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20 June 2008

I Almost Bought a House Next To a Sewerage Treatment Plant

Posted by Jason Steele

As you may know from my last blog post, my family and I are in the market for a new home. I began the research process of finding an agent both on the web via Active Rain and through local referrals from friends and family in our prospective neighborhoods. We chose the agent through active rain as they happened to be much more knowledgeable and in tune with our requirements for finding a new home. The agent set up an automated email from their local MLS that would send us listings as they hit the market. In addition I went to Realtor.com, Zillow & Trulia daily just to make sure I had all of the bases covered so that the perfect house wouldn’t fall through the cracks. About a week ago a very promising home hit the market in our price range and it just seemed too good to be true. The pictures on the MLS site were plentiful, good school system, taxes were in line with our expectations and most of the all the price seemed low for the amount of property/beds/baths. There wasn’t an address listed so I went off to Trulia to see if I could figure out where in the town this home was located and sure enough there was an address. The default view is “map” and the location appeared to be ideal as it bordered a large wooded area. I zoomed in a bit and then hit the “satellite” view and that’s when things really came into focus. There appeared to be a building with 4 large round towers no more than 50 yards behind the woods in the rear of the property.

My first assumption was some sort of water treatment facility so I threw a search into Google Maps and it turns out I was pretty close, but it wasn’t water — it was sewage. After seeing Erin Brokovich I decided to pass on this house, but it got me thinking that 5 years ago I may have put an offer on it.

Today we live in an age where all industries and rapidly moving towards pure transparency. And as a real estate professional you have to assume the process I went through to expose the “too good to be true” scenario is typical. In my case it was extreme as I found something negative, but on the flip side I could have just as easily found out how far we were from local schools or what the neighbors paid for their house 2 years ago.

Coming from the travel agent industry, our front line sales force hated Tripadvisor.com as it could undermine every sale they made. Picture this, you just put a down payment on a vacation, went home and searched for the resort the agent recommended and found out that someone was there last week and saw a roach in their room. The agent would pick up the phone the next day and ask me to call Tripadvisor to remove the negative review. I told them that #1 it’s impossible, but #2 that they should always be one step ahead of their customer and have checked the site before recommending the resort in the first place.

At this point we should all be pretty confident that in the end the consumer will play a large role in shaping the direction of the real estate industry. And, to be successful, we have to observe and embrace their usage patterns and mold our systems to accommodate their needs.

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