I'm going to age myself here, but before consumers had access to homes for sale online, we used a thick book with tiny black and white photos to help people find homes. To make matters worse the pictures were done by a drive-by photographer, there was one photo per house, and the books came out every two weeks. The only way to see new listings before the new MLS book came out was to get in a line for the office computer via a dial-up modem.
Fast forward to the mid-nineties, when a new site called REALTOR.com came out which allowed buyers to search for homes themselves using a desktop computer. By 2000 we rarely used the books, many agents had computers in their office, and a few even had a personal website with homes for sale. Since then we've seen a plethora of sites come online that offer buyers access to homes for sale. But where do they get the data and what makes them different?
How Websites Receive Their Data?
The majority of homes we see for sale in SouthEast Michigan are listed in the local Multiple Listing Service or MLS. These are sellers who have hired a real estate broker to represent them and place their home in the MLS database for ultimate exposure. Depending on the brokerage mosts homes are then sent to hundreds of websites for distribution and syndication. Next are sellers who choose to go it alone and try selling their home For Sale by Owners FSBO, then sites that list pre-foreclosures, bank owned and auctions.
Some websites even list homes that have already sold in hopes of attracting more eyeballs to their website. Other sites offer the "coming soon feature." These homes are not for sale, but this new marketing tactic builds excitement or many times frustration in the consumer looking for a home.
Syndication of the MLS Data
As REALTORS® we have direct access to all the homes listed in the MLS database the second they hit the market. Once there most brokers, agents, and real estate franchises receive their data feed within minutes from the MLS database. After a few minutes, REALTOR.com is sent the data via a previous agreement, and next comes the third-party portal websites like Zillow, Homes, Trulia and hundreds of other third-party sites if and only if the broker approves it.
So as you can see not all websites are created equal, but most of the data merely is duplicated or not for sale.
Where Should You Look for Homes?
If you're just curious and not seriously looking than going from site to site is okay to get your feet wet. However, once you're in the interest through commitment stage, it is best to find one agent and stick to their website. Why? Well, we all have the same information, and it makes it easier to have one go-to person instead of several giving you the same information. You may not know this, but third-party portal sites are advertising sites. In other words, they sell ad space, zip codes, cities or space to agents in exchange for your name and number.
Since the RoomsRealty.com website receives a direct feed from the MLS via an IDX feed, there's no reason to go searching from site to site. Unless of course, you already have an agent then we suggest using their website, especially if you've signed a contract with them. Be sure to read about Michigan Agency Disclosure.