Don’t kill me. I’m trying to make a point.
I’ve dropped, drowned or lost more iDevices than anyone I know. So I often find myself on Craigslist, looking for a replacement. It seems like half the phones I inquire about are already sold, or scams, or people who never respond back either way. It’s really frustrating. But the next time I need a new phone, guess where I go? Craigslist. Even though Craigslist is full of inaccurate data, it still has the highest number of listings. I’m willing to filter out the garbage to find what I want. Sound familiar?
I’m planning to buy a home soon. I look at many sources. I know that the most up to date information about agent marketed listings is on the public facing web site from my local MLS. I use it quite often. However, you and I both know that the MLS is not a complete list of homes for sale. There are FSBOs, distressed properties, bank owned, new construction homes and listings that agents leave off the MLS. So I look in other places as well, including Zillow. Why? Zillow has the most comprehensive database of real estate for sale in America. I know that not all the listings are accurate. Just like Craigslist, I’m willing to deal with it. I think many consumers agree with me.
You don’t have to tell me about the inaccuracies of data on sites like Trulia and Zillow. Been there, got paid to defend that. Doing the same zip code search on Zillow and my local MLS, I came up with 96 listings on the MLS and 125 agent sourced listings on Zillow. It’s fair to assume that a significant percentage of the 125 represent stale, off market listings. If you think agents are bad about updating listings, homeowners are even worse. So most or all of the FSBO listings could be out of date as well. Beyond that, the pre-market stuff is a mishmash of properties that may never sell. So yes, a bunch of these listings are a dead end. However, even if half of Zillow’s non-agent listings are duds, there’s still the decent possibility that I’ll find a home that wasn’t on the MLS.
In addition, we all know that every house is for sale. As a consumer, what better place is there to research homes that are not on the market? It doesn’t matter if the data is perfect. As a consumer, it’s the *best* I can find. Go ahead and tell me the data sucks. I don’t care. My bet is, neither do many of your customers.
No matter how many tools are built, reports are commissioned, or blog posts are written, search is something the consumer now thinks they can do on their own. In the consumer’s eyes, Zillow is the most comprehensive place for them to do it. Perception is reality.
You’re probably pretty annoyed with me at this point, but I said all of that to say this; having an MLS sourced IDX search tool on your website is great. It’s just not the lynchpin that’s going to convince your customers to use your site exclusively, and it doesn’t set you apart from any other broker or agent with an IDX search site in your market. Don’t put all your eggs in this basket.
Agents have a far higher value proposition in being the shepherd that can guide a consumer through the transaction. They hold domain knowledge about the neighborhood and local market that a portal simply can’t match. This is where I think brokers and agents have the greatest opportunity to differentiate themselves from Zillow, Trulia, and the competition. It’s not about your data. It’s about your expertise as a real estate professional.