A guide to real estate Web sites


(Amy Sancetta/AP)
March 7, 2012

Many real estate Web sites — and there are many more than those listed below — provide property listings and market reports, and photos. Most also offer mobile apps that use GPS tracking to display details about houses for sale near wherever you are, let you make customized searches and set up alerts about new listings. But each company offers a few standout features, so here’s a guide to the best features of each.

Zillow

Best for: Wide range of listings and market details. Zillow’s massive site and mobile apps include traditional listings as well as homes for sale by owner, foreclosure, auction, rental and new construction listings. Includes “Zestimates,” or home values, for about 100 million homes, historical Zestimates and local market reports, price changes, and sales data going back decades. A source of information about all homes in most parts of the country, whether or not they’re on the market.

Trulia

Best for: Neighborhood feel. This site offers more detailed information about neighborhoods, including details about local schools (with parent reviews, standardized test scores, and other information from GreatSchools.org), crime statistics, and nearby restaurants and shops that can be mapped for each home. It also includes active community forums and user ratings for neighborhoods. A particularly good resource to get the sense of a neighborhood — not just a single property.

Realtor.com

Best for: Size and tools. The official site of the National Association of Realtors lists 3.9 million homes for sale and more than 265,000 rentals. It says it updates 80 percent of its listings every 15 minutes and the other 20 percent at least every 24 hours. The “area highlighter” feature lets you draw a map and create the boundaries of your search and also includes clear information about recently sold homes. Listings are sent straight from the multiple-listing service with up to four photos; agents can pay for enhanced listings to add more photos and information.

Redfin

Best for: Mobile app. This large Web-based brokerage has some of the most frequently updated listing information and coolest tools. You can read comments about each house that Redfin’s agents visit and schedule home tours online. You can use the site just for its research tools, or you can work with Redfin’s salaried agents who are paid bonuses based on customer surveys.

HomesDatabase.com

Best for: Fastest updates for Washington-area homes. The consumer site from Washington’s multiple listings service gives you access to a shortened version of the same database that real estate agents use. The site does not offer a lot of all the fancy features that other sites do, but the listings are updated as soon as agents make changes to the multiple-listing service.

— Kim Lankford

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