Why are there so many poorly prepared and/or incomplete online real estate listings? Beware: venting ahead!

Asked by CM1225, 10541 Wed Jan 16, 2008

I recently read that 80% of prospective home buyers start their searches online before even contacting an agent. Given this fact, and considering real estate is such a high stakes business, you'd think that listing agents and brokers would prepare online listings that look as good as possible, and have complete information. However, in my online searches over the past 6 months or so, I am constantly amazed at how poorly prepared and/or incomplete some of these listings are.

The two most common problems:
Pictures: Poor quality, obstructed views, too few pictures, or no pictures at all.
No property tax amount included - a MAJOR factor in a buying decision - some sites don't even have taxes listed as one of the categories.

I thought I was done with this process, but our deal fell through an hour before we were to sign contracts, just yesterday. So please pardon my need to vent! Get your online listings together, agents!

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Mr.P, , Arizona
Thu Jan 17, 2008
The Real answer is that a large percentage of Realtor are unconsciously incompetent, and or technically challenged.

They do know how to create a good video, podcast, or pictures. Descriptions of Upgrades, newer appliance, and improvements never cross their mind.

A ton of work actually goes into a great listing. Successful Realtors know that the way they present a home is the way they present themselves.
2 votes
Deborah Madey, Agent, Brick, NJ
Thu Jan 17, 2008

I agree with you, for the most part.

Yes, I see poorly represented listings from full service agents where the seller is paying a hefty fee. Such is very disappointing. And, yes, that happens far too often.

If a consumer opts to flat fee list their property and the listing fee only inlcudes 1 photo and submission to MLS, that is what the consumer chose. While discount and limited service represent only a small portion of the lisitngs, there are some lisitngs that will not have more comprehensive marketing, at the choice and decision of the seller.

So, yes, Chris, I do agree that there are many poorly represented listings that cross all levels of the spectrum.

As far as the company having little to do w/ the ulitmate product that an agent produces.......that varies company to company and by region. Again, I partially agree w/ Chris. The agent who works for a company that produces the marketing materials still depends upon the agent to submit the data in order to create it. Our company creates maketing materials for all agents, but if we don't get the descriptions or photos, we can't do it.

There are lots of agents across the country who do not know what googlebase, trulia, zillow, etc.

Chris...for the most part, you and I are on the same page.....with slight variations on some details..

1 vote
Tman, , 30642
Thu Jan 17, 2008

If you think things look bad now .. 10 or 20 years ago before the days of digital cameras and computers you couldn't tell if it was Boca Raton or Baghdad you were looking at ..l.o.l...

But you bring up an excellent point .... things really haven't changed much, and here's why.

The current house we live in, was one of the worst shot homes on the planet ..

You couldn't tell if was a private residence or a commercial warehouse , you couldn't tell if it had a giant fire escape or maybe porch .. and the interior shots were super dark and made the rooms look like large storage area's (in case of nuclear attack I guessed) .. and the DOM was 132 ....

So, since I wasn't looking for a nuclear proof bunker anymore (I have one thank you) I figured it's a misprint and the sheet went to the bottom of the pile ready for the shredder.

Guess what..? ... 3 weeks later we're in the last stages of our search, I've narrowed it down to 3 of the 90ish homes we've looked at ... we get lost in a closed turnaround and we come across this home "for sale' and we take a look inside and out .. well, you know the rest of the story ---- the poor seller thought all listings "looked that way" .. bless his little heart.

That house would have sat until the 2012 elections with those 10 pictures rolling around the earth.

But I think Patrick said it best: "a large percentage of Realtors are unconsciously incompetent, and or technically challenged."

1 vote
Deborah Madey, Agent, Brick, NJ
Thu Jan 17, 2008
I share your opinions, and empathize with your frustrations.

Some of this is absolutely due to the lisitng agent. But, not all of it.

First.....about choosing a listing agent.

FULL SERVICE: Sellers need to ask questions before listing their properties. While it's great to list with your friend, or Aunt Mable, this is an important financial decision. While it's great to get referrals, it is also important to review your goals and expectations with the referred agent to ensure that it is a good match. Too many sellers do not ask questions in making their decisions to list. Some listing agents take a hands on approach to what happens to the listing beyond simply the MLS; others submit to MLS only and rely upon the MLS and/or their broker for distribution and marketing from that point forward. It's certainly fine for an agent to align with a broker who supports the listings and makes sure it is widely distributed (with detailed info, multi pics, etc.); but a listing agent should be able to explain to the seller where and how their property will be promoted. For as long as sellers give listings to agents without expectiations, this will happen. When sellers decline to do so, it won't.

