A Big Problem With Zillow — Incorrect Status of Property

Inaccuracy is one of the biggest problems with the national retail real estate websites. They just aren’t connected to the local and official sources of information in a way that lets them keep real time information posted on their sites. At least not in a way that compares to Fort Collins and Northern Colorado real estate’s official, local Multiple Listing Service, IRES.

Case in point…from last week

I got an email about a property that one of my clients was very excited about. And it was perfect for them. A nice three bedroom, two bath ranch on a couple acres, and it was in their price range.

The buyer wrote, “I’d be motivated to get going sooner than I thought for this property!”

Zillow posting incorrect 'For Sale' status

Zillow Incorrect Status – an example of a listing that said it was still ‘For Sale’, but wasn’t

The national website said “For Sale”. I went to our local MLS, which only gives access to state licensed real estate agents or those connected to a real estate brokerage in an approved way, to have a look at the property.

It was in “Active/Backup,” meaning, the property was under contract and in the due diligence period. The sellers had accepted an offer and were on their way to the closing table.

In other words, the property wasn’t for sale. Or, more specifically, the sellers weren’t entertaining any more offers.

It happens to people all the time.

Here’s the Scenario in Northern Colorado Real Estate

A client sends me a listing of a property for sale in which they have interest. The link they use to share the property takes me to Zillow, Trulia, or another national retail real estate website.

At this point, the first thing I do is log in to the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) website, which I am an active member, to see if the property is still actually for sale.

So many times, it isn’t. The national sites haven’t yet been updated and are therefore still posting inaccurate information.


IRES MLS Listing - Correct Status

This is the official MLS listing, with the proper status of ‘Active/Backup’

When I looked at the property in the official MLS, it was in Active/Backup status. A disappointment for my buyers.

The local MLS has a big job, and a big responsibility

Being the local MLS is a coveted position. People, companies and corporations fight for the privilege of officially managing the listings of state licensed real estate brokers.

Likewise, for individual Realtors® and real estate agents like me, one of the privileges of earning a state license to practice real estate is the fact that it allows me to be a member of our local MLS. They don’t let me in without a license. Further, the listings I enter must be official, researched and accurate. If I submit inaccurate entries, they may cease allowing me to be a member.

When I have a listing for sale, I enter it. When we accept an offer to sell the property, I enter it. It tells other Realtors® that the sale hasn’t been closed yet, but we are working on it. It probably isn’t one that buyers should get excited about. Once the sale closes, I enter it. And it posts. Done deal. Everyone moves on.

In my opinion and experience, this does not happen in an accurate or reliable way on any other website than our official MLS. The other sites lag behind. Sometimes, way behind.

Now, the machinations and processes that keep our MLS up to date in a more accurate way than Zillow are a bit beyond me. I leave that to the programmers, computer information scientists and content managers. My membership in IRES, their requirements of me, and their mission to keep the information reliable and accurate are what build my trust in them, and can build yours in me. I have the official information. I get it from an official source for Northern Colorado real estate.

The job of IRES, REColorado and many other local Multiple Listing Service’s and their websites is to keep the Realtors®, citizens and residents of our specific local area abreast of what is for sale, what is under contract, aka pending, and what has been sold. They create a database and bulletin board of accurate, up to date information for Fort Collins and Northern Colorado real estate.

In my opinion, Zillow, Trulia— and many of these larger real estate sites are more concerned with garnering UV’s (Unique Views) and other traffic to and through their sites, so the advertisers on their site can market to you. They have a different job and goal than our MLS.

The Lesson to Buyers and Sellers of Colorado Real Estate

I’m not going to act like you aren’t going to look at these sites. I know that you will, and frankly, I do too.

The lesson is, use them in conjunction with a trusted Realtor®, like me.

When you see a property you like, and it says it’s ‘For Sale,’ keep your grain of salt handy, and check with me to see if the status is even accurate. If it is, then we can get excited about the property.

The national retail real estate websites are best used with a real life local, caring Realtor® who is here to serve you!


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Paul Wozniak RE/MAX Alliance Fort Collins

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