I recently wrote a post (What is a Pre-Foreclosure?) in which I stated that the most accurate place for homebuyers to find listed properties is the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). However, even the MLS may not be accurate, 100% of the time.
Before you click this page closed in sheer frustration, let me explain what I mean.
Why Is Information Wrong In the MLS?
It's important to remember that all of the data and information contained in the MLS is input by people, and people are prone to human error, whether unintentional or out of sheer laziness (in other words, the agent who doesn't take the time to fully research their listing, the seller who doesn't take the time to provide correct information to their agent, or the office manager/admin/assistant who confuses information as they input the property details).
What Kind of Details Might Be Wrong In A Listing In the MLS?
We see it all. The incorrect information might be about the home details themselves: from driving up to a home and realizing that the photo of the front of the house in the MLS is the wrong house to square footage inaccuracies because the square footage pulled directly from the public tax records (also subject to human error and frequently incorrect); from the house details being incomplete or inaccurate (listing a garage rather than a carport or leaving out the type of water heater) to inaccurately stating that the home is on sewer service when it has a septic tank. The inaccuracies may also affect the way the potential buyer might use the property: from stating that there are no rental restrictions, when in reality they are restricted or prohibited to incorrect disclosure of other HOA restrictions such as fencing the property or the ability to build/add sheds or other outbuildings.
How Can I Make Sure That I Am Obtaining Accurate Information About a Property I Want To Purchase?
There's a disclaimer that appears on MLS listings that reads, "Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed." This is the warning to agents and buyers that, while the MLS hopes that every listing is accurate, it's up to the buying side to verify.
Georgia is a "Buyer Beware" state, but that applies to more than just making sure you get home inspections done. It also applies to making sure the information you read on the MLS sheet is correct and, if it's not, that you're aware of and okay with the actual details of the property.
Start by comparing the home when you first view it to the features and details listed in the MLS sheet, to make sure that the things that are important to you as a buyer are there or can be added (for example, if you only like to cook with a gas stove, is there definitely gas service to the home?). Look for those details that are most important to you to verify that this home has them. If the home is located in a community with a mandatory Homeowners Association (HOA) sure that you have time, either before writing the offer or during your due diligence period, to review the HOA documents -- the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CCRs), By-Laws, and other rules and regulations -- to make sure that you are aware of the restrictions and they fit with your lifestyle and the way you want to be able to use the property. (Click here to read more about buying a home in an HOA and what you need to know.)
Finally, make sure your home inspector has a copy of the Seller's Property Disclosure when he or she conducts the home inspection. Your home inspector will be able to give a professional opinion about the age of the systems of the home (HVAC, water heater, roof, etc.) to verify if what the seller has disclosed is accurate, and also to comment on whether improvements made to the property by the seller were done professionally and meet current building code requirements.
A knowledgeable and experienced REALTOR® is your best bet to help you not only find the right house but also make sure you cross all your Ts and dot all your Is during your home purchase. We'd love to help you with your home search and purchase -- call us today at 404-994-2181 or email Ben(at)BuySellLiveAtlanta(dot)com!