So how’s that internet working out for you?

homeIf you’re like many other Americans, internet reviews persuade your choice of online purchases. Internet reviews have become so influential that it is life or death for many restaurants. Even service industries have added weight to internet reviews. But a recent Amazon lawsuit, once again, has many talking about the authenticity of internet reviews.

The gaming of internet reviews was first given attention in a 2011 New York Times exposé by David Streitfeld, when he described the effort for businesses and individuals to appear better than their competition by saying: “…an industry of fibbers and promoters has sprung up to buy and sell raves for a pittance.” And at that time, Cornell researchers concluded, at the 49th annual meeting of the Association of Computational Linguistics (Proceedings of the 49th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics, pages 309–319, Portland, Oregon, June 19-24, 2011.), that the detection of fake reviews is “well beyond the capability of human judges;” and recommended an analysis of reviews to include, among other things, psycho-linguistically motivated features.

Since the issue was brought to light in 2011, you might think that the practice of using fake reviews might have dwindled. On the contrary.  It seems as if the practice has become increasingly sophisticated to circumvent the controls that are meant to weed them out. You can still find services that will write reviews – for a fee; fake reviews have even become specialized, where “reviewers” advertise to place their evaluations on specific websites. Furthermore, you can find online classified ads offering payment for reviews or to “swap” reviews for free.

In response to the seemingly persistent problem, Amazon is the first to take legal action to crack down on fake reviews. Jay Greene’s April 8th Seattle Times report (Amazon sues to block fake reviews on its site; indicated that the Amazon suit alleges that such reviews are deceptive and harmful to those who don’t abuse the review system. And according to CNET (Amazon sues alleged reviews-for-pay sites;, Amazon (like many online sites) has invested in monitoring controls to foil fake reviews; but people seek out to game the system.

I hear you asking: “Surely, real estate agents don’t post fake reviews, right?”

According to Lani Rosales of AGBeat, the posting of fake agent reviews are “…unethical but seemingly common practice.” She reasoned in her 2011 report (Sketchy new trend – hiring fake online review writers; that there has always been an element posting fake real estate agent reviews. And she anticipated that the trend would continue, as agents coped with the down market, “…Realtors are already using and will undoubtedly increase use of these willing reviewers, making for a repeat of history where agents are painted as being ‘number one,’ having ‘impeccable integrity’ and ‘superior service’…

As we spend more time online ( reported in 2013 that web users spent an average of 23 hours per week using email, texting, and social media), getting your online attention is big business – especially in the real estate industry. Apparently, there’s a lot of money at stake, such that a battle has be waging during the last year between Zillow Group (Zillow and Trulia) and News Corp (Move Inc and; alleging stolen secrets and wanting access to property listings.

And much like the fake reviews that vie for your business, the lawsuits between the real estate giants may ultimately reveal the business of the internet; which may not actually be about customer service, but really about selling a commodity – you.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

House shopping strategies without using MLS

shopping for housesThe low housing inventory is discouraging many home buyers.  Low inventory along with increasing home prices and buyer competition can make shopping for a home today a frustrating endeavor.  If you’re a serious home buyer, there may be other strategies to finding homes for sale other than those listed in the multiple list system (MLS).

The “For Sale by Owner” sign in the yard is a tell tale sign; however did you know that many FSBO’s can be found listed in the MLS?  These are listed through brokers who are paid a flat fee as an MLS listing placement service.  And although most are listed online, not all FSBO’s are found in the MLS.  You can also find FSBO’s on numerous “by-owner” sites, as well as Zillow, Trulia, or Craigslist.

Listservs and internet groups are another way to find non-MLS homes for sale; however, neighborhood groups often restrict membership to residents.  Leveraging your personal and social networks by announcing your search for the non-MLS home for sale will most likely prompt them to inform you about what they have heard through their networks and neighborhood listservs/groups.

The National Association of Realtors® 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers ( indicates that 92% of buyers search the internet.  Besides FSBO’s; online services such as Zillow, Trulia, Craigslist, also list foreclosures auctions, pre-foreclosures, and of course broker listings too.  The internet is also where scammers are lurking, waiting to prey on you.  Be wary about phone numbers that are out of the area; experts agree that you can avoid most scams if you deal with local individuals with whom you can meet in person.

