I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with my topic statement. Hopefully you’ll take time to read it and then I think you’ll agree with me; at least in part. According to the National Association of Realtors most recent studies, close to 95% of real estate buyers search the Internet to find property for sale. In some cases, by doing so, buyers are more familiar with what’s on the market then the agent at the time the buyer contacts the agent. In some cases the buyer tries to buy a property directly from the seller, rather than using the services of a real estate agent, and this is potentially harmful to the buyer. For anyone buying real estate in Alabama, Arkansas and Virginia, it is especially dangerous because of Caveat Emptor. State laws, in these states, place all the responsibility on a buyer could cost the buyer a lot, financially, after the sale has closed. Without talking with an agent in those states, the buyer would never know about the laws that could affect them and it could cause them to have no legal recourse should a serious issue arise.
The Internet has changed the world, the way we look at things, our daily activities, and how we plan for the future. I’m sure the Internet has borders for how far it can reach and limitations as to what it can do but I don’t know what they are. I don’t understand the realms of cyberspace. I have had students that are actively serving in Afghanistan and taking a sales prelicense course at the same time. Isn’t that amazing how this can take place in real time. I don’t have a clue how the Internet takes my emails and delivers them to the person I’m writing. I just know that it works and I know that I spend about eight hours a day behind my computer. The Internet makes it possible for a person to live in any state and search all the publically listed properties for sale in any other state; and in real time too.
How can that possibly be harmful to the buying public? It’s not within itself. It’s good for people to search the real estate market to become familiar with market conditions, availability, what property actually sold for and how many days it took to sell. The problem is all that information is not available to the public. Much of the information available to the public in real estate is basic, surface type information. When doing these basic searches, Internet sites like Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, and others will appear as a search result. These companies pay big money to stay at the top of the result page. They are so large and well known; most buyers will go to their websites rather than going to a real estate agents website in the area they want to buy. These companies are simply providing information that was given to them and they have their own format for providing it. There have been many legal issue arise from the information they provide. In their defense, all their information is not wrong and all of it is not right either.
Real estate agents pay to belong to organizations that will help them professionally market their client’s property. Agents pay a monthly fee to their County Board of Realtors® to access a network of real estate agents in their home area comprising the Multiple Listing Service. Within the network, agents have all the statistical information necessary to represent their client; either the buyer or the seller. These large Internet companies like I just mentioned, because of their size and the number of consumers they can reach, are allowed by the County Board of Realtors® to access a small portion of this information. The idea is to help the owner sell their property through a much larger Internet base of consumers.
Buying real estate is one of the largest investments most families will ever make in their life-time. As long as they have all the facts, and have someone to represent their best financial interests, they can make an investment that will yield a nice profit over a few years. However, when they don’t have all the facts and they don’t have someone represent their best interest, making a real estate purchase can be detrimental to their financial future.
There is good and bad in everything. That’s what I’ve always been taught. We don’t throw away a whole basket of apples just because there is one rotten apple in the basket. We discard the apple. We don’t even discard the apple if it only has one bad spot in it. We throw away the rot and eat the rest. The Internet is the same way. There is more good in what the Internet offers than there is bad. So when buying real estate, search the Internet to familiarize yourself with the market but don’t make decisions on whether to purchase or sell based on the search results. Contact a Realtor® to get all the facts. One of the best decisions you can make when buying real estate is to get a brokerage firm to represent your best interest. They are then bound by law to protect you and your best financial interests.
Should you have specific questions concerning various issues, please let me know and I’ll research the answer for you. I also want to encourage you to subscribe to our “News & Updates” weekly report so you can stay abreast of issues that might affect you when buying or selling real estate. If you haven’t visited my website, please go to www.AlabamaRealEstateInstitute.com and view previous articles.