A Word about the Internet


“I can run a sub 5-minute mile.”

  • Well...that was once true. Not anymore.
  • But it illustrates the following truism about the Internet

There is a lot of information on the Internet that may have been true at one time, but is no longer correct.

“I can run a 4-minute mile.”

  • This was never true... but how would you ever know that?
  • This illustrates another truism regarding the Internet

There is a lot of information on the Internet that was never true, but how do you know that?

“This is a Real Estate website, so who cares if you can run!?”

  • EXACTLY!

This information is NOT relevant. Just like a lot of information on the Internet.

These statements are a bit oversimplified and we use them here to call your attention to something that  most would say is rather obvious, but that we tend to gloss over in our haste.  With this introduction in mind, we would like to discuss a couple of very important points about the Internet.

Point 1


Ask yourself ‘what is the author’s point of view’?

Be very mindful of specific points of view.
There is a lot of information available on websites that either champions a very specific point of view or is written by those with a serious axe to grind.  They want to make a point and the information that is featured reflects that point.

This can happen overtly or by virtue of the author never mentioning opposing points of view. If they do mention alternatives, they mention them dismissively or negatively.

In the event you clicked a link or search result to access a particular article, you may not be aware (ie as you would have been had you entered the site through the Home Page) of the author or publishers bias at all.

We see this a lot in the area surrounding short sales.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but if your goal is to take quality information on board,  it is important to attempt to identify the source of the information when you see it so you can determine if that information or point of view is best for you.
How do you identify or otherwise insulate yourself from this? Look for three things when presented with a point of view. Does the author present, or at least acknowledge the existence of:

  1. Risks.
  2. Benefits.
  3. Alternatives.

If those three items are presented fairly, then you can be confident that that author has made an effort to be informative.

To reiterate the question to ask, "who and what are the sources and what are they trying to accomplish?"
An example of this point is evident in one of the most popular real estate websites out there today.

Zillow has successfully positioned themselves to be a go-to online resource for all things Real Estate related.  Do you know what their business model is?

It is to drive traffic in order to sell advertising.

what?

It is to drive traffic in order to sell advertising.

That's probably not readily apparent when you go to check your Zestimate is it?

We talk more about Zillow here, and we are by no means against Zillow. On the contrary, they have done impressive things and brought innovation to the industry in a big way.

But the main qualifications of those whose names show up in ads for Real Estate Services?  Their check cleared.

Whose interests do you think Zillow have closest to their hearts?  Yours or their investors?

Again, we are fans of Zillow, we are just using them here to illustrate the point we are making.  Things are not always as they appear.

Our point of view, our goal, is to list and sell houses.  We are not trying to sell anything beyond that.  IF we point out certain information, it is because we feel it will help our customers better understand the process of buying or selling a property and therefore become better educated consumers.   Hopefully this page is evidence of that.  We included this page because the items covered here come up again and again in our daily operations, and we felt it important to have this conversation.

 

Point 2


Become an Educated Consumer of information
There is no shortage of information relating to all aspects of Real Estate available on the Internet.
Ever heard of “too much information”…’TMI’ to millennials and fans of texting?  How about “paralysis by analysis”?
Not a week goes by that we do not encounter someone, somewhere espousing 'something' that they have read or seen online, or using that 'something' to inform their opinion, and in some cases, their actions.

A Funny thing about websites, and especially forums and blogs, which more and more websites are using as their basic structure…nobody ever takes down, deletes or removes older information.

In some instances, this is by design….it is known as ‘content’ and it helps drive page rank. In other instances, it is simply inattention to detail.

This is rarely malicious on the part of the publisher...in most cases the publisher is probably not even aware of it...and in others, they want the content online for search engines to find. Not a big deal.

But it is still incorrect.

The bottom line is that we know for a fact that there is inaccurate information out there, information that was true when it was written, that is no longer true. We see it in our own research, and we hear it from others

 

 

It is critical that you recognize it as well. There is not a lot of editorial oversight or fact checking going on online.

A simple way to determine the relevance of information you come across online is to look for the date it was published.  That's a good place to find the author as well.

Point 3


Do not mistake seeing the same information everywhere you look as confirmation that the information is correct or current.

Particularly when researching a relatively detailed subject, one frequently finds almost verbatim the same article or information published on site after site.

To be fair, sometimes this is legitimate. for instance, when the popular public  indexes such as the Case-Schiller Home Price Index, the Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey or local Median Home Sale Prices are published.

But those are broad public and routinely repeated announcements, so it is normal to see them addressed in many places.

 

It is the more unique, or detailed search results that tend to get picked up and redistributed by a lot of people.

And that information is the type of information that is susceptible to opinion and inaccuracy that gets assimilated into the mainstream not on the strength of its quality, rather simply by virtue of having been repeated enough times.

We do it ourselves.  We pick up quality articles for your information when appropriate.

But we will always credit the author or publisher, and present it as a reprint of other information.  And we will only do that after passing it through he filters we are describing on this page, and with qualifiers and caveats noted as warranted.

 

The Last Point


Be Honest with yourself
We have a section in our Listing Presentation that says the following:

It is perfectly normal to think of your home in favorable terms, and that it is better than all the others. This means you are human. It does not mean you are correct.

That may sound harsh, but it is a truth that needs to be spoken. The same holds true with information consumed from the Internet, (and the print and broadcast media as well).
We all like to think highly of our ability to determine truth from fiction.

We also convince ourselves our sources are the best sources, and our ability to separate opinion from fact is infallible.

That is perfectly normal.

Congratulations! That means you are human. It does not mean you are correct!

Honesty is always the best policy, beginning with ourselves.

So, what have we learned?


  • Even a well regarded site like Zillow may have a motive that is not in line with your desired outcome.  In other words, things are not always what they appear.
    • That’s fine, just absorb what you learn on Zillow or elsewhere with that caveat in mind.
  • Taking a moment to determine the age, and therefore current relevance of information, along with the author and any potential point of view will go a long way toward helping you determine what information to hold on to and which to disregard.

It is axiomatic that our decisions have consequences.  It is also axiomatic that some decisions may result in ‘unintended consequences’.

The most painful unintended consequences are the ones that could easily have been avoided.

We love it when out customers are informed and engaged, but please  take a moment to consider what we have written. Perhaps you can avoid mistakes by doing so.

Since we have abused a few clichés in this article, lets abuse one more.  You have no doubt heard the adage that

if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day…if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.

Nowhere in this article have we tried to feed you a specific fish, or tell you what to think about anything.

Our goal is to get you to reconsider how you consume information on the Internet and apply some of the filters that we mention, specifically as it relates to Real Estate.

We want to teach you to fish and thereby be fed for a lifetime…and it would not bother us to sell you houses for a lifetime either.

We are happy to answer questions about anything you find online.  We will not lie or make up an answer.  If we do not know it, we will admit that and endeavor to find it for you.

Does the Internet do that for you?

 

We hope this was a helpful article for you, but now, believe it or not, we have to run...