How long has that Northern Virginia house really been on the market? That is a question every buyer should be asking before they formulate an offer on a property. In Minnesota one agent has gone on national TV to clearly state that he is manipulating the data in the local MLS to make a home feel fresh. In fact his listings have been on the market for much longer and he isn’t the only one trying this sleight of hand. In Northern Virginia a number of agents employ this tactic and a few others to try and hide the reality that the house has been on the market for awhile by deleting the tax id from the listing.
For buyers who are working with an experienced Realtor® this slight of hand is a waste of the listing agent’s time. However for buyers who have decided to go it on their own this manipulation of MLS data could cost them big time when they overpay for a home. While the average days on the market in Northern Virginia varies slightly between counties and type of property the average in our area has climbed from a nanosecond in 2003 to between 60 to 120 days in 2007 and 2008. So unless a property has been languishing on the market for 6 months or more the fact that it has been on the market for a couple of months shouldn’t shock anyone and isn’t a reason to withdraw it from the MLS and then reentered it five minutes later.
The MLS in our area has two fields that a buyers agent knows to check when looking at how long a property has been on the market. The first is DOM (Days on Market) and the second is DOMP (Days on Market Property). The second field is the cumulative days the property has been on the market continuously even if the seller has lowered the price, changed agents or withdrawn and re-listed the property within 90 days. As a buyer when you are looking at data across various websites you may only see the DOM field and not the DOMP field.
Many times buyers think they will get a better deal if they go right to the listing agent and bypass having their own representation. Not only can an experienced buyers agent help you navigate the correct information in the MLS but guide you every step of the way from finding the right financing, the right home, navigating the complex contract process and make sure that when you get to the settlement table that you have had an advocate protecting your interests.
So if you are starting the process of looking for your new home, make sure you find your own agent. You may save thousands of dollars and a lot of heartache making one of the largest single financial purchases in your life.