In the digital age, information is getting more easily accessible. Today, there are numerous resources to research properties; and the search has gone beyond looking for just a new home. Commercial properties, industrial properties, office spaces and investments have all found their way into web resources, online search engines and even aggregators. A property’s history, potential liens, current financial information are added perks to many sites.
With the majority of consumers going online to not only start their search, but performing area research, comparable studies and tracking changed inventory, and even getting a home’s potential value on the market. The information can not only be overwhelming but also not current. The search isn’t just limited to real estate however, and covers almost every imaginable product or service possible.
Some resources may have inventory of homes that have long sold, no longer available or inaccurate. This holds true for even some brokerage sites even though they have access to the local MLS (multiple listing service) and records are updated frequently. There has been countless times that I have been asked about a property found on a local broker’s site to discover that the property was active two years ago. It may seem inexcusable, but some offenders go to great lengths to secure consumers, website views and ranking. Sometimes content being read may have originated from outside sources, often reprinted without permission or knowledge.
In their defense, many of the sites offer the defense that their system is not perfect and is better than what existed years ago. However, in many cases there should be no excuse for a brokerage or industry site to be touting the same aged data that is no longer relevant. Additionally, with the imbalance in the market with regards to REO properties, short sales and traditional sales, sometimes not remarked as such, information may unintentionally be misleading.
So why continue? Several sites offer referral programs or markets to local real estate and mortgage brokers. Others have their own in-house team, or partnered up with a company. Even just generating revenue from ad placements could be motivation in itself (think of Google’s recent Panda update and how it affected aggregators and farm sites).
That is not to say that all information is inaccurate and to approach every single site and content cautiously. The information can be helpful as a supplemental resource. While many begin real estate searches online, it should not end there.
Things to look for:
• Is the search querying online active properties (or recently closed) or option to do so
• Remarks for distressed and traditional real estate properties
• Quality versus quantity
• How specific are the search parameters