I do not go around pointing fingers and criticizing – it’s just NOT my way. But today I was on the phone with a gentleman from New York that called our office and gave me an ear full about Trulia. The conversation started something like this:
“I just found a listing in Miami Beach that seems too good to be true, so I decided to call a reputable Realtor to see if it’s real”
Don’t know about you guys, but when I get a call from someone saying a listing seems “too good to be true”, I usually want to stop them on their tracks and say “if it seems to good, it usually is!”.
So here’s what this gentleman found:
As he described the house and gave me the North Bay Road address, I knew it was a multi-million dollar property. I quickly looked it up on the MLS and this property is currently listed for $6.9 million, not $540,000 as the posting reads.
We have received a lot of these calls lately and it’s getting to a point where I don’t even know what to say – is it Trulia’s fault for not monitoring their listings? Are brokerages not providing accurate information? How could a discrepancy this huge even occur? I did go into Trulia after the call and flagged the listing for improper information. I totally understand that all these portals cannot be held responsible for information provided to them, but I do believe that this reflects poorly on them since the consumer is trusting them as a provider of current and factual real estate information.
I did not write this post to single our Trulia by any means, other real estate portals have tons of mistakes as well. I’m writing because in this age of New Media and “transparency” – how is the consumer protected against false information? All these listing portals have a responsibility to provide accurate information and if they don’t, they should make sure inform their readers of such.
May 25, 2009 at 10:04 am
Trulia’s calling themselves a real estate search site, though a search site with incorrect data has little usefulness.
As an aggregator, it’s much easier to say “we just republish what we receive.” But to my mind there’s a higher standard needed and expected of a true RE search portal.
Say what you will about Realtor.Com, but by pulling that data straight out of the MLS, at least you know it’s right.
May 25, 2009 at 10:08 am
It’s one of 3 things…
1. MLS feed to Trulia is sending the wrong info
2. Agent entered the wrong info on the MLS (unlikely)
3. Agent manually entered the listing on Trulia and put in the wrong price
May 25, 2009 at 10:36 am
When we enter a listing here in our antiquated system we really have to check check and double check it before we post it as listed, and then we check it some more- the damn thing is so long and cumbersome that it’s easy to leave a mistake exposed for a consumer to pounce on. It’s not an excuse but a dreadful reality, and we’re often held to account for a system that sometimes forgets 1/2 a listing, times out in the middle of a 1.5 hour process and forces you to begin again, or how about the drop down menus that decide they really don’t want to drop down at all- it’s a pain in the ass- needless to say, you need proof readers.
I’m not sure what the answer is for trulia, but having seen some of the listings on trulia that no longer exist its pretty obvious that they feel it’s not their problem, it’s ours, and they’re probably right which is probably why we should just keep the listings on realtor.com where they belong, but that’s not going to happen, now is it…
May 25, 2009 at 10:51 am
Thanks for the post and for flagging it. We will look into the cause of the error and correct as needed.
If you click on the link within the listing,
you will see there is an error on Sotheby’s side:
We take errors like this very seriously and do our best to eliminate data errors we receive from 3rd parties. We have internal mechanisims in place to help and are always looking to improve our system.
Social Media Guru at Trulia
May 25, 2009 at 11:19 am
Ines – Funny – I just received an email stating there was a new question on T. It wasn’t really a question, but a statement form a hoemowener who wanted to clarify the home listed on T was listed in the wrong neighborhood. It’s not a home for sale, T is now adding homes in neighborhoods throughout the country for the sole purpose of ranking for addresses and subdivisions. This is a lack of diligence on their part.
While it may not seem an issue to be listed in the wrong neighborhood, it certainly is if there is a distinct property value diference and T has comparative property values on their site.
This isuue has really struck a nerve with me becasue of recent events here in Indy. We are held to a higher standard in reporting to our MLS and when a buyer searches our websites (assuming they are allowed to be indexed) they are receiving accurate data (for the most part).
And, what seller wants inaccurate data out there as comparable homes?
Although I don’t put any info there, I did sign up for Trulia Pro when it first came out and it’s interesting to see the public response to these type of situations. The public is watching and luckily they are seeking reputable agents who can give them accurate data.
May 25, 2009 at 11:59 am
I try to contribute to the online communites such as Trulia and it is sad to see how many questions from buyers/sellers are regarding incorrect information. Or is it not sad because it shows a computer program can never take the place of a real estate professional with local hands on expertise?
May 25, 2009 at 1:25 pm
Rudy, thanks for coming by and clearing things up and knowing that this is nothing against you personally. If the issue was one isolated case I would be less likely to even point it out, but it seems to be happening more and more often lately.
It is Trulia’s responsibility to check, double check and monitor their sources and of course the job is not easy if the broker is providing the wrong information. But I would be happy if Trulia were to be very open and clear to the consumer about the possibilities of inaccurate information.
The consumer that contacted me yesterday felt it was a “bait and switch” tactic from the provider (his words exactly). When the consumer starts feeling tricked, you know SOMETHING needs to change.
May 25, 2009 at 6:40 pm
Errors occur no matter what site you’re using. Human and technological errors are, and always will be unavoidable. Last week, I searched Realtor.com (a site I trust more than others) for condos in Boulder, CO. I found two I liked and contacted both agents. Turns out they were BOTH sold over a month ago. How can this be? On Realtor.com? They get their data straight from the MLS. This is simply an issue of human or technological errors, neither of which are avoidable.
May 25, 2009 at 7:08 pm
All fixed. Looks like it was a feed error.
May 25, 2009 at 9:28 pm
Kori, I can’t speak for other boards but here in Miami our board fines you if there is incorrect information on the MLS (i.e. if you keep a listing Active when it’s already under contract or sold – when you publish wrong information) – they give you a warning to correct mistakes and then fine you.
