With thousands of real estate websites, finding the right one can be a challenge. Do a Google search and you will see the most popular real estate websites, such as Zillow, Trulia, and Refine. Once the first page is turned, even the least popular sites now have the same home search features. So how does a home owner or buyer know which site is the best? Before choosing, you first need to understand a little more about how they all started and what they really are.

For many years, if you were in the market to buy a home, you had to go to the local real estate office in the area where you wanted to buy a home and ask to see a list of homes for sale. This listing was a printout of homes for sale from the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). The list gave him basic information about the houses and some marketing comments. He examined it and then asked an agent to show him the houses he thought he might like.

This was great for real estate agents because, as ports of this information, buyers had to turn to them. It also gave the agent the opportunity to show the houses that the agent himself was listing first. For the buyer, this was not so good. It was difficult for the buyer to know if the agent was there to represent him or the seller and if they wanted to search for homes in more than one city, they may have to go to other real estate offices to see the list of other MLSs. These lists may also be out of date, and when you found your dream home, it may already be sold. This process can be time consuming and stressful for even the most seasoned buyer.

Fast forward a decade or two and there have been some major changes. MLS went digital and consolidated into larger MLS companies covering even larger areas. Here in western Washington we now use the Northwest Multiple Listing service (NWMLS) and it covers all but two counties; Clark and Clallam. In the 90s the Internet brought the first real estate websites. Most of these showed the houses listed by the agent / agencies that owned the website and were not updated very often. Some of the larger real estate agencies, the ones with the money and the resources, began creating home search tools using data directly from the MLS. Now, for the first time, buyers don’t have to talk to an agent to find homes for sale and can get even more information (photos, schools, map locations, and up-to-date status).

Today, the price of producing these high-quality websites has dropped to the point where the average agent with the right skills can build their own. Now we see an explosion of real estate websites and it seems that most of them have home search functions. This leaves shoppers confused about which website to use.

Now that buyers can get information from almost any real estate website, what should they know before choosing one? First, here in Washington State, any licensed agent can show you and represent you at any home listed in the MLS, no matter what website you find it on. Most of these websites have a mobile app or are mobile friendly. While most buyers start their home search online, what they don’t understand is that the website they use to search for homes is a lead generation tool for the agent. The buyer is exchanging his contact information for the use of the website.

This is not a bad thing. If you really want to buy a home, you will need answers to your questions, help finding financing, an agent to open doors for you, someone who understands the paperwork and can help you with negotiations, and a trusted agent to take care of you. in the closing process. That can only happen when you talk to an agent. Which agent you get is the important part. And that’s where finding the right website comes in. The buyer should use these websites to find out more about the agent they might want to represent. Knowing more about the agent before engaging with an agent is the key to achieving your goals of buying or selling a home.

What you should look for is what is the agent’s experience in real estate. Do you work full time as a licensed real estate agent? What is your closing success rate? Do you guarantee your services? What do past customers have to say about the agent’s service? These questions can sometimes be found on the agent’s website, but if not, you should ask in the first contact with an agent. Now that you know how they got started and what they are, how do you choose the right website for you? First, let’s talk about the differences on these websites. We can divide it into four types.

The first type are the large non-brokerage sites like Zillow, Homes.com, Realtor.com, and Trulia. These sites do not have agents working in the field. What they do is sell the leads that sign up on their site to agents who hope to convert the lead into a customer. These websites have worked hard to make sure home buyers find your site first. They have added a lot of nice home value estimating tools or mortgage calculators and all the information they can get on almost every house in the US and some other countries. They get most of this information from the public record and from what some owners can give them. The downside to these sites is that the information they used may be out of date or inaccurate. Let’s take home values, for example, because they get their sold data (why homes were sold in the same neighborhood) from public records, not the local MLS, their numbers may be behind market trends. In the real estate world, we only look back to the last six months to help us determine the value of a home. While a home’s sale price may appear in the public record right at closing, it can take months to filter the system before these websites can include it in their data and that yields their numbers. There is also a question about similar households. When a real estate agent or appraiser does a comparable market analysis (CMA) of a home’s value, they look for homes like the home in question (the home being appraised) of the same size, same rooms, same bathrooms, owned by the same size, same neighborhood and same state. This may be a bit of an art and the question is can a computer do as good a job as an agent? This can leave home buyers and sellers confused about the true value of a home.

I would like to take this opportunity to assess home values. In a free market, like ours here in the United States, the true value of a home is exactly “the highest price a buyer is willing to pay and the least amount a seller is willing to take” for any property. Only when a property is sold can the true market price be established and everyone else – real estate agents, appraisers, county appraisers and any website – only make an estimate or guess.

The second type of real estate websites are large and medium-sized brokerages such as Re / Max, Windermere, Coldwell Banker, Century 21, RedFin, and ZipRealty. These companies have multiple brokerages in many places in the US These real estate companies have agents who work directly for brokerages, usually as independent contractors. Leads or prospects who sign up on your sites are assigned to the individual agent or sometimes sold based on company sources. These companies take a large portion of the agent’s commission or pay, and some of them take 60% or more. This means that the agent has to work harder to convert as many leads into customers as possible to earn enough money to stay in business. Sometimes these agents take on more than they can reasonably handle, leading to poor customer service or a higher rate of transaction failure. Some of these companies offer a discount to the buyer. This rebate comes from the agent’s commission and can make it even more difficult for agents to provide good service to their clients. I have heard many complaints about agents disappearing once a contract is signed or agents refusing to show homes to buyers looking for homes at the lower end of the market, but still want to write the contract and get paid. commission.

The third type of real estate website is small or independent brokerage houses. These companies are generally owned and operated by experienced agents who have the skill and knowledge to build a good quality website and provide good service to both buyers and sellers. You’ll find the same home search tools and email notifications as the large sites, and because these sites serve local communities, these sites often have more information about the areas they serve and consumers can read more. about the agents they may want to use. in the purchase or sale of your homes. These companies may have one or more agents working together as a team or as independent agents and generally have a higher successful closing rate. What makes these sites the best option for home buyers or sellers are the agents who accompany them.

The fourth type of real estate website is the independent agent website. These websites are created by the individual agent or a third party on behalf of the agent. They can be as good as any of the larger trading sites, depending on the skill, time, and money an agent is willing to invest. These agents can be very good agents, but most of them are little more than one-page public resumes posted by agents hoping to attract buyers or sellers to the agent they are promoting.

So when considering a real estate website, buyers and sellers should keep in mind that a website will not help you buy or sell your home, it is the real estate agent. The website is a way to find the right agent to do the job. Think of it this way, since you can get the house information from almost every website now, what value do you get from a website? The value is in the service you receive from an agent who can save you time, money, and the heartache of poor treatment or poor service.

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