I don't think Trulia should restrict agents. I think agents should restrict themselves.
On the other hand, it IS the agents' responsibility to exercise some discretion when answering. It is their responsibility to know the limits of their knowledge and that Georgia and California may not quite operate the same way in their respective real estate worlds. But many just don't know their limitations.
What is also obvious in addition to what you point out is that many agents don't even read the answers that have already been written. They answer in a vaccuum and you are right, it adds nothing.
But, for all those agents who are the problem in these ways, there are some really intelligent, insightful, and well spoken agents here that make all the other clutter worth it. I would hate to see their perspectives restricted because they are truly helpful.
I second Debbie's last sentence 100%. In terms of the community and your example, you are saying the equivalent of NAR shouldn't publish statements like the recent "Home sales increase 5%" because they don't reflect the local consumers economy. That is nonsensical. I suppose under the same logic we shouldn't publish the national unemployment rate either.
A consumer needs to retain a local agent to get local expertise. Are you suggesting that a consumer in New York will include in their negotiations statements like, "I was reading Trulia and Jonathan from Georgia said prices are dropping and so we are offering 20% off your list price." Highly unlikely. And if they go that route, it will get a laugh and won't get them far. Trulia is a sounding board - and a community discussion across the nation. Part of the beauty of it is we can disagree and the reader can decide for themselves.
I look at the respondents to your question so far- Jack from Arlington Heights, IL; Debbie from Livingston, NJ; Vera from Sterling Heights, MI; Melina from Salem, OR; Mack from Seattle, WA; Robin from Garden City, NY; Lynn from Dallas, TX; Jenet from Greenwich Village, NY; Tim from Kitty Hawk, NC - seems pretty much a national crowd. With the restriction you are pondering with this question - you would have no answers.
If you have no answers to your question, you won't take much interest in Trulia, which goes back to Mack's point - end of story.
I appreciate your frustration and find myself in the same place many times. I mean, how many real ways is there to answer the question of whether the buyer of a short sale should pay their agent under the table? Or is there a difference between an experienced sales rep and a newer sales rep? Not many, but because they are easy questions and because people troll for points around here, you end up with 100 or more redundant answers.
But as I said, within all the clutter of Trulia are some really insightful minds, several of which have responded to your question. Their insight, from outside your state of Georgia, is the value on Trulia.
Many of the questions asked, here on Trulia, are generic and can be answered by any agent anywhere in the country (ie: What do you think about Open Houses? Do vacant properties show better than furnished? What is a co-op?).
Agents should not be answering questions that require localized answers... I find California as a whole, and New York City have their own unique ways of doing business. We need to be careful in situations like those. Dual agency is handled differently state to state. But as Mack mentioned, having out of state agents comment, give us all an insight into how things work state to state.
Absolutely not. I think agents should be free to comment on any subject matter they want. While it's true that laws vary from state to state, and market conditions vary from block to block, let alone state to state, the real estate business itself really isn't any different here than it is there. That's why we have a national portion of our real estate exam, and then the state portion.
Now, that said, I think that all agents need to be mindful of what may be a local issue when they make comments. Personally, I'm pretty careful about where I comment. If somebody is asking a very market specific question somewhere I have no knowledge of and no access to the local MLS data, I don't bother saying a word. I comment on something that could be different where they are, I say so in my comment. I often say things like, "In Illinois... but things may not e that way where you are". Also, I won't hesitate to tell people they should get a local agent or attorney, or both. I often encourage people to meet face to face with a professional too, not hide behind their computer. Too many people try and do everything online these days. Somewhere, the rubber meets the road.
If all agents followed that sort of thought process, you probably wouldn't have even raised this question. But if you're like me, you probably shake your head at some of the nonsensical things that a lot of professionals say on here. I think it's sufficient to say though that there are a few dull pencils in every box. No governing body, much less Trulia, can fix that. Restricting which states in which agents could make comments certainly wouldn't further that goal.
Prudential Starck Realtors
To restrict agents from answering certain questions would really shut down the flow of information.
