Poor Online Data, Rental Edition

Earlier this week I met a lovely couple at a home for rent in Litchfield Park. Not more than 10 steps into the home, they asked what the monthly rent was. $2,000 a month, I told them. That can’t be, they said, because Hotpads said the home was renting for $1,000 a month.

We then spent the next 10 minutes arguing over what the actual rental rate on the home was – what was listed in the MLS (i.e., the official word on the matter) or what was appearing on a website not related to the actual rental marker here in any way, shape or form.

Oddly enough, Hotpads had the square footage wrong. And while it listed the first name of the owner, the phone number led to some call center and e-mails had gone unanswered.

Fortunately for them, at least, the e-mails were unanswered as they likely would have discovered the “owner” was living in London and was going to have them wire funds directly across the Atlantic where the “owner” would collect the cash and disappear.

If you’re missing the point of the last paragraph, the “owner” on Hotpads wasn’t the owner. It was a scammer who lifted a listing out of the MLS, ran the owner’s information on the Maricopa County Assessor’s site and posted a bogus ad in search of some willing victims.

We can talk about third-party listing aggregation sites until we’re blue in the face and it doesn’t change one basic reality – the best, most accurate data still is found on agent or brokerage sites using IDX techology to pull directly virtually every listing out of the MLS (virtually every, because agents and brokers can opt out of the IDX feed if they so desire.)

Since only licensed, dues-paying members of the MLS can enter listings there, there is no fear of being scammed by some scum-sucker looking to prey on innocent victims by posting bogus listings. It’s about that simple.

Trulia only allows listing syndication from brokerages so the risk there is nil; the bigger problem is, at least here in the Phoenix area, the data is garbage. Zillow does allow people to list homes themselves, so you are taking your chances there … or on Hotpads, or whatever the new listing portal is or may be.

And don’t even get me started on Craigslist.

Your biggest risk in searching on an agent/brokerage site powered by IDX? You might get contacted by a real estate agent who, oddly enough, thinks you might be looking for a home and can offer help.

Personally, I’d take that over some guy sitting in his mother’s basement in Surrey taking my money any day of the week.

Photo credit: Elliott Brown via Flickr Creative Commons

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at allphoenixrealestate.com.