We are all aware of how dramatically the Internet has influenced our lives in the last decade. The volume of information that flows past us on a daily basis has become almost overwhelming at times. The real estate industry has been greatly effected by this. The amount of information available to both consumers and real estate agents has been a game changer.
In the last decade, with the explosion of the Internet and MLS databases, real estate has grown from an industry where agents were primarily aware of their own listings and a perspective buyer had to travel from office to office to find their dream home. Now most consumers have done hours of research online using a variety of real estate oriented websites before they contact their real estate agent.
Many of the real estate websites are excellent tools for searching homes on the market, determining mortgage rates, finding demographic statistics and other related information... BUT remember the old adage: Garbage In, Garbage Out.
The single most accurate source of information regarding real estate is the MLS (Multiple Listing System) where real estate agents directly enter information on the homes they are listing for sale. The agents have researched the properties, obtained legally binding information from home owners and town offices. This is where changes to a listing will be updated immediately (price changes, contracts, sales, new photographs, etc).
Not all websites are created equal. Only websites that receive a data feed from your local MLS will have the most accurate and up to date information. Nationally, the major site to receive MLS data feeds is Realtor.com. Realtor.com is updated several times a day to reflect new listings, price changes and properties that have gone under contract. Many other promoted sites receive occasional updates, sometimes only weekly or even less frequently than that.
Locally the most accurate information is going to be found on an individual office site. These sites are built to receive a daily MLS data feed and will display all listings in your area regardless of which office is representing the property.
Remember that while the Internet is an invaluable tool in your real estate research, make sure that you are using the most accurate, up-to-date websites. If in doubt, you can always go "old school" and contact your Realtor®.