Burbed is always on the lookout for good content. I use screenshots from Movoto from time to time, so I thought I’d give them a chance to say something on this site. So here’s a guest article from Mark Brandemuehl, VP Marketing at www.movoto.com
Type “Santa Clara County real estate” into Google and you’ll get page after page of sites that promise to help you search for homes in Santa Clara County. It’s similar anywhere you go in the United States – real estate search sites sprout like mushrooms after a rain, but which one should you use?
Here’s the (admittedly biased) Movoto guide to what makes a great real estate search site:
1. You must have listings from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS): If it ain’t MLS, then it ain’t complete. If you’re looking at a site that does not access MLS data, you are missing homes on the market and the information you find on the site may not be up-to-date. Though most real estate company websites tap the MLS, watch out for sites that only show “featured listings” – listings where that company gets paid if you buy that home. They may not be showing you all the homes for sale.
What about some of the exciting new sites like Trulia and Propsmart? They get their listings by a process called “scraping”. They find homes on Realtor websites and post the information they find on their site. It’s NOT MLS. You’re likely missing homes and the information on the homes you find may be out of date. A recent Trulia search showed 42 homes for sale in Cupertino while the MLS showed 63 homes on the market. Do you want to miss 1/3rd of the homes for sale?
Also, watch out for sites that that promise to help you find a home, but collect personal information and promise to get back to you. They’re going to sell your information to a Realtor (or more than one Realtor) who will be calling you. You don’t control the search, the Realtor provides homes to you.
Tip: Local MLS search sites (mlslistings.com for the Penninsula) provided by the Realtor’s association often have the most extensive search parameters, but can be difficult to use.
2. Maps, Maps, Maps: Or Location, Location, Location. If you don’t find a map of homes for sale within a couple of clicks, why bother? Maps are the only way to search for real estate, especially if you’re not familiar with an area. Amazingly, many large real estate companies don’t have maps on their sites. Even if they do have maps, the maps may be hard to find and sometimes the maps don’t work well!
Some sites only offer satellite views of homes for sale. It’s a matter of personal preference, but I like sites that offer me my choice of maps and satellite views. True maps often provide more context about where a home is and the surrounding features. Is that open area on the satellite view a park or an open lot that will be developed in a couple of years?
3. Other information: What’s the neighborhood like? What schools are nearby? Is there a grocery store within walking distance? Are prices going up or down in this neighborhood? How do prices here compare with prices in other neighborhoods? Sure you can go to 5 websites to find all this out, but if you’re evaluating a number of homes, this gets to be really tedious. Look for sites that skillfully integrate the information you need in one easy-to-use website.
4. What happens when you ask for help? When you fill out that friendly “Help Me!” form on the site, what happens? On sites that scrape listings, you get the name and phone number of the selling agent. The listing agent would love to sell you that house, but may not be much help if you’re not ready to buy.
At a large real estate company website, you’ll be routed to the next agent on call and if the agent is on the ball, you’ll get an immediate call-back. Make sure you ask lots of questions about their experience and local expertise. The next “on call” agent may not be very experienced or may not know the area that you’re interested in.
Discount real estate sites will route you to an agent who will work with you over the phone to help buy a property. Many on-line discount brokers have only one or two agents to cover an area the size of the Bay Area. With this coverage, you’re not likely to get much expertise on local markets. If you’re comfortable that you know how to buy a home and understand the area well, this may be the solution for you.
At Movoto, when you ask for help, you’ll be referred to a local agent we’ve hand-picked to serve you. The agent we send you to is a deep local expert and has years of real estate experience. We selected him or her because we’re confident they can provide great customer service and value to you throughout the buying process. We want agents you’ll love to work with.
It’s a jungle out there, but with a little bit of knowledge you can avoid the time wasting sites and more efficiently find the home you want.
To be clear, I didn’t get paid for this – just a favor to the folks at Movoto for screenshotting their site all the time. Plus, I learned more about their site.