Real Estate Questions on Reddit

Ryan Coffey
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Below I specifically speak about asking for advice on Reddit but it is also a general cautioning about being careful who you ask and what you ask them.

I have recently started to spend time on Reddit. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Reddit is a social network/uberforum where an infinite variety of topics are discussed by a very large number of people. There have been so many forums online over the years but there is something about the society in Reddit that is more well read and level headed than I have seen most anywhere online. Of particular interest to me, has been the real estate section (aka subreddit).

I have been going through the real estate subreddit regularly for about six or eight months now. There are an awful lot of people going to the internet for advice on specific real estate issues/choices they are facing. Reddit is probably the best online place to ask for such advice but there is something that troubles me about seeing people do this. It is natural and sensible to seek input when facing a major decision, but one must be careful where they turn for the advice.

Although there are many Realtors and related professionals, including myself, who are actively commenting on threads of this nature I feel that the people asking for advice would generally be better served by asking their own local professional. (i.e. Their Realtor, Mortgage Broker, Lawyer etc.) than throwing the question out to whoever happens to be online and willing to give a quick word of advice. Even a seasoned professional cannot usually understand the full scope of the individual’s story based upon the summary given on the internet. To get the full story a professional needs to take the time to ask questions about the specific case and understand the broader context of the situation which includes local laws, business practices and of course real estate market. People online will rarely if ever take the time to look into the broader story and it is also unlikely that they will know the specifics of the locale the question is being asked about

In my case, I am a Realtor who lives and works in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. I have found over the years that although similar logic is used in other territories and countries there are differences that can and do cause confusion. For example, in Canada there is only one MLS system but from what I hear about the US there are many and different real estate companies may use different MLS systems despite serving the same area. Another example is that in British Columbia we measure square footage for each floor of the building and add them to a greater total but in other parts of the country they apparently measure the footprint of the building as their square footage. There are also different ways to register ownership depending on which province you are in. As a Canadian Realtor I have never 100% grasped the concept of “escrow” which is a common word in the US which in description doesn’t sound too different from what we do up my way but I still have many questions about the finer points of legalities as to which party has what responsibilities to whom if such and such issue arises.

Those finer points of legalities and common business practice are details that can and do make a very big difference as to what the best decision is for each situation. The uninitiated often believe that what is sensible to them is also sensible to the world at large and that business laws and practice will match that but in reality there are many points of view to consider and each area has its own culture that has evolved to keep things fair for everybody. My own comments in the real estate subreddit usually end up being very general or simply saying that they need to talk to their own Realtor/Lawyer/Home Inspector/Mortgage Broker and not asking the internet.

The answers one is likely to get on the internet are unlikely to address the finer points which will often be crucial in making a safe and beneficial decision. One analogy is to think of visits I have made to website that describe medical conditions. We go to the website wondering about a few symptoms we have, enter them and usually have a line of thought that’s like “Well, I don’t have what I thought I had so that’s good… oh but it does sound like I have that and that’s much worse!” Of course, one should just visit their Doctor and not allow their emotions combined with piles of hard to decipher information get the best of them. Finding information online is very easy these days but there is no substitute for advice from the mind of someone who has seen it all before in many ways and seen how it plays out.


Ryan Coffey