I think the consumer can separate out the agents who give useless, generic answers (ie: "Call an attorney" "Find a local agent') or absolutely incorrect answers..... from the agents offering solid and thoughtful advice.
Truthfully, even within my own state, real estate is practiced differently depending on where one is, so the ideal answer to a specific question about procedure, should really come from an agent in that specific area.
Bottom line is, we should all know our own limitations.........some do...some never will
I don't think we should be restricted if the question is general in other words how can I market my house better , ways for a new agent to market themselves or generate leads, What are things I should do as a first time homebuyer/seller why would anyone want to restrict ways for us to help others in that respect. They are just general ideas i usually add consult your states law or attorney. I have also given referrals based on some of the people I have seen give great advice etc in other states my clients have moved to I have yet to see anyone be upset about that. People just have to be careful.
Have a Happy New Year,
The answer to the question depends on what Trulia's objectives are. I'm guessing its to sell advertising, and to do that they need eyeballs, which makes me think that they're going to do things that make people spend more time here, rather than less.
A side benefit of out-of-area responses (I wonder how many people have elected not to respond to this question) is that it gives agents a chance to learn about practices in other states.
Even in state agents violate professional code of ethics.
OR many questions are left unanswered they have respect where another agent from different state can provide assistance to obtain answers.
Lynn911 Dallas Realtor & Consultant, Loan Officer, Credit Repair Advisor
The Michael Group - Dallas Business Journal Top Ranked Realtors
I think that you have posed a very good question and I've read all the remarks from other members about answering questions out of your region. I do agree that it does give we agents/ Brokers more information as to how things are handled in other states and that it is up to the reader to determine if the answer will work for them or investigate further.
My concern, of late, has been seeing certain members on the site receiving multiple 'thumbs up" for helpful answers when it's quite obvious they have someone from their office or a fellow member clicking on the thumb to gain points. I've even seen one member who receives multiple thumbs when responding to members who have answered his questions. How does one justify earning a thumbs up just for saying "thank you"? Doesn't seem right and defeats the purpose of trying to truly give a helpful answer. Maybe only the asker of the question should be able to click on the thumb. Just a thought.
Prudential Connecticut Realty
I don't think Trulia should restrict agents. I think agents should restrict themselves.
I am always amazed at how many agents don't restrict themselves - but then again - there are "points". Agents just can't pass-em up :)
Maybe the question is "Should Trulia screen and restrict the questions to non-legal questions?" But that won't address the last paragraph of your question.
Have a good new year.
In Georgia, we have enough agents answering the questions, and answering well enough that the out of state responses are usually unnecessary.
Like Janet, I've seen answers to questions that require specific market knowledge, but are answered by someone 2,000 miles away. And usually, the out-of-state agents leave those questions alone...but there are a few who answer. Recently, I saw a person from a growing state make a remark that in just a few years a person will be able to recover any investment in a property they purchase. While it was probably true in her state, it will most likely not be true where the customer lived....and Georgia specifically restricts us as agents from making predictions about the market.
Bill, to respond to your statement that people are coming to a nationwide community: I'd disagree in more than half the cases. I see very specific questions that could only be answered by a local expert. And, I don't think the customer realizes that questions may come from all over...chances are they only look at the answer itself, not the person making the remark and what state they live in.
Let me throw one other common question out there: "Do I rent or do I buy in this market?" While it appears to be on the surface a general question, the fact is that every community is going to be different. The perspective of the person is "Do I rent...?" Not, is it "in general" a good idea to rent or buy? I'd say 95% or more of the questions asked by customers are questions about themselves and their personal situation...not general terms. And, when that happens, it starts getting iffy whether you can even offer "suggestions" vs. "advice".
While Trulia isn't in the business of policing advice, they do need to sponsor a reasonable community...and when that community is answering inappropriately, there need to be simple restrictions in place. They could be reasonable, too...like asking the customer posting the question if they only want to hear local agent's responses or anyone nationwide.
Mack and Robin: Well said on the escrow issue. We also do not use escrow companies. I've seen a couple of answers confused by calling the "pending" period as escrow.