It should not be surprising that most of us start our house hunt online. In fact, recent studies have shown that more than 70% of people start looking for homes on the web. Most of the online searches are done on a smart phone. With the wealth of online sites to use for house hunting, most people begin their home search online while eating lunch, watching television in the evening or traveling on public transportation. It is just too easy not to do so.
Before you jump online, however, there are some things you need to know about the information you will be finding there. First and foremost, there is a good chance the information might be out of date. For years now, buyers have been frustrated with the fact that some housing information is not factually correct. Most common is the status of the property. Portals are fed their data from the local Multiple Listing Services (the database realtors use to sell their properties). They also have For Sale By Owners(FSBO) input data about their own house. With the information being imported from Multiple Listing Services, it can take a while to update the information so buyers are sometimes fed incorrect information. With FSBOs, it simply a matter of user error in how they record information about their own property.
Many portals will also have demographic, school information and crime statistics on their websites for the properties. This information can also be outdated or just factually incorrect.
It is always best to verify information with a Realtor, or another authoritative source. You want to do this before getting excited about a property. There is nothing like a broken heart to ruin a home search and ruin your optimism about finding the home of your dreams.
What online portals are the best for you to use in your house hunt? We provide the list below for your consideration. We selected these sites based on our own experience in using them and from word-of-mouth from buyers who have mentioned them to us.
These portal sites have changed real estate for the better. End user empowerment is the best thing to happen to real estate, because buyers can make more intelligent purchasing decisions and empowers them by giving more control over the process of buying a home. With the advent of these portal sites ten years ago, realtors’ roles changed to consultants helping buyers navigate the complicated and difficult home purchasing process, and moved away from being the gatekeepers of the information and data. Consumers now have that power.
Zillow is often considered the revolutionary website that changed the face of real estate. With Zillow, end users could suddenly have access to properties for sale, but you also get neighborhood information, school information, price and tax history and even mortgage information. It was boon for buyers, allowing them to know everything about a property from one webpage. Zillow has since widen it services to allow for sellers to sell their homes and landlords to rent out their rentals. Recently, Zillow has even begun to buy homes directly from sellers and then using local realtors to sell the house on the open market. With so many companies doing revolutionary things in real estate today, Zillow has kept pace by offering their innovative services. For a house hunter, however, there is still no better source online for finding properties.
Trulia started off as its own portal, but was bought by Zillow to became known as Zillow’s sister site. As you would expect with something owned by Zillow, Trulia has many of the same features and information available for end users. It does have some neat tools that make it an even more enriching experience for the buyers. For example, you can find out from people living in the neighborhoods what they think about living there. Trulia invites people to comment on their neighborhoods and even rate the neighborhood on certain criteria like are the yards well-kept and children playing outside. If you are investor, Trulia also has some great background on foreclosure histories for each of its properties. You can even play around with commute time to work from any property. Trulia has not followed in Zillow’s footsteps to other aspects of real estate. You can tell by the additional work the portal has done on its core function of helping buyers and sellers with their real estate needs.
This portal is a end user tool, but it also serves as a resource by realtors as it was works closely with the National Association of Realtors (NAR). It provides a way for Realtors to post their own properties on a portal, and provides an array of other services for Realtors. It is a resource for NAR, created by NAR. This portal, more than other, puts the realtor in the center of the action on the property web pages. Realtors are highlighted in a way that end users can’t miss that this is the real estate agent selling this property. With other portals, the agent plays second fiddle to the property itself. What does this mean for the end user? This portal gives you all the portal features that have already been highlighted in this post, but also give you easier access to the realtor selling the property, in case you should have any further questions about their property.
Redfin is an actual online brokerage that happens to also have one of the more popular real estate sites on the web today. Redfin is unique in the fact that it pays its agents a salary versus part of the sales commission. Redfin also has a sophisticated realtor partner program where local agents can get tour requests directly from the listings on the Redfin site. Redfin does not offer anything more elaborate or sophisticated than the other portals in this post, but is popularity with end users makes it something worth noting for buyers.
Most realtor associations have had to play catch up with their online offers since Zillow and the other portals came on the scene and many of the portals made available by local realtor associations are still lagging in user friendliness and overall appeal. However, one cannot write a post about real estate portals without referring to these local portals. The main benefit for end users is the data will always be up to date and the sites generally make it easier to contact the agent selling the property (similar to realtor.com). In the long run, it depends if you want bells and whistles for your house hunt or reliable up to date data.