LIMITED AND DISCOUNT SERVICE: Sellers have the right to choose limited or discount servicee. There should always be a relationship between what you pay for and what you get, when it comes to property lisitngs and representation. Sellers who choose to hire a limited service company, with full understanding of what they will receive, are entitled to make that choice. While buyers may find this frustrating (and I fully agree w/ the buyers who do find this frustrating); please do understand that a free market society allows the options of varied service levels and fee schedules. Choice is a good thing. While I personally believe that full service with high level marketing materials, hands-on regular involvement from the lisitng agent, and committed representation is the best way for a seller to go, I fully respect the right of all sellers to make their own choices. Many sellers believe that simply getting in the MLS is the way to go, and look for the least expensive route to accomplish that. In many instances, the sellers will net less, and the savings comes with a hefty price tag in a lower sales price for exactly the reason you describe. You, as a buyer, find it frustrating, and bypass these lisitngs.

Thank you so much for sharing. I empathize with your frustrations. I sincerely wish that more sellers would demand more from their agents, and all would be better served as a result. Agents who did not care to deliver would find another line of work. Buyers would be better served. Sellers would be better served.

There are a number of compromises to data integrity in aggregating data from so many sources. There are 100's and 100's of MLSs, all with different database structures. There are data feeds trying to transfer data in private uploads to various sites. As a broker office, we send all of our lisings for any of our agents to over 30 websites. Some of our agents comprehensively understand where we send the lisitng data; others do not.

We have office staff who constantly spot check our listings, and it is expensive for us to absorb this expense. Our office staff each have a handful of sites that they monitor. They periodically pull random listings of ours to make sure pictures, data, tours, etc. are complete. When it is incomplete, we notify the tech dept of where we send the data and ask them to look into it. There are tech glitches....I see postings on Trulia Voices where an agent or seller asks about their lisitng, and Trulia responds back on the thread offering to look into it. There are just tech glitches.

Other places that upload lisitngs do not want to allocate space on their servers to house lots of photos. So, they only accept part of the data and part of the pics.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Please know that I fully agree with you in your desire to want lots of pics and complete descriptions.

1 vote
Alan May, Agent, Evanston, IL
Thu Jan 17, 2008
Chris, your complaint is totally valid.

Sellers pay big money for representation today, and for the internet sites (first point of contact for most buyers) to be neglected is inexcusable and grounds for dismissal. I see plenty of online listings (realtor.com as well as company sites and even MLS listings) without any photos... sometimes one poorly focused photo. Minimal description, no virtual tour, missing information (like taxes), and it's unacceptable. Seller's arise... if your agent has taken your listing, there's no excuse for abusing your internet listing.

And I don't agree with bg that an internet "browsing client" isn't a buyer yet... they are totally a buyer. A serious buyer, just as you were! Your venting is legitimate and appreciated.
1 vote
Bg, Both Buyer And Seller, 33767
Thu Jan 17, 2008
Chris- The buyer who is still looking at internet ads is not a buyer yet. When a buyer gets serious about buying, they let their real estate agent know what, when, where, and how much and any other defining information about the house they want. A buyer who is actually ready to buy, if they have chosen their agent well, will see all the homes that best fit what they are looking for.
Actually buying a home is far more detailed than :"catalog" shopping the ads.
If you choose your agent well, your agent has the knowledge to pick the diamond in the rough that you may have overlooked by "scrolling down past" an ad that did not have enough information to please your "window shopping"

Get the best agent you can find to represent you when you are ready to buy. It will cost you nothing, and save you thousands of dollars that a novice could cost you.
1 vote
Michelle, Home Buyer, Maryland
Thu Jan 17, 2008
Just wanted to join in your vent! (And I'm so sorry that you're back to the drawing board in your process!) As another house hunting buyer, I totally agree that the lack of decent pics and other relevent information is a major problem for some listings. And while I understand that there might be limitations on what info particular sites allow, often that's not the source of the problem, since you'll see some listings with plenty of pics and relevant info, and then some without. So in those cases, it seems much more likely that it's a failing of the listing agent rather than the particular site.

As a potential buyer with very limited time (FT job and 3 young children that I have to find childcare for every time we go look out houses), I do most of my househunting online and only ask my agent to show me homes that I think are serious prospects. I skip right over listings that don't have interior pics (makes me think there's something "wrong" if they have exterior pics but no interior, or only one or two). I also tend to skip over listings that leave out info such as room sizes and levels, etc. It's just not worth my time to schedule a showing of a house that may or may not have the rooms I need (such as a separate DR) when there are plenty of other listings that give me all of that info up front.
1 vote
Ute Ferdig, Agent, Auburn, CA
Wed Jan 16, 2008
Hi Chris. Sorry to hear you have to start from scratch. That must be very frustrating, but maybe it's for the best. We just don't always know why things happen when they do happen.

