USE OF INTERNET WEBSITES AS A HOME SEARCH TOOL
With the rise of the Internet, there are now hundreds of websites that offer consumers the ability to search for homes online. According to NAR and other surveys, over 90% of purchasers use the Internet to assist them in searching for a new home. In the 2008 NAR Survey of Buyers and Sellers, the survey found that purchasers used the Internet reported using the following sites:
- 60% Local Multiple Listing Service Sites
- 48% Realtor.com
- 46% Real Estate Brokerage Sites
- 43% Real Estate Agent Sites
- 19% For Sale by Owner Sites
- 11% Local Newspaper Sites
QUANTITY AND QUALITY OF LISTING INFORMATION VARIES BY SITE
As purchasers increasingly use the Internet to search for homes, we decided to take a look at some of the search portals commonly used by purchasers in our area. The results indicate that not all real estate search engines or search portals are created equally. The quantity (ie. # of listings) and quality (ie. accuracy of information) varies greatly from site to site. Often, quantity and quality issues depend on how the sites obtain their listing information. It varies from site to site and includes:
- Paid Placements
- Feeds from Other Sites
- Direct Entry by Owner or Agent
As a result of how the sites are updated and when they are updated, it is common to find wrong, inaccurate or dated information on real estate search engine or portal sites (ie. aggregator sites). Common problems include:
- Inaccurate # of Bedrooms/Bathrooms/Sq.Footage
- Wrong Location on Maps
- Inaccurate or Dated Pricing Information
- Wrong Status Reports (pending or even sold)
WHERE SHOULD PURCHASERS SEARCH FOR HOMES?
Given the problems with real estate search engines and portals described above, we posed the question: WHERE SHOULD PURCHASERS LOOK FOR THE BEST DATA ON HOMES LISTED FOR SALE? Our answer is: GO DIRECTLY TO THE SOURCE.
If you are a serious buyer, want accurate and complete information, and don't want to waste time, I would strongly suggest that you use a REALTOR with MLS access. Why? The simple answer is that the MLS provides real-time data, is more accurate in terms of its data, and is more comprehensive for geographic specific locations. It is also an equal playing field - meaning that search results are based on your criteria and not based on paid placements.
A SIMPLE TEST - SEARCHING FOR HOMES AND CONDOS IN 63104
To test our theory, we entered the same search into MARIS (the local MLS for metropolitan St. Louis), Realtor.com, StLToday.com (the search portal for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch), Trulia.com, Zillow.com and Yahoo Real Estate. The search was simply for any residential home or condo in the 63104.
Here were the results based solely on the number of listing available on each site:
Here were some simple conclusions based on quantity alone:
- The MLS had the most listings. Given that the MLS uses real-time data, it isn't surprising that it is the most comprehensive source for data on homes and condos listed for sale.
- Realtor.com was a close second. The difference between the results for Realtor.com and for the local MLS appeared to be attributable to new listings within the past 48 hours. The difference could also be brokerages or individual owners opting out of the listing feed from MLS to Realtor.com.
- Aggregator sites such as Trulia, Zillow, and Yahoo Real Estate fared poorly by comparison. From 10% to 40% of the available MLS listings weren't shown on these sites. There sites, in theory, should exceed the MLS with the inclusion of For Sale by Owner listings and REO listings. However, they not only didn't exceed the MLS in terms of the number of listings; they didn't even match the MLS in terms of available listings. Here is how the fared:
- Trulia failed to include in its search 40% of available listings in the search area (83 listings).
- Yahoo failed to include in its search 10% of available listings in the search area (21 listings).
- Zillow failed to include in its search 14% of available listings in the search area (28 listings).
- Paid sites like StLToday.com were of limited utility and reflect the decline in classified advertising generally. The StLToday site failed to include in its search 65% of available listings in the search area (135 listings). For consumers, you are seeing limited listings. The good news for agents is that your listing are more likely to be seen because there are fewer listings.
- When you consider that this test was for a single zip code in the St. Louis metropolitan area, the conclusion is that for broader searches you are missing hundreds of listings that may meet your criteria and not be show on sites that require paid placement or on sites that are aggregators as opposed to originators of listings.
- If you were searching specifically for condos, the differences were even more dramatic.
In this post, I simply looked at the quantity of listings. In the next post, I will take a look at the quality of the listings on these sites.
If you want to search for homes in the St. Louis using real-time data from the MLS, please visit our website at www.PREASignatureRealty.com. Or better yet, send me an e-mail with your search criteria to Ryan@PREASignatureRealty.com and I will set you up with a private MLS search portal.