|Potholes to avoid on the information
Julie Garton-Good, GRI, DREI
The Internet and the World Wide Web provide you with a whole
new world of real estate information--right at your fingertips! But advantages
often bring an equal number of concerns. So let's explore the pros and cons of
using electronic real estate information and identify precautions you can take
when accessing it.
Perhaps the most obvious benefits are timeliness and
accessibility. Current interest rate quotes are available in real-time and
information on the latest mortgage loan options are all at your fingertips. The
amount of consumer tips on making your home more affordable (like The Frugal
HomeOwner) contribute greatly to consumers reaching the "American
As with any source of data, however, you need to thoroughly
check out the source and the information before taking any action. This is
particularly true of real estate on the Internet, since there is no one sole
source for inputting (nor policing) the information, it's not verified before
being placed in cyberspace and you might come across an occasional scam (just as
in other any business arena).
Here's an approach that should assist you to verify the
validity of the property information you find. First, know who placed the
information there. If it's a for sale by owner (FSBO) ad, is the seller willing
to confirm the information with a seller's disclosure sheet about the property?
What supporting data did the seller consult before "listing" his
property online (comparative market analysis, appraisal, home inspection)? Is
the seller willing to share that information with you?
If the property ad was placed by an associate, what
additional information is the associate willing to share with you? Is there
additional printed information you can receive like a seller's disclosure sheet,
formal multiple listing service information sheet, etc.? Most Realtors who place
information on-line have done so only after preparing exhaustive backup
materials like comparative market analyses.
Only in very rare cases would a buyer purchase property
sight unseen over the Internet. Most want the opportunity to "kick the
tires" and confirm the data. And until the data can be confirmed, it should
be treated as preliminary information.
If it's information regarding interest rates and financing,
there are added cautions. For example, if you're seeking refinancing
information, you may be asked to share information about yourself, such as your
name, address, phone number, and amount and type of existing loan. Most lenders
who use online services merely to gather introductory information from potential
customers use the World Wide Web primarily as a way to make the initial contact
with the customer, not sign and seal the loan application. If you're like many
borrowers who want to guard personal information about themselves, make sure to
only give your screen (online) name and then have the service provider reach you
directly for a face-to-face or telephone contact.
It doesn't matter to what degree you apply the real estate
information available in cyberspace, you must agree it's given us a dramatically
increased wealth of endless real estate information--just for the ability to
point and click!
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