Friday, March 29, 2013

Published Faulty Information By Online Real Estate Websites Causes Headaches For Some Homeowners

In Chicago, Illinois, WMAQ-TV Channel 5 reports:

  • For a homeowner who says she has never missed a mortgage payment, the word "foreclosure” listed next to her Sycamore home shocked Kristin Miller.

    Miller said she recently found the false foreclosure listing on Zillow, the wildly popular website where consumers turn for information on home values, price histories and foreclosures. "We were very worried when we saw it," she said. "The first thing my husband said is we better run our credit to make sure it has not been affected."

    Her concern isn't unique. Online forums offer dozens of angry homeowners complaining about false foreclosure listings on the site.

    "My jaw totally dropped," said Cassandra Jo Terry.

    The North Carolina woman said she has lived trouble-free in her house for decades and was stunned to see the "F" word next to her listing. "It is not in foreclosure at this time nor has it ever been at the point of foreclosure," she said.

    How does it happen? Zillow gets its information from public records, and public records are notoriously inaccurate. That much explains why the company's home value estimates are sometimes way off. But how does something as specific -- and potentially damaging -- as a foreclosure get into the system?

    Zillow refused to name its sources, the companies it hires to aggregate data. That makes a frustrating mistake even harder for homeowners to disprove.

    "That's when you start running into problems because you don't know where the data is actually coming from because it's an aggregation of different sources," explained Matt Farrell, the President-elect of the Chicago Association of Realtors.

    And agents, often at odds with online services, say bad data is becoming an everyday headache.
For more, see Homeowners: Real Estate Site Lists False Foreclosures (Experts say it's unlikely homeowners who find a "false foreclosure" on any online website will see negative ramifications to their credit record).

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