All those real estate websites and apps help me help my client, but buyers need to be savvy. Some sites fail to keep out the fraudsters and even if the property is properly listed, a buyer could be setting themselves up if they aren’t careful.
Agents Buy Leads
If you request information on property showing on Zillow, Homes.com, or just about any site, the agent getting your information paid big bucks for it. Sometimes the lead will go to multiple agents. These leads are expensive and agents are going to work to make it pay off for them. Many agents have their own website and putting in your information on these sites limits your exposure.
You’ll Get Bothered
It’s probably no surprise that if you enter your contact information, you will receive follow up from an agent—perhaps multiple agents (See 1 above). Contacting an agent directly and setting up a relationship can eliminate the craziness. Sure, a good agent will put you on a contact list for follow up, holiday greetings, or whatnot. But once there is a relationship, the wise agent doesn’t make a nuisance of themselves.
Just Click and Get a Showing — Nope, There’s More Involved
First off if you do get connected with the Listing Agent, you need to know that they work for the Seller. That means their loyalty and accountability is owed to the Seller and anything you disclose will be disclosed to the Seller. Many times agents will refuse to show properties without the buyer signing a Buyer’s Representation Agreement. That means you’re in a contract. Any broker or agent can show you houses listed by other brokers.
(I often do not write a Buyer Representation Agreement until my buyer is ready to make an offer. And I love that my broker guarantees to let the Buyer out of the Representation Contract at any time for any reason.)
Still More Before You Get a Showing
Zillow and other sites will often quote a payment amount for a property showing on their site. It’s not a true representation—at least not entirely—and this is one of the reasons to get preapproved before looking for your new home.
Nothing breaks my heart more than the disappointment of potential buyers when they realize they have been looking at houses outside of their price range (or mortgage payment comfort level). The second heartbreaking experience is losing out on their dream home in our fast-moving market because they don’t have the preapproval. A buyer will also have a better understanding of what their true payment looks like once they’ve spoken to a lender. And shopping for a mortgage will not affect your credit rating like a store card or car loan does.
All the Information is Online — Not in Texas
Texas is a non-disclosure state, that is, sold prices are not publicly listed. What does this mean for the buyer?
- In Texas, Zillow’s Zestimate is generally only correct 6% of the time.
- You can’t be sure you’re not paying too much for that property. Market statistics for similar houses in the neighborhood is only available through an agent with MLS access for the local board.
- The Listing Agent (who works for the Seller) has no incentive to cut a buyer a deal—they’ll likely want both sides of the deal. (A buyer’s agent is paid from the Seller’s proceeds.)
Look at What Hiring an Agent Can do for You
- Hiring an agent means you’ve got an experienced real estate negotiator on your side.
- Hiring an agent means you’re hiring market and neighborhood experience.
- Hiring an agent means you’re hiring transaction experience.
- Hiring an agent means you’ve got someone watching the deadlines and answer questions.
- Hiring an agent means all the proper forms. (Some forms are not available to the general public.)
- Hiring an agent means hiring the experience that can help you avoid pitfalls.