I'm sure you have seen it time and time again. You find a home that is listed online as "for sale" but when you call, the agent says that there is already an offer on the property. What?? Why is it still listed then? Well, I can explain why this happens.
The MLS system that we REALTORS use, called NorthstarMLS, is the master database of all houses available for sale through the various agents and companies. This database is the one that distributes the data to all the other websites such as REMAX.COM, RE/MAX Results website, Edina Realty's website, Coldwell Banker's website, and all the other broker websites. When a house is listed on the market, it is put in what is known as an "ACTIVE" status. These are the houses that get distributed to all the other websites.
When a seller accepts an offer, the status will change to "ACTIVE with contingency" but the "with contingency" part of the status DOES NOT get distributed to all the other websites. This "Active with contingency" timeframe can vary greatly. For a traditional seller, or a foreclosed home, the time it is in this contingency is usually about 7 to 10 days. Then it changes to "PENDING" where it gets removed from all the various broker websites.
On short sale homes, the "active with contingency" can be 8-16 weeks long, sometimes more. The short sale is submitted to the sellers' mortgage company for approval, but these banks take their time. Hence the 8-16 week timeframe. Once the short sale is approved, it moves into the "pending" status where it gets removed from the various broker websites.
The only other situation is on trulia or zillow. These two websites DO NOT follow our rules, and houses that are for sale on these websites may have sold years ago. That is because the do not get live feeds from our master database. They scrape the data from whatever source they can find, and list them as "for sale." When a house is sold, they know nothing about it unless someone tells them it's sold. There are often many houses that are listed as for sale on these two websites that are no longer for sale at all.
What can you do?
The best way around all this is for me as an agent to set up a custom search for you in our NorthstarMLS system. I can filter out all of the houses that have contingencies on them. This makes it easier for you to see what is truly available. Please contact me via email or phone if you wish to have this custom search set up. My direct phone is 952-915-2252.