Where to Find Real Estate Information
Finding real estate information online is easy. “Real estate” is a really popular Google search term, and real estate listings, pictures, prices, and other details are available from thousands of different sites. (See How Much Is My House Worth? for details about how to determine your own house’s fair market value.)
The trick is to know where to find real estate information. Just like researching medical issues online, you can’t trust every site offering “medical advice.” In fact, anything you research about real estate online should probably be discussed with a realtor, lawyer, or other real estate professional, just like medical advice you get online should be run by a doctor before you try it.
There are some good sites for information on real estate, but they are few and far between. How do you know if you’re getting good real estate information online?
Finding Real Estate Information Online
Finding good real estate information online means narrowing down thousands of sources of information into a workable amount, like two or three trust-worthy sites that have the info you need.
A list of the top twenty real estate information sites in terms of search popularity will look something like this:
Depending on the time you search and the part of the world you live in, your list may be a bit different. But in general, these are the sites that most people go to for information on real estate.
But looking at a list of twenty websites isn’t exactly “narrowing it down.”
To do that, you need to think about exactly what kind of real estate information you’re after. If you’re just looking for home prices in your area or an overview of the real estate market in your region of the country, you can basically point your browser to any of the above twenty sites and get your toes wet.
When you need more detailed real estate information, or if you strike out looking for your neighborhood or town at a real estate information site, you’ll have to work with one or two informational sites that offer the data you need.
Here are the two real estate information websites most likely to fill you in on the real estate details you need. You don’t have to crawl all over the web looking for real estate info–start at one of these two sites and you’ll probably find what you need.
It makes sense that the “official site of the National Association of Realtors” would be one of the most popular sites for real estate information.
Realtor.com is worth noting because it is good for casual browsing or more specific searches. Realtor.com’s search features are among the best on the Internet, the site contains the largest number of individual property listings, and the information at Realtor.com is extensive.
Realtor.com Home Features Search
If you are looking for specific features in a home, such as amenities, square footage, and even flooring and other home details, Realtor.com probably has it. Combine the customizable searches with a high volume of home listings and Realtor.com is the perfect place to start a search for real estate info.
A big knock on Realtor.com is the fact that you usually can’t see the full address of the homes listed. To get this information, you’re instructed to contact the agent listed with the property. This makes business sense, but it also limits the usefulness of Realtor.com as an online search for real estate info.
Every type of property is listed at Realtor.com from single family homes to condos, multi-family homes, land, farms, and even mobile homes. One thing you won’t find–new homes or foreclosure sales. For information on new homes for sale, Realtor.com operates a companion site at Move.com.
The searches at Realtor.com can be broad or focused–search by zip code, metropolitan area, minimum square footage, etc. You can search in multiple categories at once. When you get to your listing, you’ll find just about every detail you might need. There’s price information, yes, but also number of beds and baths, property type, the age of the home, construction details, etc. Since each listing is attached to a specific agent, there’s often even more details entered by the agent. It’s common to see agent notes about new dishwashers, pool features, sprinkler systems, etc. The problem here is that a bad agent means a bad listing.
Additional Tools at Realtor.com
With home buying tools (in the Finance section) and even a big chunk of the website dedicated to decorating and improving your home’s interior and exterior, Realtor.com is about more than real estate listings. That’s what you should look for in a real estate info website. Realtor.com is the best place to start a generic search for real estate, and if you are ready to contact a real estate agent, it couldn’t be easier than clicking a link to email a house’s agent directly.
Formed in 2005 by two former Microsoft execs, Zillow.com uses a unique algorithm of their own creation (called a “Zestimate”) to spit out a generic property value. They base this appraisal on their algorithm which is itself based on different factors, like location, recent sales of nearby homes, etc.
The idea behind Zillow.com is to give a seller or buyer a generic idea of the value of a property. In this way, Zillow can be seen as more of a marketing tool than a real estate information site–the marketing side of the site pops up when you notice property “improvements” noted in a property’s profile, and other factors such as “access to major roads”, and nearby property values. In other words–Zillow.com is a way for sellers and buyers to agree arbitrarily on a value of a home before negotiations occur, and it is most advantageous to sellers who can pump up the value of their property on the site and manipulate the “Zestimate.”
Zillow.com is hugely popular, listed consistently at Alexa in the top 300 websites in the United States. Currently tracking over 90 million home and property values, Zillow is a great place to start if you just want an idea of the value of a property.
How Does Zillow.com Make Money?
Make no mistake, Zillow.com exists to sell ads. Whereas sites like Realtor.com ostensibly exist to let real estate agents do business directly with their customers on the Internet, the goal of Zillow.com is to attract attention with good real estate information and make money on advertisement. Still, Zillow’s partnerships with hundreds of daily newspapers and affiliate sites means that their “Zestimates” have an air of authority.
The knock on Zillow is that their “Zestimates” are not really accurate. Zillow admits that they don’t take many factors into consideration when producing a value–most of the time, recent remodeling isn’t factored into a home’s value. At the same time, Zillow lets you check their accuracy against local home sales, so if you don’t believe a particular “Zestimate”, you can check it out right there on the site.
You shouldn’t start a real estate info search at Zillow, but it can be a good motivator to start a home search. There’s even a “Make me Move” feature which is like a fake public auction designed to inspire you to sell your home. Don’t use Zillow as a real estate Bible, but it can be fun to look up the value of your enemy’s houses.
Finding real estate information online isn’t hard–it is finding good real estate details that can be tough. Rather thank muck through the soup of real estate details available online, pick two or three sites and start your search small.
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