In the previous installments we discovered the two major real estate search engines, Realtor.com and Craigslist. Today we’ll take a quick look at Yahoo Real Estate and then spin by Zillow and Trulia to wrap up the series.
Yahoo Real Estate puts a different spin on things. Remember that Realtor.com is Realtor® controlled and Craigslist is totally uncontrolled, except by the community and system moderators. Yahoo on the other hand, has entered into agreements with real estate brokers to display listings as well as into agreements with local MLS’s to display their listings. So you end up with a pretty good representation of what is available from real estate professionals.
Yahoo also shows you what’s for rent and what homes are in foreclosure, which is a nice feature (although you generally have to register with a third party to see the property details on the foreclosures)
Here is the home page of Yahoo Real Estate:
To illustrate how to use the site, we’ll take a trip to Beverly Hills, California 90210 to see if we can find any homes in foreclosure at a bargain price:
As you can see we found two for under a million dollars! Let’s select the top one and see what we can learn about the property.
Hmmm”¦we get some detail, but not much. If we want more we have to register with a third party. Notice the parts highlighted in green?
If we click on the ‘Neighborhood’ button on the left side we will get some info about the weather, the neighborhood, schools and more.
As you can see, we can find homes to buy using the free tools at Realtor.com, Craigslist and Yahoo Real Estate, but none of these sites really helps with analyzing whether a particular home is a good buy. This is where our next site comes into play.
Trulia is one of those new sites in the real estate space that fills a definite niche. They do so by providing a number of different analytical tools as well as enlisting the real estate professional to answer questions. This works a lot like Yahoo Questions in that you can ask real estate questions and get answers from a professional that you can use along with Trulia’s analytics.
Here is the Trulia home page that I have started at Beverly Hills 90210:
Right away you’ll get some stats and the ability to ask questions. But let’s follow the property we found at Yahoo and see what we can learn at Trulia.
Plus you have the comparisons with Yahoo Answers :
You will still have to register with a third party to get the details of the home such as its address, but Trulia starts to give more details on pricing as you can see from the graph. For even more analytics, just click on the “More Charts and Data” button :
That gives us a pretty good idea of what the values are and what the area is like, but there is one more place to check to be sure that we have a handle on the values before we call our agent to start the purchase ball rolling, and that would be Zillow.
Zillow uses public information from tax rolls as well as input from homeowners and real estate professionals to produce what they call a “zestimate” or their opinion of the property’s value. In many cases they are dead wrong, but in many other cases they are surprisingly accurate. Which you will experience is hard to say, but if they are significantly off of what you see on Trulia, then Zillow may be wrong. They are very accurate with tract homes that are similar to each other, but have the most difficulty with custom homes. That should not be held against them as even real estate professionals and appraisers find it hard to determine accurate values on custom homes.
Here is what you find at Zillow:
If you search for our Elderidge Drive example you get this:
Taking our 90210 example, you can see that they show every parcel on Elderidge Drive with a price. This is the “zestimate” that I mentioned. Since I don’t have the address of the Elderidge Drive house, (I didn’t want to register with RealtyTrac), I can’t be sure which parcel is the right one. But judging from the prices on that street, my guess is that this would be a good home to investigate. The homes are priced significantly higher that what is being asked by the bank to pay off the existing loan.
So, by using the free tools that are available, I can search for homes for sale, for rent and in foreclosure. I can compare neighborhoods, schools, amenities and I can see whether something is a good buy or not. All of this before I have to ever speak to a human being!
If you are even thinking about jumping into the US real estate market to take advantage of the incredible deals that are available, you’ll want to use the tools that we have talked about in this series of articles. You’ll be informed to make the decision that’s right for you and you’ll feel more comfortable with offers that you make.
If you have other free tools that you like, let us know about them in the comments!
(By) Jerry Kidd is a California Real Estate Broker, blogger, educator and author of Realty Tech Bytes