If you've spent any time at all browsing the internet for houses, chances are you've run across the major national real estate sites like Zillow and Trulia.  These sites boast a high rank on Google and attractive interfaces, but their usefulness is limited, especially to serious home buyers.  Why?  The short answer is because they rely on second-hand information that is often incomplete and outdated.

It works like this: When you do a search at an agent/broker website (like SunCoastGroupRealtors.com) you are getting constantly updated and fresh information straight from the MLS.  When a newly listed house comes on the market, or when it gets sold, agent websites are updated the very same day.  National sites, on the other hand, must rely on many various sources for information to try and compile a complete picture of the market. 

According to a 2012 study, there are between 20% and 30% more listings found on broker websites than on Zillow and Trulia.  But that's not all.  New listings show up on agent sites 7 to 9 days faster than they show up on national sites. Even more frustrating, about 2 out of every 5 listings on national sites have already been sold, but are falsely shown to be still on the market!

In the end, while the big national sites are somewhat useful if you are just taking a casual glance at the housing market, anyone serious about buying or selling must hold a higher standard. Don't base a decision on incomplete data. Don't miss out on a new property hitting the market. Don't waste your time on properties that aren't even for sale anymore.  Don't use national sites like Zillow and Trulia.