Home Search Types

Online Home Searches Are NOT All the Same

QUESTION:  Why would you care where or how a website gets it's information on homes for sale, or what they do with it once they have it?

ANSWER:  Getting bad information is worse than getting none at all.  When you get no information at all, you know it!  However, when you ARE getting information, but that information is either incorrect, obsolete, even fabricated altogether, you have no way of knowing it! 

Making good real estate decisions (whether to buy or not, or where, or how much, or to sell or not, or for how much) all begins with having reliable, credible, current information that you can use to help make the very best decisions for yourself and your family.  It's important to understand that, among the thousands of websites offering up "homes for sale" to attract your browsing eyes, only a fraction of them are actually giving you what you think they're giving you!


More and more people interested in buying or selling real estate are beginning the process online.  According to the 2008 National Association of Realtors' Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 87% of home buyers searched for their home search online.  And that's perfectly understandable.  When I'm in the market for a new camera, my first step is always to visit a couple of sites that provide good reviews of the cameras in the market place.  They'll help me compare features, let me know of potential negatives, and give me an idea as to price range. Of course, I realize that I won't be able to hold a camera in my hand, look through the lens, take a couple of sample photos, etc.  But what I also won't be doing is getting coaxed into a premature purchase by the friendly salesman at the camera shop who, though interested in being of help, is also interested in making a sale!

When it comes to real estate, the process for more and more people is pretty much the same.  And why wouldn't it be.  Real estate is typically the single largest (and arguably most significant) purchase in someone's life, so certainly they want to exercise as much caution and good sense in preparing for that purchase as possible.  What's important to understand, though, is that not all online home search sites are the same.  Not only do they vary in the amount of information they give you, they also vary significantly in the quality of that information.  To begin with, state regulations and local MLS (Multiple Listing Service) rules control

  • How much (and to a certain extent which) information you can seehome search
  • Where you can see it, and
  • What steps you must take in order to see it. 

These home search websites gather their information in several different ways.  How they get that information is responsible, for the most part, for the overall quality of that information.  What does the term "quality" mean in this context?  It means:

  • Did the information come from a reliable source?
  • Is the information updated as changes occur?
  • It the information kept current...ie is the property even still for sale, is it currently under contract, or has it already closed escrow?
  • Who (or what) has responsibility for updating the information?
  • How many "layers" between the source of the information and the point at which the consumer actually sees it

So, what are the different types of websites, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?  The following pages will help you understand:

LEAST RELIABLE, LEAST ACCURATE (and likely among your MOST recognized!)

Accurate, but Limited (drawn from MLS Content, though NOT ALL the lisings in MLS)

Most Accurate, Most Complete because it IS the MLS Content