Buying a foreclosure is often suggested as an avenue to buy a non-MLS home.  Although most bank-owned homes become listed in the MLS, you have the opportunity to purchase a home at the foreclosure auction.  If you’re an auction novice, seek out a real estate professional to assist you; homes are purchased “as-is” and you usually do not have the opportunity to inspect the interior.  Mistakes that are often made by inexperienced auction bidders include misunderstanding the terms of the auction, overestimating home values on those they bid, as well as getting carried away and over bidding.  Pre-foreclosures are often listed in the MLS as short sales; however, it is necessary to be aware of local laws (such as the Maryland Protection of Homeowners in Foreclosure Act) when approaching distressed home owners who have not listed their home for sale.

Searching through expired and withdrawn MLS listings is another way to find eager home sellers.  Your real estate agent can provide you with such a list; however, it is not easy and you may quickly discover the reasons why many of these homes did not sell.

Even though, many alternate strategies for finding a non-MLS home for sale can be achieved without a real estate agent you should consider hiring an agent; besides representing you and assisting in structuring and facilitating the transaction, it is also common for agents to use these strategies to search on behalf of their busy clients.

A down side of the search for the non-MLS home for sale is that instead of competing with other home buyers, you’re competing with many real estate agents; not just those agents representing home buyers, but also the many agents searching for their next MLS listing.

by Dan Krell ©
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of March 31, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Real estate integrity on the internet

Real Estate integrityThe internet is brimming with information.  And although a lot of information is based in fact, there’s plenty that is not.  People often fall prey to internet half-truths because information is often presented convincingly with conviction by websites claiming to be the authority.  The internet can be such a quagmire that even some trusted and reliable media outlets have been fooled. How about real estate integrity?

Home buyers and sellers are increasingly depending on the internet for information to assist them in buying and selling real estate.  Many real estate websites that are visited not only contain current homes listed for sale as syndicated by the local MLS; they may also post homes for sale by other sources that include homes for sale by owner, fake listings posted by desperate real estate agents, and advertisements from other websites.  Unless you know what you’re looking for, you might never know the posting source or how long it has been posted on the site. Real estate integrity may be lacking.

The MLS syndication is usually updated to ensure accuracy, even if it’s not always timely.  However, it’s the list of FSBO’s, sham listings, and advertisements that can be out of date and/or used to lure consumers to visit other sites.  Some home buyers/sellers can be lured to occasionally spend money for bargain homes for sale and home sales information.

Sometimes, real estate integrity is intentionally substituted for salesmanship. Some real estate websites post advertisements as “teasers.”  The teaser may show a home for sale at a great price, but could lead to another website that may charge for the full information about foreclosures or bargain homes.  Once on these sites, some consumers misunderstand that all the homes listed are for sale.  The reality is that although these sites provide a service of collecting and posting public information about homes that have foreclosure notices and other related information (and sometimes even list MLS listings for sale), not all the homes are for sale.  In fact some of the homes listed as distressed properties may never be offered for sale as a foreclosure because the home owners resolve their issues without losing their home.

The internet continues to be a source of real estate related scams.  Internet real estate scams continue to prey on susceptible home buyers and sellers, as new and sophisticated cons are devised.  Scammers often post fake names and photos to present themselves as being local, when they are not.

Yes, many property websites have taken steps to maintain real estate integrity by monitoring postings, and allowing user feedback to flag problem listings; and some of the leading real estate websites strive to continually improve on the consumer experience.  However, if you want up to date and accurate home listing and sales information, talk to a real estate agent.  Your agent has access to the local MLS and can not only provide you with timely home listings and contract status; they can also provide you with an up to date home sales analysis.

Just because you found it on the internet, does not necessarily mean it’s accurate.  Practice due diligence and check out the source.  A lot of real estate related information posted on the internet can be verified through public records.  Public information is often readily available on the ‘net, and can be found on public websites maintained by State and local jurisdictions.  For more information on protecting yourself on the internet, visit the “scams and safety” link on the FBI website (

Original located at

By Dan Krell

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

Online Foreclosure Searches

foreclosure for sale
by Dan Krell (c) 2009.

It’s no secret that foreclosure rates continue to climb. It is unfortunate that many home owners have lost their homes, but for some it is an opportunity to buy a home at a potential bargain price.

In past foreclosure markets the secret to finding a great deal was to communicate directly with the bank. If you knew where to look or whom to call, you could get each bank’s list of foreclosures and present your offer directly to the bank’s foreclosure department. In some cases, you could negotiate to buy a home as soon as the bank took title.

