Home Search Rumble! Zillow.com vs Realtor.com vs Trulia vs Craigslist vs Homesdatabase

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Northern Virginia Homes - FRANKLY REAL ESTATE Inc


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 I've found many listings are outdated.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???

Craigslist.com DC Area Home Search

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
Why bother? Now SHOULD they have the MLS? I'm open to a debate, but not immediately opposed to it.

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!


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William Johnson
Retired - La Jolla, CA
Retired Real Estate Professional
Frank, it may all change soon. There is a work study completed by the California Association for a Statewide MLS. If such a thing is agreed to, it will become the model for perhaps 9 or 10 total regional MLS in the US. The DOJ in it's lawsuit against NAR suggests that the MLS is public domain and the listings information once put into an MLS should be public domain. If the DOJ prevails and it is belived they will, there will be even bigger changes.
Oct 05, 2007 11:03 AM #1
William Johnson
Retired - La Jolla, CA
Retired Real Estate Professional
PS, How did you do in the election?
Oct 05, 2007 11:04 AM #2
Bill Gillhespy
16 Sunview Blvd - Fort Myers Beach, FL
Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos
Frank,  Thanks for a well researched post.  I didn't know the limitations of some of these sites.   Thanks again.
Oct 05, 2007 11:05 AM #3
FRANK LL0SA Esq.- Northern Virginia Broker .:. FranklyRealty.com
Northern Virginia Homes - FRANKLY REAL ESTATE Inc - Arlington, VA


The election is still going on. All the way through Nov 1st. Make sure to leave a comment, if you haven't already , on www.ChooseFrank.org  



Oct 05, 2007 11:08 AM #4
Rob Arnold
Sand Dollar Realty Group, Inc. - Altamonte Springs, FL
Metro Orlando Full Service - Investor Friendly & F
The internet is definitely changing the way people search for properties.  I am extremely disappointed with Realtor.com and the service they provide.  It takes so much extra time and money to get extra photos and text into Realtor.com.  Our state association has a similar website for all MLS listings in the state and the text, virtual tour, and extra photos upload automatically for free.  Shame on Realtor.com.
Oct 05, 2007 12:22 PM #5
Susan Peters
Dove Realty Inc. - Seattle, WA
The Better it Looks the Better it Sells
Thanks for the clarification Frank. The first site that manages to have all of the pictures, all of the photos, all of the time will be the trailblazer in this business. It will simplify things for us, but I wonder what will happen to V-flyer and Property Nut and all of the others.
Oct 05, 2007 12:58 PM #6
Leslie Prest
Leslie Prest, Prest Realty, Sales and Rentals in Payson, AZ - Payson, AZ
Owner, Assoc. Broker, Prest Realty, Payson,
So if all these sites compete maybe they will cancel each other out, and the Buyer will get so confused they will contact an agent.
Oct 07, 2007 09:32 AM #7
Chris Pollinger
Berman & Pollinger, LLC. - San Diego, CA
Consulting for Luxury Teams and Brokerages
The California Statewide MLS as well as Google's venture through Google base will be two of the most important indicators to watch in 2008.
Oct 08, 2007 05:18 AM #8
Steve Preston
I think you should take a look at PropertyMaps.com. They use the MLS in the markets they are active and have ALL the photos. They aren't at the national level yet, but if you check out their blog, you can see how fast they are growing.
Oct 10, 2007 04:29 AM #9
Charlie McDonald
...and there's the issue with those brokers that don't participate in IDX [OptOut.]
Jan 06, 2008 02:15 AM #10

Hey Charlie,

Not really. That happens so infrequently. If a broker opts out, they can't show other broker listings on their site.

Jan 06, 2008 04:46 AM #11
Ginger Foust
Certified Staging Professional - Oakhurst, CA
Home Stager Oakhurst CA, Dream Interior Redesign & Staging

Great information Frank. Thanks so much.  May I copy and include in my next newsletter to realtors, giving you and your company full credit?  I have a realtor to realtor section and I love to share AR info. with them in an attempt to get them to join, participate and LEARN. 

Ginger Foust, Dream Interior Redesign & Staging

Jan 06, 2008 05:01 AM #12
FRANK LL0SA Esq.- Northern Virginia Broker .:. FranklyRealty.com
Northern Virginia Homes - FRANKLY REAL ESTATE Inc - Arlington, VA


Of course. Also I recently wrote All Northern Virginia MLS IDX Search Engines. 33, Add More! which I will add to the end of this blog post.

Jan 06, 2008 05:58 AM #13
Eric Egeland
RE/MAX SUBURBAN - Libertyville, IL
interesting post...thanks for sharing
Apr 24, 2008 01:18 AM #14
Doug Fritchie
DOUG FRITCHIE-Silver Legacy Properties,Inc. - Portland, OR
Hey Frank~ That is some really good research on all the major search vehicles available out there.
Apr 24, 2008 02:34 AM #15
Mia Orantes, Real Estate Geeks
WHo here uses HomesDatabase and how do you feel about the lack of customization to match the look/feel of your sites? What are the other pitfalls to using homesdatabase with the exception of customization and not having FSBOs?
Aug 05, 2008 01:54 AM #16
FRANK LL0SA Esq.- Northern Virginia Broker .:. FranklyRealty.com
Northern Virginia Homes - FRANKLY REAL ESTATE Inc - Arlington, VA

Hey Mia,

It works fine for me.

Most sites don't have FSBOs

Aug 05, 2008 02:04 AM #17
Dale Terry
Yadkinville, NC

Thanks for the infor, I believe that the future will see a series of databases that consumers and agents alike can put, and will put the information in showing all the homes for sale in the US.  The technology is there.  It will just be a mad scramble to see who gets the bucks.

Aug 11, 2008 01:33 AM #18
Scott Hoen
TitleCapture.com - Carson City, NV
VP, Marketing Systems & Sales Tech, 714-270-9607

Don't forget Cyberhomes.com who captures the MLS data daily and posts on their site as well as sends the data to America Online, Google and Yahoo.

Aug 11, 2008 09:01 PM #19
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