Recently I was contacted by one of my site visitors about a property they saw for sale in Middleton Hills on Trulia.com. The person was asking why they couldn't locate that listing on my website. After looking up the MLS number, I quickly discovered the property was no longer for sale. I thought I'd share with you my reply in case there is still anyone out there who feels compelled to search for real estate on listing aggregators such as Trulia and Zillow:
"Thanks for the Trulia link to MLS #1543347 (6933 Ramsey Rd) last night. Below is a link to the MLS sheet for this property:
Click Here to View Listings
As you can see, the current status for this property is actually "Pending". That means that all contingencies (subject to sale, financing, inspection, etc) have been removed and the property is no longer available for Realtors to show. That explains why this home no longer shows up on LakeandCityhomes.com. In other words, once a property's status changes from Accepted Offer to Pending, it is no longer included in the MLS datafeed that updates the listings on my website. Unlike Trulia's site, which includes user-contributed data that becomes stale over time, my MLS datafeed rarely includes properties that are no longer for sale. The only time you would ever see a property on my site that is no longer for sale is if a Realtor (or Admin person at the broker) has neglected to put the property into Pending or is about to put the property into Pending.
In fact, it is rare for a property to not be put in Pending when it is no longer available - for a variety of reasons. For one, the MLS is what other Realtors rely on to obtain the most up-to-date status for any given property. If a property is no longer for sale, that has to be reflected on the MLS so that other Realtors don't attempt to schedule showings for that property. In fact, in most cases once all contingencies are removed sellers won't allow further showings since secondary offers can no longer be entertained. With Trulia and Zillow, however, there is no incentive for a Realtor to update the status of properties they input on the site. Other Realtors do not use Trulia for property information so by neglecting to update the property's status, the listing agent does not risk upsetting other Realtors and also retains the possibility a buyer will contact them about that listing. At that point the agent can attempt to show the prospective buyer something else that is still available.
So, if you're ever in doubt about whether a property is still for sale, just type in the MLS number into the MLS search on the home page of LakeandCityhomes.com. If it comes up, it's still available to show. If it doesn't come up, it's no longer for sale. And don't ever worry you'll miss something if you use my site exclusively. All the listings in the SCWMLS (South Central Wisconsin MLS) are updated on my site every three hours, 24 hours a day!"
Unfortunately, the above story is not an isolated case. It happens all the time. There have even been cases where homeowners were stunned to learn that their home was for sale on Trulia or Zillow despite there being no listing agreement, no authorization to advertise, nor any other action to suggest the homeowners had put their home on the market. The problem is that Realtors can choose to automatically syndicate their online flyers to listing aggregators like Trulia and Zillow. So a flyer that was created years ago with outdated pricing and contact information shows up as a current listing on these sites even though the property is no longer on the market!
Stale listings by listing aggregators such as Trulia and Zillow are a real problem. Please don't waste your time searching for homes on such sites. Trulia and Zillow are not true search engines as they do not get their listings by direct MLS feed - instead, they rely on user contributed data. Use LakeandCityhomes.com to search from thousands of active, available properties. We've got the freshest listings available because our site's data feed is updated directly by the South Central WI MLS every three hours, 24 hours a day!
UPDATE: It's now November 2010 and Brian Boero of 1000 Watt Consulting, in addition to many others, are still complaining about stale data on Zillow and the need to clean up online listings once and for all.
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Jolenta Averill, Principal
Lake & City Homes Realty