Whether you’re looking to make a move to the Lake Travis area, or just move within the area, looking at homes online is where you’ll most likely begin to gather information.
And if you’ve started to look at homes online, it’s very likely that you’re landing on sites like Zillow and Trulia. Both of these national real estate portal sites (now owned by Zillow Group) spend a lot of money to show up when you’re searching for homes online.
So what can you expect to find when you visit the largest real estate and home-related brands to search for Lake Travis real estate on mobile and the web?
1. New listings and updated information are slow to arrive
Homes are listed for sale in the local MLS (Multiple Listing Service) by real estate brokers and syndicated to other sites. It could take a home several days to show up — or update new information — on real estate portal sites like Zillow and Trulia.
This might not matter if you just like to keep an eye on what’s out there. It will matter if you’re trying to find a home to purchase. Especially when the best homes for sale in the Lake Travis area are receiving offers within days or even hours of going live on the MLS.
The home with everything you are looking for will be long gone by the time you see it show up on the portal sites.
2. Not all homes are listed on Zillow and Trulia
You may not find the home that was listed in the MLS the other day because some Austin real estate brokerages have decided to withhold listings from third-party sites.
Most of the real estate brokerages have primarily cited inaccuracy of data as the biggest reason for pulling listings. Listing prices and home features are two important pieces of information that top the inaccurate data list.
Other pieces of inaccurate information include sold prices and estimates on home values.
3. Inaccurate home value estimates
Using an online estimate to determine the value of a home might work in some states, but it doesn’t work here in the Lake Travis area or anywhere in Texas. The State of Texas is a non-disclosure state and sold information can only be obtained from the local MLS.
The information these sites gather is from user information and public sources like county tax appraisals.
Tax appraisals are not the best piece of information you want to use when determining the true market value of a home. The appraisal districts do not have access to sold information and data is based on the previous year. Many homeowners protest their property taxes to get the assessed value as low as possible (so they can pay lower property taxes).
A homes value based on tax appraisals is a huge difference when compared to a value based on recently sold homes. Take a look at Zillow’s Data Coverage and Zestimate Accuracy.
The Zestimate accuracy for top metro areas in Texas including Houston and San Antonio are given the lowest rating. For some reason, the Dallas-Forth Worth area received two stars, which is considered a fair Zestimate with 72.8% of the homes on Zillow within 20% of the sales price. This is very confusing considering that Zillow doesn’t actually know the sales price.
The State of Texas is not included in the Trulia Estimates Regional Report, but you’ll find information on their site for the median sale price of Lake Travis area homes along with more inaccurate sold information.
This is why many Austin real estate brokers feel these sites are doing a disservice to home buyers and sellers and have made the decision to not syndicate their listings on third-party sites.
What can you do?
If you’re looking online for a home to actually buy, make sure you are plugged into a home search that is getting fed from the MLS in real time.
Information from the MLS is not perfect, but it’s your best option for viewing just listed homes and the most accurate information. You won’t waste valuable time searching and gathering information on homes that are no longer on the market.
If you’re a seller looking to determine the true value of your home in today’s market, don’t use a national real estate portal site or a Zestimate.
The most accurate way to value a property is a combination of information on sold comparables, homes that are currently under contract, available inventory of active homes, current market conditions, and local market knowledge.
Post image via Creative Commons, Chris Isherwood on Flickr.
Robbie Friedmann says
You said ” The appraisal districts do not have access to sold information and data is based on the previous year. Many homeowners protest their property taxes to get the assessed value as low as possible (so they can pay lower property taxes).”
Last year I was protesting my taxes and the 3 panel board at Travis County told me that they do have access to MLS and sold properties. They refused to go down much on my assessment b/c they said they knew what I paid. I kind of feel they do have access to MLS but maybe they get the info elsewhere.
I enjoy your articles.
Friedmann Parks Realty
Todd Hower says
Hi there Robbie,
I don’t believe that TCAD has direct access to ABOR’s MLS. Rather, they obtain the sold data from property owners (that have obtained the data from a realtor) when they are protesting their property tax.
So TCAD doesn’t have all of the sold information, but it is possible that someone used your home as a comparable and provided them with the amount that you paid for it.