Look, it’s great everyone has access to real estate information and it’s no secret it makes many people in the industry afraid. I for one am not afraid and I tend to enjoy the disruption but that’s a topic for another day. I am noticing this new found access to information is causing confusion and frustration for home buyers and real estate agents alike. Many of the real estate websites have outdated and confusing information. The 3 largest websites are Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com. There are many other sites but these are the major ones people are using. Zillow and Trulia are owned by Zillow and are very similar while Realtor.com is owned and ran by the National Association of REALTORS.
Zillow and Trulia have a nice interface and lots of search and filter options that make them popular, but they do have a problem. One is how they list “foreclosures.” They list REO or bank owned properties as “foreclosures” which is a bit misleading but they also combine that status with homes in a “pre-foreclosure” status. The blue foreclosure icon for listings on Zillow and Trulia are pre-foreclosures where they scrub public records and see that a bank has filed for foreclosure. These properties are not for sale but many consumers get confused and believe they are active listings. The solution to this is to filter these listings out. Secondly, Zillow’s and Trulia’s can be outdated. Many times they will have homes that already sold still listed as active. This causes home buyer’s to get excited about a listing just for the agent to verify the listing status and give them the bad news the property sold weeks ago. Lastly, Zillow and Trulia sell ad space to mortgage companies and real estate agents through the “get more information” button. If you click this button be prepared for agents to contact you relentlessly to try to convert you as a client. This could be a good thing if you are looking for an agent many people find this annoying. Oh and I almost forgot how inaccurate the mortgage calculator is which never calculates the right amount of taxes, insurance and closing costs and almost always greatly underestimates the monthly payment. These aren’t huge problems but they can be annoying for home buyers and agents. Instead I’d recommend using…
Realtor.com. Realtor is more accurate and does not play games with the foreclosure listing status. The information on Realtor is just better and more accurate. I suspect this is because they are getting better access to the MLS where all the information comes from, or maybe their technology just caught up. A few years ago I would not recommend buyers look on Realtor but it has improved greatly. Also Realtor puts the actual listing agent for the property as the person for you to contact to get more information. This is good and bad because the listing agent will have the best information but they also represent the seller and not the buyer so buyers need to be careful to not disclosure their financial situation or their interest too much into the property or they can lose leverage in negotiations. I recommend most buyer’s especially first time buyer’s use a buyer’s agent and not let the listing agent represent the seller and the buyer at the same time.
Overall it’s not a big deal which website you use but right now Realtor.com is significantly better than the other major websites and will provide you the best information. If you like the interface of Zillow or Trulia better you can still use them, but you will probably want to filter out the foreclosures unless that’s what you’re looking for.
Hopefully this information is helpful! If you have questions feel free to contact me!