Having our listings all over the Internet is great, from a marketing point of view, because it is easy for consumers to find them. But things can go wrong, and we have little control over how the listings look or how they are being used.
It amazes me the way we share our listings on the Internet. Once they are entered into a multiple listing service they can be fed to all sorts of websites, including sites that belong to lead aggregators that use our listings as bait to collect leads and then attempt to sell them back to us.
Our listings are a goldmine for the real estate portal sites that sell advertising and leads.
On one website, one of my loft listings shows up as a short sale. It isn’t a short sale and it is not listed as a short sale in our MLS. The site is automatically fed data from our MLS. I am mystified as to how this could happen and I am not having any luck getting it changed.
I suspect I will need some help from one of the head geeks at the MLS. It is no doubt some sort of database mapping issue.
Last winter I had a lovely Tudor on the market and it was listed for top dollar. I discovered it was a featured listing on a foreclosure website. The site wasn’t an IDX (Internet Data Exchange) site that received feeds from our MLS — it was a site that scrapes listings or takes them from various sources and uses them for advertising.
I was able to get the home removed from the site, but it took an enormous amount of effort on my part and it appeared on the site again a couple of weeks later … after the listing sold. How can my sellers get top dollar if their home shows up as a distressed property?
Buyers send notes with links to homes that they found on two different websites, with two different prices. They ask why there are two prices and which one is correct.
I look it up in our MLS and sometimes find that it was already sold. They ask why homes for sale appear on one site and not on another. It is confusing to the home shopper. I sometimes wonder if the sites that list homes for sale cause the general public to distrust Realtors.
One of my sellers took an interest in how her home was being marketed. She would use Google to look it up. She found it on one website with two photos, and blank squares where the other photos should have been.
She wanted to know why I only put those photos up when I had so many. I never put the home on the site and had no way of fixing it.
Our listings can be used as bait to commit crimes, too. There are people who find listings on sites like Craigslist and repost them as rentals or foreclosures, using them as bait for various real estate scams.
Once a listing is released into the wild world of the Web it can be fed into other sites, scraped and used in all sorts of ways that we never intended.
Sometimes listings end up not looking as pretty as we would like, as photos and data are stripped from them and they are put in the gaudy frame of a branded site. We don’t have complete control over them, which is why we should track them and know where they are at all times.
You can set Google Alerts for each listing, by address. When Google spots the address, it generates an e-mail with a link, making it easy to find the listing. Since I started using these alerts, I have a whole new awareness of where my listings are and who is using and abusing them.
I can easily find instances in which a home has multiple prices, and on some sites I can update the information.
Using Google and Google Alerts is also a good way to test marketing. I can tell which sites are indexed by Google quickly and which ones are not, which is a good thing to know for paid advertising.
Go out on the Internet and have a look at your marketing and your listings. You might be surprised at what you find. You owe it to your clients to find out if their home shows up as a short sale or foreclosure, and it is always a good idea to find it before they do.