Is the internet really a home buyer’s friend?

The last decade has seen the relationship between real estate industry and consumers flourish. The public today can simply go online, or even open a mobile app on their phones, to research almost every aspect of real estate from property characteristics, sales history, zoning, and even research REALTORS®. Most of what the general public has access to is free, which makes it that much more appealing.

The issue though is that all those “free” internet tools are only free to the user. In 2013, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, internet advertising surpassed all of television advertising for the first time, clocking in with a 17 percent increase over 2012 online advertising with a whopping $40.1 billion in advertising revenue.

Follow the money

Unlike television advertising where ads are sold on a market share, internet advertising is purchased with a very specific goal – how many times it will appear, how many times it is viewed, or how many times it is clicked on – all dynamics that are easily trackable by each platform and the advertisers paying the bill.

It then stands to reason that the platforms that rely on advertising for their revenue, such as Zillow, Trulia,,, Yahoo Real Estate and every other real estate portal, have a vested interest in keeping the consumer engaged to generate additional advertising dollars.

The question then is whether or not the content the public accesses is accurate or meant to engage the user for as long as possible, generating additional advertising opportunities.

Certainly the lion’s share of the content is accurate and up-to-date and yet as a REALTOR® it amazes me how often I hear a prospective home buyer complaining about search results they found while surfing the internet.

For sale by owner

A common issue found with large real estate portals is homeowners testing the market by listing their home for sale, without using a REALTOR®. Often times, they want to see what kind of interest there is in their neighborhood and their home in particular.

Once, I heard a homeowner created a series of false email addresses registering as several of his neighbors just to be able to list their homes for sale by owner on different portals. Then he would jack up the prices on these phantom listings, just so he could appear to be the best deal in his neighborhood.


We’ve called on homes that clients have identified from the web that don’t appear in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), only to be told by the agent that she is pre-marketing the home, that it is not ready to be shown yet. This means that the agent is doing everything they can to build an interest list before it is listed in the MLS.

Pre-marketing is a disservice to the seller; although it may sound appealing, the agent is working so hard before the house is even ready but in reality the agent is doing nothing more than everything they can to “double end” the deal, trying to get both the buyer’s commission along with the listing commission.

The disservice to the seller is that the house never had the opportunity to hit the market allowing all viable buyers to preview the home and make fair offers.

Bank-owned homes are notorious for pre-marketing. REO agents are first assigned a new listing two weeks or more before it goes live, while the bank determines the price and what repairs, if any, will be made. This gives the REO agent more than ample opportunity to reach out to their own list of preferred buyers and investors, double ending these transactions.

It’s not at all uncommon to check the MLS and see a new listing come on and off the market within 24 hours with the listing agent double ending the transaction.

Off the market

Many times a home will remain listed for sale on a real estate portal long after it has closed escrow and transferred ownership to the new homeowner. This of course, is just another attempt by an unscrupulous agent to continue to build a list of prospective buyers with an attractive home.

The agent will apologize and offer to provide information on similar homes, placing the home shopper on a drip campaign intended to keep their brand in front of the buyer by flooding their email inbox.

The solution

Successful real estate transactions always come down to an honest and ethical REALTOR® representing your needs. While this may sound self-righteous and self-serving, the truth is that only REALTORS® have direct access to the MLS – real estate data live as it happens.

If agents misrepresent a property in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), they will be told to correct it or be fined. If a home sells and it is not reported as a sale, again the agent runs the risk of being fined. While the MLS and the REALTOR® Code of Ethics may not be perfect, there is at least the accountability that professional REALTORS® adhere to and model their businesses after.

Ask your REALTOR® to enroll you with a personalized MLS feed that will allow you to search the MLS on your own as well as providing you with a drip campaign that can notify you within minutes of a listing that matches your personal criteria when it comes on the market. This data will prove to be 100 percent accurate, keeping up with status changes, ensuring that data is correct and will include everything you want when it happens.

Call us today and get the information you need to make the right decision. The information is free, call now! (951) 296-8887.

Questions regarding available inventory and/or other real estate matters please contact me, [email protected] Mike Mason, Broker/Owner of MASON Real Estate Cal. BRE: 01483044, Board of Director of your Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors® (SRCAR), Traveling State Director, California Association of Realtors® (C.A.R.).

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