In today’s market, the game has changed significantly such that banks no longer directly deal with home buyers to sell their bank owned homes. These days, for a variety of reasons, banks hire real estate agents to list their foreclosures on the MLS. Even HUD lists their FHA foreclosures with real estate agents. You can still find each lender’s list of bank owned homes on their websites, but instead of providing the contact information of a bank representative the bank will refer you to the listing agent.

In an attempt to remain anonymous, many home buyers turn to the internet for information to minimize intrusions from seemingly aggressive real estate agents. The internet is chock full of websites advertising foreclosure listings, information and training; some services are free, while others charge a subscription fee. Two popular websites offering foreclosure listings are and

Along with the flood of foreclosures comes the increase of consumer complaints about foreclosure related businesses- including internet foreclosure web sites. Some companies may deceive the public to make money or to collect personal information. Some foreclosure sites use false advertising to lure home buyers to subscribe to their service; some attempt to attract and “hook” home buyers seeking foreclosure information to sell other real estate and/or ancillary services. Sometimes companies attempt to compile personal information to be sold to third parties.

On May 1st, one national company (operating multiple websites- including was issued a “cease and desist” order by the North Dakota Attorney General for allegedly misleading the public ( Wayne Stenehjem, Attorney General of North Dakota, followed up on many consumer complaints including the misrepresentation of foreclosures. The company over represented the number of foreclosures to lure consumers to pay a monthly fee to receive foreclosure lists. One consumer complained that his home was listed as a foreclosure even though he never missed a mortgage payment. Additionally, photos used to depict the listings were often not the actual homes; the photos may have misrepresented the actual size of the home by associating a much larger home than the actual listing.

If you are serious about buying a foreclosure or just interested wanting to seek information, why not work with a licensed Realtor? Local Realtors not only have access to the local MLS (where bank owned homes are listed for sale), but also have access to tools to identify pre-foreclosures as well as foreclosure auctions.

However, many accept the fact that home buyers wanting to remain anonymous will continue to turn to the internet. If you plan to use any internet foreclosure listing service, do your homework to make sure the company is legitimate and delivers what is advertised.

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of May 18, 2009. Copyright (c) 2009 Dan Krell.

Searching for your home on the internet

Most home buyers do the internet home search. These home buyers are either looking at websites to find homes that are still on the market, or are receiving listings from their Realtors by e-mail. This is no different with my clients. Clients that I work with always find a discrepancy or two on the homes that still say “active” (meaning they are available to see and place an offer). Sometimes the home that is marked “active” will actually be under contract, or “off the market” for one reason or another. The question that is asked is, “if the home is no longer available to show, why is the status still active?”

That is a very fair question. The answer lies in several factors. The first factor is the technology itself. The second factor lies in procedure and etiquette for entering information in the Multiple List Service (MLS). The third factor is human error.

Many Realtors and Brokers have web sites where home buyers can search for homes that are for sale. You can get an idea of the abundance of these sites by going to an internet search engine and type in “home search Silver Spring.” The thousands of sites that exist all are run by different forms of technology. Although these websites pull information from the local MLS, the nature of the software running the websites will update the listings at different times. Some websites are actually a day or two behind the actual MLS. So, a home showing “active,” may actually be under contract.

Some internet home search websites are updated sooner than other websites, however, some are easier to navigate. If your desire is to find the home and jump on it before anyone else, relying on internet listings is not the way to go.

So much for technology. How about the human element? Realtors inputting information into the MLS also must follow a precise procedure and etiquette. The reason for the procedures is to ensure the accuracy of the information. A Realtor must input their listings within twenty-four hours of obtaining the listing, and must input all subsequent information accordingly. When the status for a home changes, such as having a contract or settling, the Realtor must input this information as well. It gets a bit sticky when the Realtor is working on final negotiations for a contract, but the contract has not been ratified. There is no contract yet so the status can not be changed. The Realtor won’t change the status until the final signatures are on the contract, and this limbo time will create some confusion and frustration for some home buyers and Realtors.

The final reason for discrepancies to exist is human error. There are times when the listing agent (Realtor who represents the seller) will forget to change the status of the home. This is mostly unintentional, however, it does add to the home buyer’s frustration.

The internet home search is helpful, fun and convenient. It is not perfect. Before running out to look at the home of your dreams, make sure it is still available by asking your Realtor to check the status. This will reduce your frustration and make home buying a more pleasant experience.

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice.

by Dan Krell © 2005