An interesting article is circulating online about the unfortunate situation that a couple in the U.S. found themselves in regarding property they own. See "Local family calls out Zillow over real estate mistake."
The incident in question involved the owners home on Lake Geneva which is located near the Illinois/Wisconsin border north of Chicago. I lived in Chicago for four years and I am very familiar with Lake Geneva as I boated there. It has a history as being the summer playground of Chicago's who's who including the Wrigley gum and Schwinn bicycle family's plus it was the location of the first Playboy Resort Hotel in the U.S. which opened in 1968.
The property in question was apparently listed for sale on Zillow a large online real estate portal in the U.S. and they are now in Canada and was stated as being in foreclosure when in realty it wasn't. The owners owned outright with no mortgage and it was not even for sale. Zillow was apparently quick to realize the mistake and withdrew the listing. The question to ask is how did this happen in the first place?
Whether I am representing a Seller or a Buyer, I routinely verified everything regarding a property from room and lot sizes, to taxes, zoning and other matters. I know first hand of a recent transaction outside of the local real estate market where the buyer of a $950,000 property sued the seller for $750,000 alleging misrepresentation. The case dragged on for two years with the seller and the two REALTORS® via their insurance paying out over $130,000 just to make the matter go away.
That is a lot of money in anyone's books, more importantly you can't put a value on the worry and stress that an ordeal like this has on you plus there is the added cost of legal fees. Don't let this happen to you. Whether you are buying or selling hire a REALTOR® that you feel confident with and don't be afraid to ask any questions regarding matters that are of importance to you. It's all part of what we should know and the services we provide as real estate professionals.
Zillow is now making inroads in Canada. The U.S. real estate market is a very different from what we have in Canada. There is no "national" MLS® system in the U.S. like we have in this country. Like their banking industry the U.S. market in terms of MLS® coverage is very fragmented. Only time will tell how successful Zillow becomes here, watch this blog for future posts and updates.