The most trafficked real estates websites are respectively Zillow.com, Realtor.com, and Trulia.com. Whether most agents agree or like it, these are the sites most buyers use and trust. It wasn’t always this way. Buyers used to get more of a local web experience from the top agents in their area.
But algorithm changes namely by Google now usually places these three sites above the locals. They say this is for the best user experience, but lets face it is more likely because of advertising dollars. Like with anything, there are pros and cons to this shift. These are my humble thoughts on these sites.
First lets talk about how they get their information. Zillow and Trulia scrape their information from other websites. Some of the time they have cooperation from the local real estate boards, but I wouldn’t count on that. Most realtors (unless they are buying leads from these) don’t particularly care for sites. One because they are taking traffic away from their website and two because they are always having to fight their misinformation.
The misconception about Realtor is it is brought to you by the National Association of Realtors. Unfortunately this is not true. It is owned by Move a subsidiary of a News company. It is however supposed licensed by NAR which should provide more accurate information.
So what does this mean for you the buyer? It means anytime you enter your information, it is being sold to which ever agent wants to buy it. Not the listing agent and there is little to no guarantee they are any good or honest. A more recent addition on Zillow shows which agents sell the most and have the best reviews.
Unfortunately the agents input how many they sell, and I can tell you from my past experience in my area there is a high probability that some of these agents are being less than truthful. As a former agent for a builder, we used do purchase matrix of actual figures for the top agents so we could market to them. The information was directly downloaded from the local board of realtors.
Unless these agents are selling a lot more than they used to, they are pulling your leg. In fact, I’ve seen agents posting they sell more than 100 homes per year when they work in a suburb that only sells 200 a year. The truth is you are only seeing the agents are paying for it, and most experienced agents don’t buy their leads because they usually are a pure waste of money or worse fake. Good agents don’t like wasting their time.
That said their is some upside to these sites. They are familiar and provide a very similar experience between them. The provide a good user experience for a specific city and a generalized search. However once you start drilling down to what you want or want to search several suburbs at one time these fall short.
If I am looking for general idea of a different market than I work in they work great, but once I get serious I switch to a local company’s site or the local board depending. For example, I use Trulia’s market trends and Zillow’s Zestimate quite a bit. They are good for getting a good idea, but they often use inaccurate or out of date information.