Wednesday, April 2, 2014

When The MLS is Wrong

If the local MLS (Multiple Listing Service) is not entirely accurate about your home, you need to know if you are or have lost money because of it. It’s not your fault that your house isn’t selling, or currently would not sell for a profit it you were to list it today. But I am finding more and more that there is something you can and should do about it.


You need to perform your own research whether you are looking to sell or not. It has been bad enough that real estate professionals have not gone to bat against property values dropping significantly because of foreclosures and short sales, which has contributed significantly to this mess.


The advertising and marketing of properties continues to suffer. Even with all of today’s instant technology, too many agents fail to update photos and property descriptions and/or put any urgency into attracting potential buyers.


Just weeks after publishing an 8-hour audio book helping home owners to sell or prepare to sell their home, I decided to research a property that I own. What I found should either by an added chapter or even a follow up.


Several web sites had inaccurate information about this property, although every one did have that it is not currently for sale. (That was only consistently accurate information, however.) Granted, some of these sites use estimates, although these estimates factor in local foreclosures and short sales just as many agents and appraisers also do.


However, a couple of the sites with profiles of this property take their data from the MLS database.


One site showed the home, which is a dedicated address (direct entrance, not shared with other units, etc.), as having a unit number. There is not and has never been a unit number. The “last sale price” shown is approximately $2,000 LESS than what it really was. There is no asterisk or notation that this is an estimate. It is printed as if it is a fact. Yet, the commission paid was based on a percentage of the actual price, which was higher. Too bad I found this out NOW.


The “Property Details” portion shows the square footage for the entire building, which consists of several units, all with different street addresses and completely separate transactions.


The primary photo, still being used in March of 2014, is more than seven years old. There is a new lawn, fence, and two more common property parking spaces which exist today, and are not in this outdated photo.


And there is more. The “Year Built” that is shown is the WRONG YEAR.


Let’s sum this up. Technically the wrong address, since there is no unit number. The wrong “last sale” price. The wrong square footage. The wrong year built. And a photo outdated by more than seven years which fails to show important improvements.


Where did I find this? On the Re/Max web site. As you probably know, Re/Max is one of the leading real estate firms in the country, so it’s not as if this is a one person shop. In fact, Re/Max reportedly increased its revenue by more than 10% in 2013 from the previous year and reported the firm has 93,228 agents working in its franchised offices. Personally, I have worked for numerous agents from there, as well as on a couple of marketing projects for separate regional offices.


Next, I found the property shown on the site of Weichert, which is a very prominent east coast realty firm. On their site, I found this very same property shown on two separate web pages. Although both showed the same listing price, this same property came up under TWO separate MLS listing numbers. Same property, two listings, and it is not for sale.


Neither of these firms ever had this property listing, which provides added confirmation that they simply take the data from the MLS. However, this shows they don’t verify this data either.


Upon further researching this property, I came upon a site (which I had not been familiar with) known as NeighborCity, which exists to help potential buyers and sellers to find “the right” agent. It features advertisements from agents in various geographic areas.


This site actually had a much more recent exterior photo of the home, showing the lawn and garden improvements not seen on the Re/Max shown photo, and managed to have the street address correct. NeighborCity also shows the correct agent and realty firm which handled the most recent sale of this property.


But before you jump to that site, there is more. They do show the “sold” price as being the same $2,000 less than actual. But that is far from their biggest mistake. For “lot size”, this site shows “0.00 acres”, and it shows, in TWO places, ZERO bedrooms, which is definitely not the case. And there is still more.


For “Garage Type” it correctly shows two cars, yet for “Garages”, this site shows TWO. This home does not have two garages, it has one garage which holds two cars. It is not that difficult to comprehend.


At this point, instead of going further into my search, I went to the site of the real estate office which last represented the property to see what I could find. They did not have this property on there, as the company does not show information about properties not for sale.


Now, at this point it is tempting to raise the point about whether or not to do business in the future with Re/Max or Weichert, or other firms which show inaccurate data to the public. How do you know they would get it right about your home?


But in all fairness, this is not completely their fault. They are trusting data provided by the MLS. I can’t blame them for that. At least not yet.


As of this writing, I have only done this for the one property, because I have the facts documented and can prove that the information portrayed is not accurate.


This is why it becomes so important to do your research about your home and continue to do so periodically, even if you have no thoughts of selling within the next five years.


If and when you find things that are not accurate, report them to “your” real estate agent. That is why I said “not yet” in terms of whether or not to do business with certain realty firms. If the thousands of agents representing these companies are not willing to help make their information accurate, you need to keep that in mind.


And this does not even take into account the horrible “estimated value” that appears on the Re/Max and Weichert web sites. The Re/Max site quotes the web site as showing the property valued at more than $100,000 under its previous sale price. The Weichert official site shows a Zillow “estimate” which is more than $180,000 LOWER than that same previous sale price.


That these so-called estimates are based on area foreclosures and short sales is another story.


Here is why you need to research your property. Agents, appraisers, investors, and consumers take MLS information and the data from these sites, and others, to be factual.


As a result, OTHER property prices are being determined by inaccurate information. Your home could have lost thousands of dollars in value because of a wrong year, wrong number of bedrooms, photos outdated by years, wrong square footage, units where none exist, and who knows what other reasons.


Obviously, even the best real estate agents are not doing this for us. Yet.


Instead, they are blaming the economy, the market, and using every other excuse to convince you that your home isn’t worth what you paid for it. While our money paid out in commissions is funding the MLS.


What good is all of this technology if the information is wrong?


Let me know what you come up with.



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