticello Ave Williamsburg, Virginia) almost 2 years ago

I agree on accuracy and often on Zillow homes are not really on the market. I do use Zillow for FSBOs only.

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) almost 2 years ago

How to process data is a field in its own right aptly called....Data Processing

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) almost 2 years ago

Hi Dick - I have some very inaccurate information on these sites for the reasons you mention.   

Posted by Grant Schneider, Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes (Performance Development Strategies) almost 2 years ago

I suspect that big lumping of active statuses is going on too.  In our MLS, we have three conttract statuses, and only one active.  I susupect they lump two of our contract statuses, into the active category. Why not?  They give the false impression they have more homes for sale, thus increase their traffic and then sell to agents showing the big traffic numbers.  It's all a crock.

Posted by Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA (Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA) almost 2 years ago

Dick  we get calls quite often asking about a home that's not active - and sold, sometimes over a year or so ago.  Go LOCAL folks - that is the best way to get the most up to date MLS information - and accurate.

Posted by Anna Banana Kruchten CRB, CRS 602-380-4886, Arizona's Top Banana! (Phoenix Property Shoppe) almost 2 years ago

Hey that is cool stuff.  Down here in the City we have  Wonder if your listings would show up on there in any fashion?

Featured in BananaTude!

Posted by Belinda Spillman, Colorado Living! (Aspen Lane Real Estate Colorful Colorado) almost 2 years ago

Same happens in our area we have multiple sub categories for active properties, on top of which some agents know if they mark it active no showing it won't feed to the thirdparty sites so they mark it active but do not allow showings till the weekend open house or some specified date.

Posted by Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543, Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line (Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400) almost 2 years ago


Brilliant, hats off to you, bravo and lots more accolades of all kinds.  A

Posted by Ron and Alexandra Seigel, Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy (Napa Consultants) almost 2 years ago

My agent has us set up to receive notifications when listings come on the market with our specifications. I rely on those, but my husband keeps finding homes on those other sources and every time they end up already pending or sold. I've tried to tell him to stop looking at them, but he continues to forward them to me.LOL

Posted by Sharon Tara, New Hampshire Home Stager (Sharon Tara Transformations) almost 2 years ago

Dick I have never understood why someone making the most expensive purchase of their life would even think of relying on a website for information instead of being represented by a real person who can represent them and provide accurate and up to date information.

Posted by George Souto, Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert (George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages) almost 2 years ago

Good afternoon Dick Greenberg ,

Excellent way to present why these sites are so inaccurate! So many people like Sharon Tara 's husband goes on-line because they are sure there must be something more out there than their agent is sending them straight from the MLS..there is!! Its just its outdated information!! LOL!!

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899) almost 2 years ago

I clicked over to your public MLS site. Wow, what a fabulous tool for buyers. The public site of our MLS is archaic. I would never direct a consumer to that site. Their best place for accurate info is to visit our site. We've made it easy for consumers to find the homes they desire.

Posted by Tammie White, Broker, Franklin TN Homes for Sale (Franklin Homes Realty LLC) almost 2 years ago


Really like your promotion (and wisdom) regarding "local" search sites, Dick Greenberg.   

"Go straight to the horse's mouth" so to speak.   It makes complete sense to me ...


Posted by Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi, 708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience (NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656) almost 2 years ago

When will consumers realize that what you see on the internet really isn't the best way to source your data and make your assumptions?? I'm really surprised with all the dust flying around right now, the general public still hasn't gotten the message! 

BTW, congrats on the feature. Well deserved!

Posted by Ruth Vogt, 719-592-0855 Apply 24/7 (Fairway Independent Mortgage, LLS. Equal Housing Opportunity. Regulated by the Division of Real Estate.) almost 2 years ago

I agree with your opinion of on-line search sites, Dick!  As an aside, I almost choked when I saw that "Coloproperty" site.  I just endured a colonoscopy a few days ago.  It weighs fresh on my mind, and not having my glasses on while reading your blog. . .WELL!

Posted by Myrl Jeffcoat, Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent (GreatWest Realty) almost 2 years ago

Such a great blog and something i have been working on for my area, as i get flooded with the same calls, overe and over home sthat are pending and even already sold Dick Greenberg 

Posted by Scott Godzyk, One of Manchester NH's Leading Agents (Godzyk Real Estate Services) almost 2 years ago

Dear Dick,

Just had a case like this, where an "agent" met prospective renters at a property, that was actually under contract for sale. According to my clients, they collected a whole bunch of applications & the corresponding application fees. No peep since then. This is a new twist on the "just send me half the rent to this hotel via Western Union & I will mail you the key."

