Your Questions Answered
At Ashlar, I firmly b that an educated home buyer or seller is best equipped to make their own decisions. That’s why I take time out of my day each and every day to answer someone’s real estate question. And, when I think the answer can be useful to you as well, I share it here. So without further ado:
Zillow or Realtor.com are fine, I work with tons of clients that use it, and their mobile app experience is top notch. Redfin is just ‘ok’, Trulia is Zillow so might as well use Zillow. Personally I use Zillow when driving around and see a house I’m curious about… the MLS App I also have access to kinda sucks for quick geographic data and for some really, really dumb reason is missing important fields on the main MLS site.
Realtor.com is leased to a company by who operates it for profit. It’s not really directly tied to National Association of Realtors but NAR does get paid by that for profit company for it. Zillow is strictly for profit. DO NOT trust ANY public property tax information on any website other than the county’s own tax estimator.
One thing to note is if you click “show this house” or “more information” you will instantly become a lead and get calls from 5-10 agents, or in the case of Zillow you’re still a lead but the handoff is a bit more gentle to 1 or 2 agents. However, you don’t necessarily know the quality of the agent. They just happen to be paying Zillow / Realtor.com to get your information and were at the top of the list for the next lead.
Zillow and Realtor get 99% of their information fed directly to them from the MLS that Realtors pay to run as well as enter all the data into. The other handful are for sale by owner entries, but honestly they are usually pretty terrible to deal with and you need an agent *even more* when talking to them. Every FSBO I’ve ever talked with had WILD ideas for what they could and couldn’t get away with lol on a contract. Non refundable escrow paid directly to the seller being one of my favorites lol.
However best website isn’t necessarily the best way to find a home. While looking at listings has been commoditized (rightfully so), there is a ton of benefit to be had by working with someone knowledgeable on neighborhoods and the overall home buying process.
You can of course do it all on your own, driving around for days to get an understanding of what the various areas and neighborhoods are, what’s typical and atypical in housing in your budget and price range. You could also of course, learn everything about real estate contracts, negotiation, project management, house inspection and conditions, potential problems with insurance.
At which point congratulations, you’ve become a really good Realtor for one transaction :).
If you have no interest in a new career though, you’re usually better off finding a great Realtor, who will be happy to explain the process, listen to what you’re looking for, dovetail that with your budget, give you some recommended areas to explore, and then do all the rest.
Plus while our MLS app kinda sucks, it is absolutely superior at an Active home search. We can dial in the search considerably more, and set up an automatic search so that you are notified immediately when new listings hit the market. Or the next morning which is a little more tolerable. You can then leave notes to remember what you liked or didn’t like, and also throw homes in the trash you’re not interested in and you’ll never see them again. Zillow and Realtor, while great at some things you do kind of have to weed through what you’ve already seen.
Most clients I can immediately get them on track and comfortable with houses and neighborhoods in a week or two if they live in the area. If you’re not in the area now, it takes a few weeks longer simply because you can’t see them in person. Usually when my initial consultations with buyers starts off hesitant with the home buyer not sure what or how to communicate what they’re looking for, and by the end of it they have had a TON of questions answered, know what to expect in the current market, have locations and neighborhoods to explore as well as some optional areas they didn’t think to consider, and a straightforward plan to accomplish their home purchase on their time line. To try and navigate that without an expert is not impossible, but will take a lot longer and you will likely miss some stuff.
Anyways, would be happy to help 🙂