Who is better? Who has MORE? And is more better?
Consumers have many choices for where to start their home search. I heard that 70% start searching BEFORE contacting a Realtor.
So I thought I'd give them the inside scoop about some of the drawbacks so they can be better informed and make the ultimate best decision for them.
MLS defined: Multiple Listing Service (A Realtor owned co-op)
Just for some quick housekeeping, the MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service. There are hundreds of local MLSes, with only one per area. All the Realtors in that area submit their homes into this central database so that other buyer agent Realtors can see the homes and show them to their clients (oftentimes through their website).
REALTOR.COM has ALL the MLS listings nationwide BUT...
This site has 1 major problem that probably not one user realizes. While they do have the MLS, THEY DO NOT HAVE ALL THE MLS PHOTOS! In a recent Realtor.com survey, they were told that photos were a top priority in searching for homes. But they only pull the first image from the MLS. They throw away all other photos (up to 20 here in Virginia) and require the agent to pay upwards of $1,000 a year to add BACK in the photos.
The net result is about 50% FEWER photos for consumers to look through. Tell me one customer that would knowingly search a site with 50% fewer photos?
Also Realtor.com doesn't showcase FSBO For Sale By Owner homes. Wouldn't that be funny if it started to??
Zillow.com= Approx 60% of Realtor homes on the MLS
Zillow does not have access to the MLS database. Instead they were able to get large brokers to send them their listings directly. But who wants to search a site for homes and not see ALL the Realtor listed homes?
And as for their other features, I guess some are neat, but please ignore the Zestimates. As in, not even using it for ballpark information. It is a marketing trick, nothing more. (more details on the Zesimates from Realbiablog: Warning Zillow Investors)
But the site does have SOME FSBOs, but they don't yet have a system to keep them updated. I've found many listings are outdated. Who wants to get excited about a home to find out it sold 2 months earlier? (yes some things sell, even in this market)
Trulia.com = Does not have the MLS
Trulia has the same problem as Zillow. They don't have the MLS. They do offer a community of questions and answers that hopefully will take off, but to find your home... why bother with almost all the homes on the MLS. For other features, have a ball, but to actually search for homes???
This is a great place to find FSBOs. Try searching for your zip code or city and "FSBO", like this: Arlington FSBO and then try the slightly less accurate (as in not always correct, but some FSBOs don't use "FSBO") try: Arlington "By Owner" and note the quotes." As for MLS listings, it has only 15% of what the MLS has (this is via agents posting homes). The site is also fast and keyword based, like google.
Homesdatabase.com/frankly ALL the MLS, ALL the photos
First of all the "slash Frankly" just means that I have a paid account within the service of Homesdatabase.com, I don't own it and I am not the listing agent for all 91,000 homes! (The system can be confusing, and I dislike that aspect)
This site is in partnership with MRIS, which is the provider and compiler of the MLS in Northern Virginia, DC and Maryland. This site is updated more frequently than any other site (20 min vs 1 or 2x a day) This has ALL the MLS listings and best of all, it has ALL the photos that are uploaded by Realtors (so 2 times the number of photos as REALTOR.com). It also has daily email alerts where you can sign up for certain zip codes and price ranges and get free alerts on new homes in that area, and it alerts you about price changes.
But it does not show FSBOs.
I won't review other broker's sites here, I just wanted to touch upon the disadvantages of the main national "portals" since all I hear about are their neato features, but without
- All of the MLS and
- All of the photos as the starting point for any search
Who else am I missing?
Also by no means is Homesdatabase.com the killer app, for that... stay tuned.
Written by Frank Borges LL0SA- Broker Owner FranklyRealty.com
(keep me looking smart, please report typos)
Update 1-6-08: All Northern Virginia MLS IDX Search Engines. 33, Add More!