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Ubiquitous listing info online: ubiquitously confusing

Before moving to Paris to live the fancy Parisian life, Ginny Cain wrote weekly on AG about marketing and brought her corporate wisdom and deep real estate industry marketing insight to the world of real estate and helped our readers to improve their own marketing strategies.

Ginny wrote me recently in a tizzy about her own real estate experience in her return to America. We agreed that there was certainly an AG story to be told, so here are her words:

I am a buyer. I’m looking for a small condo in Pleasanton, California. And like most buyers I’m starting my search online. I’m also associated with the real estate industry and have seen the listings go from a big book with yellow pages in a real estate office that changed on a daily basis to the mass syndication of listings online.

It’s just common knowledge these days that the inventory of for-sale property is available online, right? To that I say yes, but. Indeed there are an abundance of listings online, but results can vary wildly depending on what website you are on.

As a consumer, I’m confused.

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My criteria:
City: Pleasanton, CA
Price range: $150,000 to $250,000
Bedrooms: 1
Baths: 1
Housing type: all

I went to, the most “comprehensive source for real estate listings” and got seven listings in the search results.

I went to and got 29 results.

I went to and got 25 results.

I went to and got 11 results.

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What is going on? A few explanations could include:

  • Exclusive listings – Really? Do agents still do that?
  • Pending listings – Does the website show both active and pending listings?
  • Foreclosures – Does the website (like list foreclosures and REOs?
  • New construction – Don’t homebuilders put their listings on the MLS?

The syndication of for-sale listings online was supposed to make it easier for the home buying consumer. Not so much. With websites parsing the listing information in such different ways, it just serves to confuse.

The good news? Real estate agents are still the most reliable source for current listing information.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Thomas A B Johnson

    February 3, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    At least they don’t have Google Base to kick around anymore.

  2. Missy Caulk

    February 4, 2011 at 9:44 am

    It would be interesting to see what the “real results” were. I send them to my site, direct MLS feed, not 100% but closer than the ones listed above.

  3. Ed Kohler

    February 4, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    I think this is one if the reasons that very SEO friendly sites are sweeping up traffic. Consumers have been trained to visit multiple sites due to issues like this. Beyond that, they continue to do so once they find a listing that interests them, since the quality of the online listings vary tremendously due to things like shrunken watermarked photos from boards.

  4. Ralph Bell

    February 6, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I have been getting quite a few leads lately on Trulia and Zillow asking about properties. 9 out 10 have sold and still appear on the site. One sold over 2 years ago and still is on the site. Agents who manually enter properties on these sites fail to remove them after they have sold.

  5. MH for Movoto

    February 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Wow – yeah that’s the trouble with web-shopping for anything . Confusion ensues….

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