The real estate sites that change our lives
In the good old days of the late 1980s, when New York State told me I was now able to sell residential real estate, I knew they had no idea. Of course, I had no idea either, but that was part of the challenge.
This was before the internet and cell phones, when every real estate agency had a receptionist at the front desk who took messages, and buyers and sellers had a good way of waiting for you to return their call. At that time, real estate was mostly limited to print advertising and labor-intensive manual systems. Picture this: Ads have been collated into three-ring binders for potential buyers to browse. Once they’ve found the perfect home at the perfect asking price in the perfect neighborhood, it’s off to the realtor’s car for an in-person tour of the home.
Once the multiple listing services were created, real estate agents could access available properties on the computer, assuming the computer was up and running and the little blue-haired lady who had been selling real estate for 100 years could learn the process. And of course, only licensed real estate agents could access several listing services.
That then was, what is now. In today’s real estate world, every property available for sale is within everyone’s reach, controlled by websites vying for your eyes. Here is a list of the best sites:
The number one site and by far the largest real estate site in the country is Zillow. Zillow or “Zillow Surfing” is undoubtedly addictive and provides listings for both multiple ad services and for sale by owner. The site is free for buyers and sellers, and at last count it had an average of 68 million monthly visitors.
The second most popular site is realtor.com (my favorite). The app lets you search for homes, view photos and video tours, compare neighborhood criteria such as noise levels, and provide information about flood-prone areas. Listings are real time and generally reflect all multi-listed properties.
Next up is Trulia, which focuses on local news and enables personalized alerts with links to pre-qualified funding and financial calculators. Trulia might be a little too technical for the average internet user, but good to use when you’ve set your preferred location.
These are the best known and most popular, but there are many more like apartments.com, FSBO.com and Homes for Heroes. There are also several home buying websites that come and go on a regular basis. Zillow tried it, but their timing was not good, starting with a sharp rise in house prices. They have since discontinued, but there are two more that are active – Flyhomes.com and Homelight.com.
Something that just came to my attention is a website called Roofstock.com, which provides listings and data for investors interested in rental properties to buy. Small investors actively buy properties frequently out of state and become “laptop owners”. They claim they are the number one platform for small and large remote investors looking to buy rental properties.
The National Association of Realtors reports that about 51% of buyers found the home they purchased on the Internet, only 28% found their home through their real estate agent and 4% from street signs.
The good thing about the 1980s was that the pace was considerably slower than today, which made it easier to learn and bluff in situations you hadn’t had time to learn yet. Every day was a challenge and a learning experience, and so much more fun. Our lives may be different now, but I still miss those binders.