How to Search Online
Of course, you know by now there are many, many different options for searching for homes online. But which ones are really the best? And are there any hidden problems with any of the most popular search sites?
By far, the most popular national real estate websites are REALTOR.com, Zillow.com & Trulia.com. I can tell you that REALTOR.com seems to be the more popular site of the three. Zillow & Trulia are problematic in that they do not systematically update their sites as frequently as REALTOR.com. I get many calls from buyers inquiring about a home they see listed as active on those sites that is, in fact, withdrawn, expired or even closed (sold). Another problem we see is their automated estimates of home values. The combination of algorythms written to cover the entire United States and the sourcing of their data from many different sites (some MLS systems, some county systems, etc) means their estimates are very inaccurate - both too high and too low.
Another problem we find with the national sites is something called "data mining". All three national sites want to sell your contact info. Once you have entered your name, phone or email address you will be solicited by other real estate agents, mortgage banker/brokers, insurance people, moving companies and anyone else they can think of that might be interested in someone in the process of purchasing or selling a home. It can be quite a hassle fending off all those inquiries.
What about the other national real estate websites? Most of them are what real estate professionals refer to as "lead interceptors". The main function of sites like ziprealty.com, homegain.com, housepad.com, homes.yahoo.com, homelistingsfinder.com is not to "add value" to the transaction in any way but simply to capture your contact information and sell it to an actual real estate agent for a large referral fee. They are only repeating information and searches that could be gathered from many other places. We advise you avoid sites like these.
SO WHAT TO DO...?
I recommend "going local". Sample the large, local real estate company's websites. Of course, try my company, Coldwell Banker HPW's, website: www.hpw.com. Fonville Morisey has a pretty good site: www.fmrealty.com. Or maybe the Chapel Hill Remax office: www.trianglewinningedge.com. What makes these sites different is they have what is a called an "IDX Feed". This means the local MLS system feeds their listing data directly to these sites so their information should be the most up to date (Zillow & Trulia use a third party system, which is why their data is not always accurate). My personal website, www.TeamArmand.com, uses the IDX Feed, too. You should be able to save searches at these websites (as you can at mine) but do keep in mind once you have inputted your email address they will try to have an agent contact you.
IF YOU LIKE MOBILE APPS we have one specially developed for us. There is no obligation to use it and it is also directly connected to our MLS system. To download, go to:
THE BEST SOLUTION is to allow me to SET UP A SEARCH DIRECTLY WITHIN THE MLS SYSTEM. This is something only a licensed REALTOR is able to do and it allows you to receive notifications of properties coming on the market or price changes or going under contract as soon as possible. And the data is as accurate as it can possibly be BECAUSE IT IS COMING DIRECTLY FROM OUR MLS SYSTEM. This is called the MLS Gateway system.
If I haven't done it for you already, please let me know what you're looking for and I'll be happy to set up a customized Gateway search for you ASAP.
Just let me know...