Learning from the passage of time (Part 3)

The biggest change I have witnessed in my 40-plus years as a Realtor has been the flow of information.

Think of information like water. It helps to see how life and the real estate transaction has drastically changed in the flow of information.

THEN: Remember when the MLS (multiple listing service) book was like a “Bible” to Realtors? If it wasn’t in that book, the only way to get information about taxes, zoning or deed restrictions was to go to the courthouse and ask for it. This usually involved one to three hours and a group of charges to the staff of the auditor’s or recorder’s offices to making copies. Realtors gathered information and carried it to the buyers and sellers. Most of us had file cabinets full of information like county maps, plats, deed restrictions or zoning books. We did what most people would not or could not do: we managed information about real estate in the area.

TODAY: All that information is available for free and in seconds to anyone with a computer or smart phone. From property and tax information to criminal records, lawsuits, deeds, zoning maps and condo docs, it is all available through county, city and township websites.

REALTORS’ ROLE CHANGED: From once being keepers of information, now Realtors are expected to make sense of all the information. The public is being fed information like water through a fire hose; there are thousands of websites that may / may not be accurate. They package up free information from the counties and offer them to you for a price. Most Realtors know which sites are valid and up to date, and want to make sure you are getting good information.

There are hundreds of websites offering homes for sale. The oldest and best national website is Realtor.com, which gets its information instantly from the MLS, as do the websites of Realtor /Broker firms. These will have the best and most up to date information. Others like Trulia and Zillow also get feeds from the MLS, but it may not be as accurate. Many websites put up new listings quickly but are slow to remove sold homes. Remember that once a home is under contract it comes out of the MLS “active status” and is immediately removed from Realtor.com and Realtor / Broker websites. There is nothing worse than seeing a “Home for sale” only to call up and find out it is under contract.

Trust that the government websites have the most and best information about taxes, liens, sexual predators, crime statistics and traffic counts. The websites selling “foreclosures,” neighborhood crime info, school data,and more are selling you information they (and you) can get for free.

Ask your Realtor what is the best source for information. We care that you have the correct information and are willing to help and we want to help you get it.

Darlene Mink-Crouse is the 2018 president of the Warren Area Board of Realtors.