I understand your frustration and appreciate your input from the consumer standpoint. After all, we are advertising to attract the consumer. While I am not trying to make excuses for poorly presented listings, I have to say that a lot of the listing information that you see online may not be a result of the agent's input. Instead, the search engines pull certain pre-determined fields from the agents' websites and the MLS. Some pull more information than others. Many agent websites sautomatically syndicate listings entered in the agent's website to multiple search engines and not all the information that the agent was able to place on the personal website is transferred over to the search engines. For instance, all listings that are entered in the MLS are sent to realtor.com, but there's a lot of information that you could see in the MLS that does not appear on realtor.com. Agents can pay extra to get enhanced listing capabilities or featured listings privileges but we don't have that option with all search engines and we also can't pay to enhance our listing on all search engines (there are way too many).

In my area, property tax information is usually not even found in the MLS. We only mention whether there are special assessments/bonds, but we usually do not mention the amount of annual taxes. We will mention the monthly or annual HOA fees and or road maintenance fees. Part of the reason for not stating specific property tax information is because we'd only be able to state what the current property tax bill amount is. In my area, home buyers know that the property tax is 1% of the purchase price plus any special assessments which can vary greatly from location to location.
Thank you again for your input. Best of luck with your property search.
Web Reference:  http://www.theMLShub.com
1 vote
Christopher…, Agent, Hemet, CA
Thu Jan 17, 2008
I believe that most good agents would agree with you and share your frustration. This problem has absolutely nothing to do with whether the agent is, or works for, a "discount" brokerage. I have seen poorly represented listings that cross all lines of service levels and include every real estate franchise and independent company. It has everything to do with the individual agent.

Consumers do need to take on a little responsibility for this problem too. Just because an an agent states that they know what the web is....does not mean that they know how to use it and, the company they work for has little, if anything, to do with the ultimate product the agent will produce.

If consumers expect to have good descriptions, marketing materials and photos, they need to inspect what they expect what they expect BEFORE listing a property and throughout the process. If the agent has not done what you expect with other clients in the past, you can expect that you will not receive anything either. The time to vent is at the very beginning of the listing when a client sees that there are no photos, bad descriptions....or worse. It is amazing to me that , when trusting such a large asset to an agent, that consumers do not do their homework in advance and then, do not verify how their property is being marketed. It amazes me more that, if they do inspect what they expect, they rarely do anything about the lack of marketing or allow the agent to place blame on an "assistant" their company or ????

Seller MUST take responsibility for their choices and take appropriate action very early one or, accept the consequences of their decision.
0 votes
NJ Newbie, Home Buyer, New Jersey
Thu Jan 17, 2008
I totally agree! It's so frustrating when I click on links to see additional photos and there aren't any! I can't help but assume that the interior must be really ugly and that's why pics aren't posted. Some sites also ask you to sign up in order to see additional photos. Are they kidding me? I find that this is common w/ certain brokerage firms...I won't name names, but if you do your research, you'll know which ones! Also, some sites always cause browser issues and takes a long time for me to get rid of the error. Argh!

I contacted an agent listed on a website for more information and she said she can MAIL it to me. HELLO? Hasn't she thought of creating a soft copy or scanning ONE copy of it in so that she can email the info to potential buyers? These people are ridiculous and living in the 80s or 90s.
0 votes
Adelina Rotar, Agent, Knoxville, TN
Wed Jan 16, 2008
Although, there are plenty of agents that don't take enough pictures to give buyers an idea of the interior and exterior of the home, etc., you have to realize that the only place where Realtors actually input information is their local MLS.

For example, I belong to the Knoxville Association of Realtors, and I input all my listing information and upload all my pictures (we take good pictures--price and pictures bring buyers to the door!). Sites such as Trulia get their information from our MLS boards; however, they don't get all the info that I have actually inputted and don't get all my pictures that I have uploaded because they have a set formula of info they actually put up. The whole process of syndication is confusing... Most areas have a public MLS where buyers can go. It has a ton more information than just a Realtor's website or sites such as zillow, trulia, google base, etc... If I were looking to buy, that is exactly where I would start--every other site will have bits and pieces of information, but not the whole picture! Most of the time, the listing agent probably did put in taxes, plenty of pictures, description, square footage, room sizes (in our MLS board it is REQUIRED and we are FINED if we don't input this information within 10 days.), but when it's syndicated to other sites, not all the info is taken in. Just my 2 cents.
Web Reference:  http://www.RotarTeam.com
0 votes
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