As much as many may dislike the concept of R.com, at least their information is monitored by local boards and the extent of mistakes may be listings that are no longer active – not $6.9 million listings that appear as $540,000
May 26, 2009 at 9:22 am
Does the extend of the numeric error really matter though? Is it more of a crime for the error to be $5 million off rather than say $80k?
You state that the consumer looks to Trulia for accurate data, and “this reflects poorly on them since the consumer is trusting them as a provider of current and factual real estate information.” I think we are in an age where the consumer MUST know and understand that when it comes down to it, the agent representing the listing must be held accountable for misrepresenting the listing. Its like getting ticked off at facebook because someone provides inaccurate info about their work history, age and gender. If you think a listing in that location with that size and those pictures is going for under a million, you were probably not serious about purchasing a home in that area to begin with. You were probably a “window shopper” (song by 50 Cent).
In the end, everyone needs an agent to sort out all this business, and make sure information is valid and credible.
May 26, 2009 at 10:04 am
Ines – It seems lately like many of my Trulia Voices answers involve old listings, questionable foreclosures, or the most recent one – which is an agent manually entering HUD homes, but using the wrong photos, listing the street name as a place that doesn’t exist (the new favorite is “Readynow”)…the same agent also likes to advertise their tax preparation services (they’re free!). It’s aggravating to say the least when I feel I have to clean up someone else’s mess. Of course, I could avoid it all together, but I think there’s a certain value to it (both for myself and the consumer), so I carry on anyway. I just try to do my best to explain to the consumer what may have happened and then flag the post. I doubt there will ever be a perfect listing site, just because there are plenty of people in this world that just don’t care about the details. To me it’s the same problem as agents who put in “Nice house.” for a description. The details are the key to solving problems, but I don’t think we’ll ever convince everyone to care about them.
May 26, 2009 at 11:16 am
In the org branding model I use, there’s a small element called Trust. If you can’t trust the organization for accuracy and focus, then the brand suffers. So Trulia needs to put some energy into managing its content for accuracy or it will fade into the ether while another online site comes along and builds a better brand. Maybe a few less gurus and a few more experienced brand-focused marketers might do the trick?
May 26, 2009 at 8:43 pm
No, no guys. This is such a non issue and i said so. I said it back on the Trulia site and anyone who’s been in the biz more than four months could see it:
The property was listed for rent (originally at $45K per month) so $540,000 was the aggregate amount of the lease for a year ($45k x12).
This is actually the rental listing that was being displayed.
This is so not a crime. Almost a non-issue.
May 26, 2009 at 8:45 pm
OH man reading all these comments—there are some pretty nasty conspiracy theories cooked up here.
May 27, 2009 at 7:32 am
When you get down to the smaller areas of the country – like my own – you find the mistakes become more prevalent. I’ve had past clients calling me (for some reason they believe I can fix this) about Google Earth showing their address on a home five doors down and across the street, and their home still showing as for sale on Trulia. I explain about going to the site and “claiming” the property and moving it, but the layman doesn’t have the time or the inclination. They simply feel like it’s something I did purposefully. Explaining indexing and other terms might as well have me going “blah, blah, blah.”
I have had positive experiences with Trulia Voices, which alerts me automatically to mostly relevant real estate questions from bonafide buyers and sellers in my town. For God’s sake, let’s not get on them for pulling data wrong . Our local MLS is finally kicking and screaming (and still somewhere around 2005), several websites index our properties with the bathrooms and bedrooms “flipped.” Not good.
Brendan Aiello - Team Tapper Realtors
May 27, 2009 at 4:20 pm
Happens all the time. The information given to trulia isn’t always just MLS IDX. They use a company called, “Realty Trac” which gives trulia viewers abstracts of what is defaulting. The prices seen are usually what the home owner still owes or how far behind he/she is.
May 28, 2009 at 7:25 pm
Go to Trulia and search for homes in Miami Beach for under $100,000. I just did and got 244 results. Many or most are foreclosures.
Here’s part of the description for one: “This property is an REO (Real Estate Owned). This is the final step in the foreclosure process. Ownership has reverted to the lender. This 0 square foot property has 0 bedroom(s) and 0 bath(s). The estimated sale price is $2100.”
You can pick up homes in Detroit right now for $2,100, but I don’t think things have gotten that out of hand in Miami Beach. That figure is most likely the amount of a lien against the property, not the lender’s asking price.
I’d be very surprised if any of the homes that came up in the search can be had for less than $100,000.
Same issue crops up at other sites that carry foreclosure “listings” that aren’t necessarily listings, but information on distressed properties culled from public records. Many of these homes are not actually on the market — in some cases their owners may be trying to negotiate workouts with lenders.
There’s definitely a demand for that kind of info, but it can be confusing when these properties are mixed in with MLS listings…
May 28, 2009 at 7:33 pm
Hey how are you? Yes things have not gotten that bad and I wonder what the larger issue is a Trulia with regard to these “blips”. I notice them all the time and most are the aggregate amount (like the house on North Bay Road) of the yearly lease amount.
Right now it’s kinda a free for all because so many people feed info to Trulia–some good and, well, others not.
May 28, 2009 at 7:37 pm
Realty Trac info is dicey, at best, and shouldn’t be used for a Trulia type web site.
I was reading something in the NYPost today that services like Realty Trac are almost unnecessary now.
May 28, 2009 at 11:37 pm
what is it with Trulia and Miami Beach real estate:
Here’s another one, guys.
Sorry for the link, Lani—
May 29, 2009 at 6:33 am
Kevin – Is this the same one mentioned above? It clearly states it is for sale.