When it comes to searching for homes, there are a lot of online resources that can serve you well, but you can’t do better than working with an actual real estate agent.

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As a homebuyer, how can you be sure that you’re seeing all the available houses out there that are for sale? I know that at least one of you watching the video above or reading this article is searching sites like Homes.com, Remax.com, or Realtor.com, and thinking that if you don’t check each and every website, you will miss out on your dream home.

Today I wanted to talk about three questions that might be on your mind when it comes to browsing these websites:

1. Where does all that data come from? It comes from Realtors like me who snag appointments with sellers, go out to those listing appointments, and get a listing agreement signed. After that, we use a proprietary application called the multiple listing service—or MLS for short—to put all that information in. Remember, though—garbage in, garbage out. If the agent doesn’t put everything into the fields like they’re supposed to, there’s a good chance that some of that criteria might be overlooked in a search.

2. How do other sites acquire that data? Think of it like Amazon.com. They have an aggregate of sellers who are trying to hawk all of their products, and that’s exactly what’s happening here. Realtor.com was the first that ever came out on the market, and that was our association. After that, Zillow, Trulia, and Homes.com all decided to jump on the bandwagon and help us push our listings out to the public. We actually upload to those public websites. Keep in mind, though, that this information sometimes gets lost in translation. The data might be corrupted, there might be photos missing, and the status changes might not always be up to date. You could be looking at a listing that’s for sale on one of those public websites that, in reality, isn’t for sale anymore. It could be sold, but more than likely, it’s under contract at this time to another buyer.

3. How can you be assured that you’re getting the most up-to-date information? Work with a real estate agent. We have the latest up-to-the-minute information, and if we set you up on an automatic email campaign that sends you all the houses for sale as they come on the market, you will see those within an hour of when we submit them to the MLS. You’ll have the most current information from us, not a third-party website. Those websites are great, but they’re not the best way to find a home.

“We don’t want you to be shortchanged.”

We don’t want you to be shortchanged—we want to make your home buying experience exceptional. If this isn’t the service you’re getting currently, give me a call and I’d be happy to help. If there’s a video topic you’d like to see, feel free to send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you!