The anonymity of the internet has made real estate more personal

HouseIt might not be a revelation that the initial news about Zillow’s acquisition of Trulia reverberated among the analysts as a game changer for the real estate industry. But you might be surprised that some commentaries, such as Brad Stone’s of (How a Zillow-Trulia Merger Could Finally Change the Business of Real Estate), expressed that the transaction of buying and selling homes has not really changed since the inception of these internet giants.

Compared to 2013, decreased sales volume has made 2014 a challenging year for many in the real estate industry. And contrary to what some believe, the Trulia acquisition may not necessarily be a sign of strength; but rather, it may be sign of continued weakness in the industry. Tim Logan comments on the acquisition in his July 28th Los Angeles Times article (Zillow deal to buy Trulia creates real estate digital ad juggernaut), “Neither is yet profitable separately, but they hope to save $100 million a year by joining forces and cutting duplicative costs.”

Regardless of the economics behind the acquisition, the significance of Zillow and Trulia (and other similar websites) cannot be underestimated. And although many believed these sites were to have changed the real estate industry in a manner similar to how the internet changed the travel and retail industries; Zillow and Trulia have been leaders in transforming the home buyer and seller experience. And instead of minimizing the importance of the real estate agent; MLS aggregators have become facilitators and part of the home buying/selling process by packaging syndicated MLS feeds and other related information to consumers in a convenient and eloquent way through the internet, while selling services to real estate professionals vis-à-vis subscriptions and advertising.

The general process of buying and selling a home is still somewhat the same as it has been for decades. Before internet access became prevalent, real estate agents mostly met with their clients in person to review available home listings, discuss financing and other related matters. Although many used the technology of the day (fax machine and telephone), the preferred meeting was face-to-face. As the internet flourished, technology adopters were able to correspond with clients via email, text messages, and Skype. And as the technology evolved, so too did the daily business of real estate. Searching for homes became increasingly streamlined, and the flow of documents became more efficient.

Some have made the argument that the internet and related technologies may have been an enabler of the real estate bubble of the early to mid 2000’s. However, the reality may be that the real estate bubble facilitated the growth of real estate aggregators and the use of internet technologies. The proliferation of information at that time, along with the effective use of new technologies, fed house hungry buyers who wanted to be the first to know about a home for sale before other buyers. Internet and cell phone applications were developed to automatically send listing alerts to buyers’ emails and cell phones (technology that is commonly used today and even useful in hot markets where homes sell quickly).

Buying and selling a home is still a personal business. Instead of eliminating the real estate agent; websites such as Zillow and Trulia may have forced the agent to evolve from the information gate keeper to the local real estate expert who can interpret information for clients into meaningful data that can be used to facilitate the buying and selling of homes.

© Dan Krell

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
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 July 28, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

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 ©
More news and articles on “the Blog”

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
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

More news and articles on “the Blog”

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.

Surfing for Homes

Before you were surfing for homes on computers, brokers kept track of their listings by card catalogues. As a matter of fact, these old cards were displayed at the old Rockville office of Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc. (MRIS), (the old multiple list service).

During that time before the MLS, brokers were not required to share information and listings with other brokers. This proprietary system allowed the broker to maintain the buyers that came to seek information on homes for sale.

Looking back, home buying was not complicated. Home buyers would go to the local real estate office and see what homes were available. Homes for sale and other information were limited to what your Realtor knew. Most likely, the only homes your Realtor showed you were homes that were listed by that real estate firm. Needless to say, the real estate industry has come a long way since then.

Since the advent of the multiple list service, technology has made a huge impact on the real estate industry. Presently, surfing for homes has never been easier. Home buyers can look for homes on the internet and get listings via email and cell phones. As a matter of fact, if you go onto the internet, you will have hundreds of Realtors (including myself) as well as Real Estate Companies offer to send you home listings.

With all of this information flying around, what’s the most reliable and accurate information available?

The most reliable and accurate information available for Realtor listed homes is through MRIS. Unfortunately, if you are not a real estate professional, you can not have a membership to peruse the database. The good news is, however, that all the other databases and online searches of Realtor listed homes are fed by the MRIS. The quality of the information depends on the website’s ability to update their information from MRIS and how it disseminated.

There are a few popular internet searches that offer free searching without offering information. If you choose additional information or services from these sites, you must fill out an information page giving at least a name and email address. Although you get to search on your own, the sites do promote realtors and other real estate professionals.

Older style internet home search services forward your information to a local Realtor who will send you the information you seek. All these sites are useful and you can get the information you desire as long as your search criteria is specific enough. Unfortunately, if your search criteria are too specific, you will miss seeing homes that you may actually consider buying.

There are many alternative sites tthat allow surfing for homes too (such as These sites allow specifc posts by brokers and FSBO’s.

Having all the technology and information available online is useful, however there are drawbacks. The main drawback is that most of the information is limited and you must contact someone for additional information. No matter what manner of internet home searching you choose, you will be more informed than not having done the search at all.

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2016

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