Posted by Dörte Engel, ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland (RE/MAX Leading Edge) almost 2 years ago

People in your area should go directly to you to get set up for accurate listing information!

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, almost 2 years ago

The best option is to go directly to a listing agent or real estate professional like Dick Greenberg to get the most accurate information!

Posted by Nathan Gesner, Broker / Property Manager (American West Realty and Management) almost 2 years ago

Dick Greenberg "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."

Right on target - and - re-blog!

Posted by Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers, Serving Scottsdale, Phoenix and Maricopa County AZ (BVO Luxury Group @ Keller Williams Arizona Realty) almost 2 years ago

This is a really, really, really good "one" Dick. I spend more time than I would ever want to explaining to people why what they are seeing on the web is not always as "advertised." The status issue is very confusing for the public.

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage ) almost 2 years ago

Just goes to prove that a realtor really does have the best and most accurate information. Great information here, needs to be reposted often.

Posted by faye schubert, technology and marketing specialist almost 2 years ago

Your post is great information for the consumer.

I received a call from a very distraught senior lady who said she was getting calls about her condo for sale. She and her husband had lived there for years and they were not going to move. She pleaded with me to take her home of the site that was listing her home. That is the result of a site lumping all properties even if they are not on the market.

Posted by John Wiley, Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA (Right Move Real Estate Group- EXP Realty) almost 2 years ago

Good morning Dick, buyers would be safe with working with a local real estate agent who can set up a customized search just for them rather than looking at these third party websites that are only interested in selling leads to agents. Congratulations on the feature!

Posted by Beth Atalay, Cam Realty of Clermont FL (Cam Realty and Property Management) almost 2 years ago

The RTZ portals that suck the yes, no, maybe and fields of numbers don't relay all that a busy buyer needs. To differentiate between this one, that one. The remarks section especially is skimpy. You can one by one modify and add to some of the enhanced sites but nothing beats a local home town portal loaded like a steaming buffet of the good stuff. Not just more images, more narrative, video, plat map, floor-plan and blogs about the buying, selling experience. But local community information that is vital to the never been to your burg before real estate buyer. Put the ROI in your own platform that is SEO fueled like a rocket. You can control that and have actual status on is it available or not and the A to Z on full blown information all the time.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) almost 2 years ago

Dick, this is so good, the mega sites pull from such ridiculous places just to get eyes on them, early on I was working with a buyer and they found a "pre-foreclosure" on one of these, imagine everyones surprise when I take my buyer to the home knock on the door and tell the owner we understand they are in a dire situation and my buyer would be interested in making an offer, the seller was late on one payment and Mega site picked it up and advertised it as a for sale pre-foreclosure, I apologized profusely, my buyer learned to never trust these sites and one PO'd homeowner who had absolutely no intention of moving was beside themselves.

Trust the professionals!

Posted by John Marshall - FORE!, Specializing in Golf Course Properties (LoKation Real Estate) almost 2 years ago

Great post Dick! Congrats on the feature. 

I actually saw this on my Facebook feed.  So it is getting a lot of syndication. 

I have seen this personally many times where clients ask me to check on a home and I spin my wheels looking for it only to find it has been off the market sometimes for months! We all need to do a better job getting this info out for our clients. 

Posted by Sheri Sperry - MCNE®, (928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR® (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) almost 2 years ago

Wonderful blog and a nice website.  Good job Dick Greenberg !

Posted by Susie Kay, North Dallas Specialist (Ultima Real Estate ) almost 2 years ago

Thank you for sharing such great blog. 

Posted by M SQUARE, Broker Associate & Licensed Architect (Realty One Group Alliance) almost 2 years ago

Glad to see this featured. We are continually educating buyers ( and sellers) about the problems with the big search sites.  It's an uphill battle. ;) 

Posted by Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD, REALTORS® in Clark County, WA (ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors) almost 2 years ago

Clients get frustrated, understandably, when they look at a property on one of the big search engines and they think it's available when it isn't. They TRUST these sites although the information is not accurate, and I think it makes the industry look bad. When in doubt, please call the local expert who can get you current information regarding what's for sale.

