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Beware of forms on real estate websites!

If you search the Internet for real estate you’ll probably find a lot of websites that aren’t owned by local Realtors. There are plenty of sites that are there for one thing… to collect your personal information. These are lead generating companies who will then sell your personal info to one or more real estate agents. These agents pay for your contact information and you become a Sales Lead. You don’t know if the agents are Realtors as they’ll sell leads to whomever will pay for them. Unfortunately, these lead generation companies are better in coming up in Google and other search engines than the majority of local Realtor websites so you are bound to visit more of these as you search. The challenge is knowing when to give your information and to what site.

One of the most successful lead generating websites is from HouseValues. They advertise to find the value of your home and then sell your info to an agent for about $100 a lead. They require a one-year contract from the agents which averages around $6000 a year. Housevalues went public, made the founders some money, but their stock has recently tanked. Their major problem was that they charged Realtors for leads that turned out to be bogus (like from Mickey Mouse). The majority of agents didn’t renew their contracts. If you Google “housevalues complaints” you can see more things that people didn’t like about them. HouseValues also has a another site to gather Buyer leads called is another lead generating site owned by Lending Tree. They differ from HouseValues in that will sell a person’s information to up to THREE agents. So now you have 3 people calling you trying to see who the best salesperson is that can “work the lead’ the best.

There are plenty of smaller lead generation companies. There are many variations of the sites. CraigsList is also becoming a place where you need to watch yourself when visiting. Check this CraigsList entry that’s in San Jose. It supposedly advertises a property that’s way below the market price but when you click on it, you get a form for a Just Listed service and they sell your information (they even say so in their Privacy Policy).

I heard this week that the Department of Real Estate (DRE) is swamped with agent complaints because of the number of new agents that have received their licneses in the past few years. So we’ll probably see more companies looking to mislead people to get their contact info since the DRE is too busy to followup on all complaints. Advertising a Bogus property surely isn’t something that the DRE allows. In fact, if a licenses agent advertises a property, they must identify themselves as an agent and list the Brokerages name. If you look at the SLO Craigslist, you’ll see many postings from agents that violate this DRE law.

So be careful on sites offering you information but putting forms in front of that info. Also, don’t fill out a form on a real estate site where you don’t know where your info is going!

Written by Keith Byrd - Go to Keith's Website/Profile