The Internet House Hunt

The Internet is the single biggest change that I have seen happen to real estate in my 30 year career. I go back to the days of the massive catalogs that were published every two weeks and distributed to Realtors. Just think if it, every two weeks. By the time I received it, they were already outdated by today’s standards. I then experienced the data base being available in html. No photos, very cryptic, but at least it was current. Then our local multiple listing service made the big jump to a full fledged website, with photos! The RMLS in Oregon was the first full-scale Internet MLS in the country, or at least that is what I recall hearing.

Today we take all of that for granted. If you are looking to buy a house, that is what you do with your free time at work, at home, waiting on an appointment. We do it in the palm of our hand. It truly is remarkable.

It has completely changed the way that I show houses. Now my clients tell me what they want to see. I do still do property searches, daily, for my clients, but I then send them a link so that they can approve or disapprove of what I find. They also send me what they are finding and I put that onto our agenda. I no longer waste their time by trying to figure out what on the market will suit their needs. It did work the old way, but the new way is so much better!

That leads me to today’s topic, on-line websites where we all peruse the inventory.

I don’t have a favorite, but I do compare them. They can have wildly divergent opinions of value. I like to compare zillow, trulia,, and redfin. I do this when I am doing a property analysis mostly because I know that the public is doing it and I need to see what they are seeing. I honestly don’t find one sight any better than the other. I do, however, have an opinion about their accuracy.

All of these websites base their valuations on statistical analysis based upon the public record. It is public record what other houses have sold for in the area with information on the year built, the size of the home, the type of roof, etc. However, the public record is often wrong. How this happens is a bit of a mystery. Sometimes it likely goes back to the difference between approval of building permits and changes made during construction. If the data isn’t updated in the tax assessors office, it stays out of the readily available public record. An easy example would be a 1920’s bungalow with 2 bedrooms and 1 bath that then had a second story attic turned into 2 more bedrooms. This is now a 4 bedroom house, but the tax record may still say it is 2 bedrooms. The bottom line is that the public record is not always accurate.

Additionally, the public record has no knowledge of condition of the property. Making it easy, let’s say there is a subdivision of 100 nearly identical houses that were built in 1998. Most are likely in average condition having been maintained with new carpet every 10 years and perhaps some new counter tops. Public record won’t know that a cat lady lived in the house and neglected to vacuum for the last 20 years. It also won’t know that one lucky couple won the lottery and put is subzero refrigerator, custom in-lay wood floors, and hand crafted plaster walls. The tax record does not know one is the epitome of luxury and one is one match away from an insurance claim.

The bottom line is that the tools on-line are remarkable, but you should take the values that are posted on line with a grain of salt. Ultimately you still need to get inside to see the house and the house still needs to be properly priced when listed for sale.

I hope you find this helpful,

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