Posted by Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty, 601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell (Front Gate Real Estate) almost 2 years ago

You have provided great insight into why on-line search sites are unrealiable. When will the public get it? Like most agents, I have had buyers ask me over and over about different listings they foud on "those sites". More times than not, those homes are either under contract, or were sold months or even years ago! 

Posted by Melissa Spittel, "Achieving Results Together " (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) almost 2 years ago

I have a client who had a neighbor tell her that her home was showing up as a pre-foreclosure on one of those sites.  She was mortified because they were not in default at all, so the info was inaccurate but people, including friends and neighbors had seen it.  She got it sorted out and removed and it was found before she started getting the letters and door knocks from people seeking the pre-foreclosure market, but it wasn't good that it even happened in the first place.  She still doesn't know why or how they got any kind of information to stick it in that category. -Kasey

Posted by Kasey & John Boles, Boise & Meridian, ID Ada/Canyon/Gem/Boise Counties (Jon Gosche Real Estate, LLC - almost 2 years ago

I love the post. I hope home buyers and sellers will read this post and learn from it.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) almost 2 years ago

Great post. We need to as a group get the consumer off Z&T and onto our local MLS sites and apps. 

Posted by Steven Beam, Parker Colorado Real Estate (RE/MAX Alliance - Parker Colorado Real Estate.) almost 2 years ago

This is a great explanation for properties in the MLS. I checked your link for and thought it was very well done! I like the ease of selecting major cities and the organization from lowest price to highest on each page. It's very efficient! I wish our MLS mirrored this concept. It would make life so much easier because it's ridiculous how much time is wasted by each individual and agent hunting down properties that aren't truly active! Colorado does it right. Dick Greenberg does it even better!

Posted by Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP, Selling Homes Changing Lives (DFW FINE PROPERTIES) almost 2 years ago

The major aggregators are causing chaos and confusion to the detriment of end consumers. 

Posted by Dave Halpern, Louisville Short Sale Expert (Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827) almost 2 years ago

Great information. We discussed this very topic today.  I always encourage clients to use my search engine.  

Posted by Melissa Jackson, Helping You Make The Right Move (Citiwide Alliance Realty) almost 2 years ago

I think public mirror sites are a great way to give prospective buyers the best information possible.

Posted by Luke Acree, Making Agents Memorable (ReminderMedia) almost 2 years ago

Absolutely SPOT-ON, Dick!  I spend an inordinate amount of time answering calls, responding to emails and texts from buyers who find homes on one of the NATIONAL sites that are no longer available - heck, some of them have been CLOSED for over a year!

It's mind-boggling why, when they know that we have low inventory and have access to our LOCAL search site and everything that fits their criteria, they go looking on the national syndiacted sites, hoping to find something that's JUST NOT THERE!  I tell them to be patient and something will come up - soon!  

Posted by Debe Maxwell, CRS, Charlotte Homes for Sale - Charlotte Neighborhoods ( | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310) almost 2 years ago

NYC doesn't have an MLS- though there is a brokerage community site that is somewhat close to being an MLS as is Streeteasy- available to the public (now owned by Zillow).  It's pretty common here to not update any of the websites for any number of reasons. That said, the process is so very different here - especially the heavy use of attorney's and due diligence of the building financials, meeting minutes, etc.

Posted by Adam Feinberg, NYC Condo, Co-op, and Townhouse specialist (ANCHOR ASSOCIATES) almost 2 years ago

Interesting.  I didn't know you guys in Colorado had a public site with data from the MLS.  Interesting!

Posted by Jan Green, HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN (Value Added Service, 602-620-2699) almost 2 years ago

Good morning Dick. This is terrific! In NJ where I practiced many advertising websites never removed listings. I would often gets calls years later.

Posted by Sheila Anderson, The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133 (Referral Group Incorporated) almost 2 years ago

We explain this constantly to both buyers and sellers.... a MUST Read for the greater education of both sides of the transaction.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 2 years ago

Very nice explanation why a customer should refer to the local public MLS sites Dick Greenberg 

Posted by Jim Cheney, Rincon Valley Realtor 707.494.1055 (Saint Francis Property Santa Rosa, CA) over 1 year ago