Stale listings frustrate homebuyers

Paul Owers / Florida Sun Sentinel /

Published Jul 28, 2013 at 05:00AM

The five-bedroom house in Parkland, Fla., was listed for sale last week on Zillow.com for $700,000.

Except that it wasn’t really available.

The home, a short sale, had been under contract since last August and finally closed Friday.

Expired listings always have been a minor annoyance in the world of real estate, but the problem is taking on greater significance amid a shortage of homes for sale.

A housing resurgence has buyers and agents scrambling for listings. Buyers doing their own Internet searches are finding homes in their price ranges on Zillow, Trulia.com and other websites and can’t understand why their agents haven’t shown them the properties.

In many cases, it’s because the listings are stale. And that’s creating tension between buyers and their agents.

“They say, ‘Michael, I see five houses that you haven’t shown me. What gives?’” said Michael Citron, an agent in Florida’s Broward and Palm Beach counties. “A home is a big purchase, and people have to have trust and confidence in their agent. With some of these, I feel like I have to earn their trust all over again.”

Michelle Marchand Canseco has been looking to buy in since May. She’s fed up dealing with expired listings.

“I’m a motivational speaker, so I’m trying to be positive, but it’s really hard,” she said.

Home listings are entered into multiple listing service databases, where they’re viewed by agents. When a home goes under contract, the listing is supposed to be updated in real time to let potential buyers know of the change in status.

But some agents are slow to update or intentionally leave the listing open to attract backup offers.

Meanwhile, websites such as Zillow and Trulia are fed listings through so-called syndication.

In some cases, an agent looking to represent buyers will create an online flyer for a specific home and falsely claim that he or she is the listing agent for the property. The flyer often goes on a website such as Zillow-owned Postlets.com, which sends the listing to other real estate sites.

Because the agent who originally made the flyer isn’t the listing agent, he or she usually isn’t aware when the home goes under contract or is sold, so the change in status isn’t updated.

Zillow monitors listings and does its best to take down those that have expired, spokeswoman Katie Curnette said.

“We’re working really hard to find creative ways to keep the listings accurate,” she said. “But you have to depend on agents to be honest and make sure it’s a good listing that will be helpful to buyers.”

Trulia spokesman Matt Flegal said in a statement that listing accuracy is an industrywide problem. Flegal said the firm has “invested heavily in delivering quality data to consumers,” with such offerings as Trulia Direct Listings, which receives listings straight from MLS databases.

Mortgage rate falls to 4.31%

WASHINGTON — Average rates on U.S. fixed mortgages fell for the second straight week, a welcome sign for homebuyers hoping to lock in lower rates that had spiked earlier this month.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average on the 30-year loan fell to 4.31 percent. That’s down from 4.37 percent last week but nearly a full percentage point higher than in early May. The rate reached a two-year high of 4.51 percent two weeks ago.

The average on the 15-year fixed loan declined to 3.39 percent, down from 3.41 percent last week.

— The Associated Press