Every couple of weeks, we’ll get an email in the office along the lines of this.

Dear Jerk Real Estate Broker,  we bought our home yesterday afternoon and the listing still shows up on your website.  Please remove it immediately or we will file a complaint with the BBB.

I don’t exactly know what the Better Business Bureau would do in this case, as no one has ever followed through with their threat.  I will say, as a St. Louis real estate broker, I have very little control of your listing.

Starts With A Listing Contract

When a home seller signs a listing contract with their real estate agent, one of the conditions of the contract is the listing agent will market the home.  The job of the agent at this point is to get the property into the MLS.  This stands for Multiple Listing Service.  In St. Louis, we currently use Maris.  If you hear your agent say, “I’ve uploaded your listing into Maris”, or “We’re live in Maris”, it means that the listing is in the Multiple Listing Service and it is currently syndicating.

Home Listing Syndication

Listing syndication is where the magic happens online.  As soon as that real estate agent gets that listing online, millions of websites get the information to display it on their consumer facing websites.  The benefit of this is that if someone is looking for your home online, it’s likely to be seen by anyone who is looking for a new home.  The downside of this is that the individual real estate agent has pretty much lost all control of that listing information.  Even if the agent makes a change to the listing, some sites won’t pick that change up.  Other sites that don’t have the information in a way that fits their particular website will pull information from other sources.  Sometimes that source material is wrong too.

Time Based Rule For Home Listing

There are two ways in which you can also be getting bad information due to time.  The first issue that can arise has to do with the property status.  When a property is available for purchase and there is no contract on the property, it is “active”.  When a property has a pending accepted purchase contract on it, the property can be marked “pending”.  At one time not so long ago, there were 13 different property status settings, and although they have been reduced to 6, there can be issues.

As an example, let’s say a website wants to show active properties.  That’s not an issue; they can just have status as active.  But, what if the website owner knows that the more properties they have available for pages, the better chance that website will rank for that particular property?  Also, what happens when there is a property status where the property is Active, but there is a contract on it?  That’s an actual property classification in our MLS.  It’s called “Active, under contract”.  What motivation does any real estate website owner have to make the differentiation?

The second example is that under our MLS rules, if a property goes from pending to sold, the agent has two business days to make the change in status.  About 90% of the time, this is why we end up getting an angry email from the new buyer of a home.  When the property officially closes, that is, keys and money are transferred; the agent has two business days to make the change in our MLS.  If I show a listing on my real estate website, I don’t have any control over how the agent entered the information, including timing.  When a new home buyer is telling me that they bought the house, they very well could have, I just don’t have any information from my data provider to tell me that happened, because they haven’t gotten the information either.

The Real Estate Genie

As you might be able to see, while the real estate agent gets the information train started, once it gets online, it’s nearly impossible to get that genie back into the bottle.  And that’s where the issues are.  As an example,  Zillow can have a property that went from active to off the market, but they don’t have an off the market, only a closed status, so the property is active in their system.  Realtor.com might have a property that is active, the listing expires and someone buys it when it isn’t listed but it never gets taken out of the system.

I’m a little curious how much time new home buyers spend sending out emails to everyone who has their listing in their system, as that would be hundreds of thousands of websites in a decent sized city.  That’s a lot of emails and time!  Do we get an email because we are a small, local, independent brokerage, or are buyers sending their emails to Zillow and Realtor.com too?