Real Estate Websites are Growing Up.

May 28, 2008




When I first made the jump over to real estate after 20+ years in high-tech sales, the biggest shock to me was the realization of how low-tech the real estate industry is. And I'm not talking about the frightening amount of paper we still consume every time a home is sold — the fact that we probably kill a tree with every transaction is a topic for some future post. I'm referring to the power, or lack thereof, of Internet-based tools.

Despite the fact that the Internet was developed right in our back yard, it seems that Real Estate and the Web were never destined become close friends. One need look no further than, the website that Realtors must use to enter and manage their listings, to know what I'm talking about. The user interface and data mining capabilities of this site are generations old (in Internet terms) — so manipulating data and making good use of all the information contained in the MLS is cumbersome, and the results of which are sometimes of questionable accuracy.

Luckily in the past few years, several companies have dialed into the fact that over 80% (and likely higher in the Bay Area) of home buyers start their home search on the Internet, and have created unique business models and powerful websites that greatly enhance the user experience and even give the consumer different options for buying and selling real estate. Sites like Zillow, Trulia, and Redfin have become the destinations of choice for many buyers and sellers — and for good reason. Even though each company approaches the market with a different goal and business model, they each have pumped millions of dollars into their websites to bring to bear much of enhanced graphical interface and interactivity that has been the promise of “Web 2.0.

Now comes the audience participation part of the show 🙂

The question I pose to you, readers of the White Oaks Blog, is….. What is your favorite Real Estate Website, and why? Do you use Trulia, or Redfin, or Zillow — or do you have another cool site that you can recommend to the readers? Simply click on the “Comments” link below and let us all know. The beauty of this is that there's no wrong answer — everyone's opinion is valuable, and will be treated as such.

Thanks for weighing in on this topic!

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  1. David G from on May 28, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Hi, it’s David G from,

    OK, OK, I know have a major bias here but I must say that my passion for Zillow was recently reignited with the launch of the mortgage marketplace. It’s a unique solution that will make a real difference for home buyers and owners. After living through the mortgage crisis it’s clear that the mortgage shopper badly needs truth and transparency … so, my vote goes to Zillow Mortgage Marketplace for the most innovative and value-adding web site in real estate.

  2. Nathalee on May 28, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    I like the search capabilities of Trulia, but I find the data is sometimes outdated. I love the birds-eye view and valuation tools of Zillow (even though I know not to completely trust the value). I also love Google Street View–I can “drive” by a house and check out the neighborhood with a couple clicks of the mouse. And, I’ve found that ZipRealty has one of the best email alert systems (it’s linked to MLS and it’s attractive and easy to navigate). Basically, I haven’t found a site that does it all, but when you pick and choose from each site’s offerings there is A LOT of info out there.

    And, of course, I love White Oaks Blog for all of the great neighborhood tidbits! 🙂

  3. chuck on May 28, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    If blogs could blush, this one would. Thanks for your comments on the topic, and for the positive feedback on the blog.


  4. WhiteOaks Resident on May 29, 2008 at 6:54 am

    I agree with the 2nd poster’s comments regarding Trulia and ZipRealty. One part of Redfin that’s kind of useful is that it shows home value estimates from a few competing real estate websites.

    I think Zillow is very innovative and provides tools to help prospective buyers and sellers. However I think there is a flaw in the Zillow estimate (Zestimate) algorithm that occurs when an owner “claims” the home on Zillow. I saw the Zestimate on our White Oaks home drop by 6% in a 1-month period while homes on my street did not show decreases in their Zestimates. And I did not alter any Zillow information on our home about improvements, square footage, number of rooms, etc. After I “de-claimed” our home on Zillow, the Zestimate went up 6% in a month’s time. Weird!!!!

    This could be an area of concern if a home is claimed on Zillow, goes up for sale and stays on market for a period of time. It’s possible that the home’s Zestimate could go down while it’s on the market.

    Now, the Zillow folks are monitoring local real estate blogs so I wouldn’t be surprised if they wrote back something to defend the methodology. I did find quite a few questions/complaints on the Zillow discussion area about claiming a home and its impact to the home’s Zestimate. So people across the country have various concerns about Zillow methodology.

    Bottom line is that people shouldn’t solely rely on home value estimates from the real estate websites. It’s still important to consult with local realtors to understand the trends and to get the most up-to-date information. (And no, I’m not in the real estate business so that wasn’t a plug for realtors.)

    The White Oaks blog is terrific and especially useful for newbie residents who are not familiar with neighborhood history. Keep up the great work!

  5. chuck on May 29, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    White Oaks Resident,

    You bring up a very good point about Zillow. I panned them pretty harshly, perhaps a little too much so, in a previous post. My biggest complaint was the inaccuracy of the data they were using to develop the Zestimates. They were showing homes still for sale that had already sold, and as you correctly stated, pulling data from claims that had been modified by owners. There are strong arguments on both sides whether this a good approach or not. My point was to make everyone aware that the data in Zillow can be easily manipulated, so users need to take that into account when deciding how much credence to put in the Zestimates. To Zillow’s credit, they are pretty up-front about this limitation. Other than that, I think it’s a very useful site.

    Redfin’s website does a good job of combining additional useful information onto a single page when you pull up a listing on their site. A number of buyers and sellers that I’m working with use this site extensively to their homework before jumping into the market.

    Thanks for your insightful comments!


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