Zillow.com says they have 3,382,696 listings on their site. Realtor.com says they have 4,084,260. Trulia.com doesn’t advertise a number, but they do say they are, “The best place to start your real estate search”.
Does someone looking for a home in the Phoenix area really care if Trulia shows 16,628 homes for sale ”“ in Miami, Florida?
Does it matter if Realtor.com says there are 3,044 homes in Boise, Idaho — if you are looking for a home in Gilbert, Arizona?
I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that people generally are looking for a home in one particular metro area. Rare is the person who searches for homes across the entire U. S. of A.
OK, so these “national listing sites” have lots of listings, including lots of listings in the particular area you’re interested in.
But do they have all the listings?
The local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is the only database that has every home listed by a real estate brokerage. But unless you are a licensed real estate agent and a member of a particular MLS, you can’t access it. What many agent sites have is called an IDX ”“ short for Internet Data Exchange ”“ which is a data feed from the MLS. There are a few brokerages that exclude their listings from being fed to an IDX (why is completely beyond me), but an IDX based search is going to give you, the non-agent home searcher, your best bet at seeing the most available listings on-line.
Let’s take a look at the number of listings available on various sites for some of the Phoenix metro area:
|Trulia||Zillow||Realtor.com||Phoenix Real Estate Guy IDX|
|% of IDX||64%||87%||94%|
So, if you’re searching for Phoenix and East Valley homes on Trulia, you won’t even see 36% of the homes available for sale. Use Zillow, and you’re missing out on 13% of the homes. Realtor.com is “only” missing 6% of listed homes. That sounds pretty good, unless of course that perfect abode or investment property is one of the 1,193 homes you’ll never see on Realtor.com”¦
I’m not writing this to slam these national listing sites. I know a lot of people that work at these places. They are good folks, and they work very hard. But the simple fact is, if you want access to the most homes online, you need to be searching a local real estate agent’s site, not a national listing aggregator.
Not all local search sites are the same, and not all IDX providers are the same. Search around and find one you like. Some people like mine, some do not. There isn’t a perfect solution for every user.
One thing that may, or may not, matter to you is many agents will force you to register for access to their search, forcing you to give up varying degrees of personal information. Why do some agents do this? In a nutshell, they want to be able to contact you to see if they can help you. Register for a search and you’ve just become a sales lead. I’ve tried my IDX search with and without registration, and there is no question that I capture more names, phone numbers and email addresses with registration enabled. But I personally hate registering on web sites so I find it quite conflicting to require people to register on mine. Hence you can search here to your hearts content, in complete anonymity. (Of note, if you want to save searches here, you will have to submit a valid email address ”“ the system needs some way to know who you are and what you’ve saved).
I make the conscious choice not to require registration, and believe me, I get an earful from some of my fellow agents for that decision. The debate about whether or not to require registration on a home search as raged since Day 1. I wrote my feelings about it back in September of 2006 in, MLS Registration Required – Not here folks! and there isn’t much point in rehashing that debate. It’s a personal choice. Not forcing registration doesn’t make me better (or worse) than someone that does, just different.
I don’t think any of the national listing aggregators require registration, and some of them have really slick search interfaces. After all, they have tens of millions in venture capital to develop them. (Or, in the case of Realtor.com, they have a ton of money from agents paying for “enhanced” listings. On my (and any) IDX, all the listings are enhanced.)
But they don’t have as many listings as a local agents IDX home search solution. You, the on-line home searcher, have to decide what you want, a fancy VC funded search system that’s missing significant chunks of what you are looking for, or an agents site that may not have as many bells and whistles, but at least gives you the best chance of finding that home you’re looking for.