Quirks of the Online Real Estate Search

Here’s what most consumers want: a real estate search platform that allows them to narrow their search to the nth degree so that only those exact homes meeting all possible criteria are met.

Here’s what prevents such a thing from being possible: human data entry.

Many real estate agents have trouble with the concept of north and south, right and left on driving directions yet we depend on them (or would depend on them on a more expansive, exacting search) to enter the data for each field accurately without exception.

And if they don’t enter the information precisely, a home that otherwise might work for a particular buyer would go unseen because of the data entry error to the detriment of seller and buyer alike. (This doesn’t get into the idea of “must have” versus “like to have” items in a search, which is another layer of complexity.)

Not that the problems always are caused by human error. Sometimes a straight-forward search really is anything but.

For instance … let’s say you’re looking for a waterfront lot in Peoria’s Desert Harbor subdivision. If you enter “%desert harbor%” as the subdivision – the percentage marks serve as a wildcard – and waterfront lot, here’s what comes up:

According to the search there are four properties for sale. Except …

Here’s what really is for sale:

This latter search was accomplished by magnifying the map until the only lakes were those in Desert Harbor and then searching for “Waterfront” without specifying a subdivision. (There’s an even slicker, polygonal search I can access on the Arizona Regional MLS; I use this most often for Westbrook Village when setting prospective buyers up with automated listings updates.)

Why the difference? Because one home is listed as being in Starfire Bay (accurate, if incomplete), another in Diamond Cove and two others are listed as Harbor Island (again, accurate but incomplete.) All of these are considered as part of the collective known as Desert Harbor but the tax records reflect the subdivision within the larger master planned subdivision – great for accuracy, terrible for searching for homes.

So what can a buyer do? You had to know the answer is coming – get in touch with a buyers’ agent who can help you set up your search to show you the most complete list of what’s available. Don’t trust what you think is right if you’re not 100 percent certain you’re seeing it all – and on an online Phoenix real estate search, the odds are you’re not seeing everything there.

Some of us have spent weeks and months learning different tricks for different areas to create the most accurate search possible (and others of us barely can turn on a computer.) It seems straightforward – just as changing out parts on your car seems straightforward when you look at it online – but the reality tends to be just a touch more complicated.

There’s no reason to do it alone … get the help from those who know what you’re not seeing.

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.