You have probably heard of Zillow and Trulia's recent mega-merger into Zulia unless you live under a rock, or on "the rock" and have totally unplugged (if so, good job at fully enjoying your vacation). The discussion is focused on the information found on these portals, specifically the timeliness and completeness of information. Consumers are broken into two groups each seeking a distinctly different piece of information: Buyers are looking for available listings and Sellers are looking for recent sales data. The portals all make claims to have the best information. There are three major players here: Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com. The fourth player for the Martha's Vineyard Real Estate market is Link MV, which is our local multiple listing service. Most consumers make choices about which portal to use based on their reaction to the marketing directed at them. I doubt that many buyers or sellers have looked across the board to verify which portal is actually the most accurate for their purposes...Wait no longer!
I did it myself, and present The 2014 Real Estate Portal Playoffs (see inset).
Which Portal does what?
We'll first look at the big three, Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com and then move on to Link MV and why its the only portal that accurately represents our market. Zillow is strongest in sales data, which syncs up well with them being seen as a resource for sellers, with their mysterious Zestimates. I should note that about 1/3 of all the recent sales that Zillow presents have a value of $1, which means they are simply pulling public records of any property transfers that occurred, which don't at all reflect market value. Trulia has the most available listings, making them better as a buyer resource. Realtor.com is not really good for anyone, it has the lowest numbers across the board. A hilarious shared conundrum for all three is that they just can't handle Vineyard Haven/Tisbury. For example, Trulia has 5 homes listed as available in Tisbury, and 84 in Vineyard Haven! They are the same town. Link MV is a privately owned company that agents and agencies pay to be able to enter their listings into it's database. Link MV provides tools for agents to compose Comparative Market Analyses and to share listings with buyers.
What is an MLS?
Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com are not multiple listing services, they are consumer facing data portals that make a profit from real estate agents and vendors paying for advertising. Martha's Vineyard is associated with two actual listing services: The Cape Cod & Island MLS and Link MV.
How do listings get into Zillow, Trulia, Realtor and Link MV?
The Cape Cod and Islands MLS is affiliated with the National Association of Realtors, so every office on island that is a Realtor office can have their listings put into this listing service. The CC&I MLS pushes these listings to Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, and many other portals on the internet. There are only a handful of offices on the island that are Realtor offices who use this CC&I MLS. Offices that do not participate in the CC&I MLS can still get their listings into Zillow and Trulia manually, but not into Realtor.com. We saw from the numbers though that this is not really an issue, because Realtor.com has very little to offer consumers or agents. For agents, its very confusing as to what the relationship is between the National Association of Realtors and Realtor.com. My guess is that the Realtor.com people think consumers will see value in their site because of the Realtor affiliation. In my experience, most people think all agents are Realtors, so I doubt that this has any bearing at all on their decision of which portal to use. I also don't know what the value proposition is for agencies to be members of the CC & I MLS since none of the agent tools work for us due to the incomplete database. It is nice that it automatically uploads your listing into Zillow and Trulia, but that about it.
Link MV is the predominant listing service for Martha's Vineyard. As you can see from the numbers it's clearly the most complete database, except that Zillow has more recent sales listed which is weird. Every agency on island puts their listings into Link MV. They then use an IDX feed to push the entirety of the LINK MV listings to their own websites, so consumers can browse and contact the agency directly for more information. Sometimes consumers assume that since they find a listing on an agency's website that it means that agency represents that seller, which is not always the case. The LINK MV feed provides "blank" or unbranded listings for the agency's websites, so you can't really tell who the listing agency is. Agents give their clients direct access to Link MV, so they can search the database themselves and see everything, from availables, to solds and properties off market or under contract. This is how buyers looking for properties on Martha's Vineyard find homes. You can find a small portion of these homes on Zillow, Trulia and even Realtor.com, but its not effective for a real search.
Sorry to burst your Zestimate bubble...
People thinking of selling their home immediately go to Zillow, because they get an instantaneous estimate of value via the Zestimate. When they get to the point of wanting to list their home for sale and contact a local agent they usually quote the Zestimate when the value discussion comes up. You can see in the numbers that Zillow has a lot of sales data in Edgartown, which is because there is a high number and frequency of sales in Edgartown. The Zestimate for a home here may not be too far off the true market value that a local real estate agent would generate. For towns that see a lower number or frequency of sales, this value is way off. Additionally, no one knows how these Zestimates are calculated, though it's reasonable to assume that there is not a person at Zillow who has been inside the recently sold homes to be able to compare them adequately to the subject home, which is how agents do it.
Advertising and Data
Zillow, Trulia (now Zulia) and Realtor.com are companies that profit from advertising. They have huge marketing budgets that make consumers feel like they can find the information they need on their portal of choice. The real data they want is in Link MV, and the way they get it is through their local real estate agent. It's free, there are no ads and the information is current and complete.
Exclusively Yours: Things are different here, and people like it
Most home searches start online, and I imagine most sellers start their research there too. Being off the grid, exclusive and challenging to access are all historically valuable qualities of Martha's Vineyard; the same is true for the way the island handles real estate information. It's just harder to get to! The short story is that if you want to buy or sell a home on Martha's Vineyard, the very best way to do it is to engage a local real estate agent to connect you with the information you seek and help you interpret it in a way that will make the process easier, and usually faster!
If you like this post, want to know more about accessing Link MV or have a question, Message Me or give me a call at the Sandpiper Realty, Inc. Office: 508-939-6500
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xo Rose Ryley Courcier