4 Pitfalls Of Online Home Searches And How To Avoid Them

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 01 April 2014 13:41

According to the National Association of Realtors, 90 percent of all home buyers start their real estate search online. What buyers don’t realize however are the various pitfalls they face when doing online searches and the opportunities they could be missing.

There are four big mistakes you might be making when searching online. Most of these problems can be avoided simply by finding an experienced agent with the time and know-how to catch all the hard to find listings out there. So listen up, here are the top 4 pitfalls you face when doing online searches and how to avoid them.

This guest post was written by First Team Real Estate Agent Sandy Carroll. Sandy has been helping home buyers and sellers meet their real estate needs with First Team since 1997. She works out of the First Team Seal Beach-Rossmoor Office and specializes in the surrounding areas of Seal Beach, Long Beach and West Orange County.


1. Missing homes that have been mislabeled in the MLS

All third party sites are fed data from Multiple Listing Services (MLS) but this data is only as good as the listing agent inputs it.  Many large cities are broken into MLS areas and agents can get the area totally wrong or may use a “catch all” area.  If you think you have figured out the area you want and are searching exclusively, you may be missing some homes that have been mislabeled or only very generally categorized.

Even if you search by drawing the boundary on a map, just to catch everything, you may be missing the few misplaced homes.  These are not common, but they happen.  Agents sometimes even make mistakes about number of bedrooms or square feet, sometimes they leave the field blank and it could show as 0.

How to fix it:

Search several different ways yourself, eliminating the other criteria to make sure you haven’t missed any.  For instance realtors shouldn’t call a bonus room a bedroom unless it has a closet or window to egress.  Perhaps a bonus room would work for your needs and you can search for one less bedroom.  A good agent searches several different ways if they know you are ready to write offers.  They watch all new listings and changes in status for those back on the market.


2. Missing out on hold listings

Hold listings are listed on the MLS but may not be marketed at a certain time for a variety of reasons.  These listings are not available on most third part websites.  A listing may be placed on hold because it isn’t quite ready for showings, the owners are sick, it is a distressed sale and an offer is being negotiated with the lending bank or any number or reasons.  Usually it is the latter, but there are brand new listings that may be on hold for a weekend or until they are cleaned and ready for showings.  These are true gems and you want to know about them ASAP.

How to fix it:

You need an agent to do your searching to help you find these hidden listings. A large office will have internal sources for upcoming listings.  It may be formalized, or could just be word of mouth.  You want an agent that is plugged into many sources so you can take advantage of these opportunities before the rest of the world knows.


3. Limiting your options with too many search criteria

Everyone wants the same thing.  For new home buyers it is almost always a 3 bedroom, 2 baths, 2 car garage.  When you add RV parking, good schools, air conditioning and other nice features you are severely limiting your options.  You are competing with a lot more buyers for all these desirable features.  Putting too many provisions on your online search gives you few homes to choose from and the competition for those few results will be fierce.

How to fix it:

Broaden your online searches by narrowing down your wish list. You will find much better value and face lower competition if you can identify the features that you will compromise on.  Do you need a pool? Are you willing to sacrifice some square footage if it means you will get a nicer neighborhood? A good agent will guide you to those homes and help you realize the features that are highest priority to you.


4. Outdated listings and data

Some online websites do not scrub their old data for listings that fall through the crack.  Each one is a long explanation from an IT professional, but there can be listings that are years old still showing on some websites.  In the meantime you may have gotten excited about a 4 bedroom house overlooking the ocean at a dream price and left work early to see it.  You find out later it was a listing from 2002 that fell through the cracks because the third party website wanted to increase their inventory.

How to fix it:

You need an agent to check all listings against the MLS.  Agents also have access to the title information which shows the last sale date and pervious owners.  They can help you identify what it was an old listing.

There is one easy solution to help you avoid all these pitfalls:  Work with an agent who understands the online search and is aware of your needs.  You may not realize what is really important to you now, but an agent with experience can suggest homes you never realized were perfect for you.

That’s why it’s a good idea to get to know agents at open houses, talk over a coffee date, and take the time to find an agent you can get along with. Online searches are a great way to start the home buying process but they’re not always enough to lead you to your dream home.

Interview some agents and make a commitment to one that you find informed and compatible.  That way you don’t have to spend hours in front of the computer screen slaving over searches – your agent can. When I work with a home buyer I do the tedious home searches and work for them so they don't have to.

Call 888-870-1142 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. now and we’ll connect you with a top agent in your area of interest to help you navigate the home buying process.

 Originally posted at: http://www.firstteam.com/blog/?p=7689

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First Team Real Estate® is the largest independent brokerage in Southern California and voted the #1 Real Estate Company by the OC Register's Best of Orange County in 2011, 2012, and 2013


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