Posted by: Timothy Ellis (The Tim)

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

31 responses to “MLS-Powered Search Sites Hold Major Advantage Over Zillow & Trulia”

  1. Conor MacEvilly

    A new buyer client said to me recently “does Zillow have any active listings?”. I went and tried to look up a couple of listings I knew for sure were still active and they were no where to be seen. Although I have a better than Zillow IDX on my own site, most of my buyers send me listings from Redfin. I admit it, Redifn has the best search in town and you can quote me on that (for a nominal fee of course).

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  2. softwarengineer

    I Hate Websites’ Search Engines

    That allege no items found, unless I tweek the input wording ever so slightly…then ya get results….the BLS website comes to mind.

    If you can show SWE that Redfin doesn’t do this BLS type monkey business, Redfin’s support would be even more substantiated, iMO.

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  3. Steve

    This almost reads like an Onion piece. “Website’s self-funded study shows that its data matches the data of its input sources more closely than other websites.” Duh?

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 1

  4. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: Steve @ 3 – The broker sites have automated feeds, where Trulia and Zillow do not (for the most part). Unless something has changed, Realtor.com has some auto feeds for some brokerages’ listings, but not all.

    That’s why the data results are why they are the way they are. But you’re right, the study is sort of one proving computers can replicate data other places better than people can.

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  5. SG

    RE: Steve @ 3

    I hope they did not have to pay for it. Their quality assurance team should have done that as part of their daily job.

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  6. SG

    RE: The Tim @ 5 – I wouldn’t apply the term ‘woefully inadequate’ solely to Zillow given that FSBO, pre-foreclosures, rental potential, historical sold prices for nearby properties all need to be considered before making a purchase decision. If I remember correctly Zillow has the above information, and Redfin doesn’t. I am not saying Zillow is better than Redfin, just that there is no clear winner. And any serious shopper should consider both.

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  7. ARDELL

    I would think the reverse might also be true. Trulia, Zillow and Craigslist likely have more data on homes that are NOT mls listed. One of my clients is interested in a home that is listed for sale on Zillow, but not on any mls powered site.

    There continues to be a need for both types of search sites vs a one stop shop for everything. Nothing wrong with using both a Brokerage site (ALL are mls powered, not just the two named) and a site that allows owners to have the public view their homes for sale without needing to hire an agent/mls-member to accommodate that.

    Claiming one is “better” than the other is of no help to consumers generally. Encouraging them to use both vs merely one or the other might be more helpful.

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  8. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: ARDELL @ 9 – Or using Losh’s theory that every property is for sale, you could use this site! ;-)

    http://info.kingcounty.gov/Assessor/eRealProperty/default.aspx

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  9. ChrisM

    I’m shocked anyone would diss Zillow – they must do hundreds, or thousands of data quality checks:

    http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/3240-Richardson-Rd-Richland-WA-99354/2122754740_zpid/

    Or not.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  10. ARDELL

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 10

    LOL! Actually flippers, builders and investors often run off lists from County Records where the improvement value is $1,000 and the majority of the assessed value by a large margin is the land. People looking for teardowns and flips do use County Record info more than any info that is announcing property that is for sale.

    The old saying in buying businesses is if it is for sale…you don’t want it.

    The most distressed property, and I mean the property is distressed and not the homeowner, more often sells off market than on market. People who buy them use County Records, and it is the primary source for investors looking for homes on lots that can be two or more lots via a lot line adjustment or short plat process.

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  11. David Losh

    RE: ARDELL @ 12

    Exactly, it is all about the numbers.

    Zillow wanted to be a National data base, and have a hard time getting MLS feeds. It’s the same for redfin, no one wants to give up the data that they feel is owned by the Multiple.

    The main point is, “The old saying in buying businesses is if it is for sale…you don’t want it.”

    If a buyer is serious about buying a property they will be doing things more proactive than looking at a computer screen.

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  12. ARDELL

    RE: David Losh @ 13

    There is a need for both and all, David.

    Trulia originally opened in NYC because NYC didn’t/doesn’t have an mls with mls data. Trulia started as a “scraper” site to pull information into the public view that was treated too privately by the real estate industry. Yes, that made the data someone inaccurate, but when it was a choice between no info and some info, it was a means to fill an information void intended to keep consumers in the dark.

    There is no one source of information. For Residential Real Estate I do inform my clients who are ONLY using Zillow when I first meet them that they need to be using a Brokerage site, preferably Redfin, in addition to Zillow. I don’t meet too many people using Trulia exclusively as a search site. But that is likely different from one State to another.

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  13. David Losh

    RE: ARDELL @ 14

    I personally think that Multiple Listing Services, and tax data, should allow feeds directly to buyers, and sellers for a fee. I don’t see the problem, now, except some agents, and Brokers may be upset.

    I just don’t see how any one Brokerage, or any one web site, will ever be all encompassing. For that reason I applaud Zillow for coming as far as they have.

    I don’t get Trulia at all. It’s just a back slapping Real Estate agent site. I don’t see the purpose.

    As much as redfin claims to have made in roads they probably set back any chances of getting full cooperation from National Brokerages. redfin could be sold to a ReMax, or Coldwell Banker, but I don’t think that will help.

    Zillow, to me, seems the best viable option for a National search site.

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  14. Jonness

    I’ve used the Refin site for years, and I think it is the best RE search site out there (as long as it covers your area; otherwise, you’re toast).

    I recommend using it to find your home, and then using 500 Realty when you purchase your home. This way, you can get a $10,000 refund.

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  15. ARDELL

    RE: David Losh @ 15

    Agree David, but that changes from one area to the next. Trulia was better known in NYC than Zillow, but the most popular site there was a site called Street Easy.

    http://streeteasy.com/nyc/sale/683055-coop-3750-hudson-manor-terrace-riverdale-bronx

    (I use past tense as that may have changed since I last spoke with RE Agent friends there.)

    Redfin works best here in conjunction with Zillow. Any home buyer or seller should view properties of interest on both for different reasons. But just because they work best here does not make them the best nationally…or even relevant nationally.

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  16. Jeff Johnston

    A few years ago I owned a market research firm in North Carolina. The correctness of data was paramount to being a trusted research company. Real estate is not much different. If Zillow and Trulia are pumping-up their SEO by listing homes not really for sale, it will eventually disappoint enough users they will go elsewhere. That is how a free market works. Redfin’s research may be suspect because they have a vested interest, but the results echo what I have heard about Zillow and Trulia. We operate as an Internet brokerages in North Carolina and Georgia, and we pride ourselves on having 100% valid data. We also have one of the world’s most powerful search tools, which builds a preference profile and displays home in priority order based on that individual profile. We believe buyers want valid results that match their desires…. not puffed-up data, 38% of which are not really for sale. Feel free to kick the tires and see what can be done to serve the consumer.

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  17. ChrisM

    RE: ChrisM @ 11 – Astonishing! The link I provided no longer works. However, one can easily reproduce the result by searching for homes in 99352 zip code that are between $1 (one dollar) and $100 (one hundred dollars).

    Three listings show up.

    They’re commercial, but obviously Zillow has a fundamental lack of data quality checks.

    Obviously, this *is* rocket science.

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  18. Doug

    RE: David Losh @ 15

    If their main differentiator – the Zestimate – weren’t a total crock with falsified data in it, I could agree. The website has a nice interface, if nothing else.

    The Citron business report on Zillow should be required reading, too. http://www.citronresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/zillow-v8a-final-Sept-25.pdf

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  19. joe dirt

    I like John L Scott and have used it for several years. Windermere’s website is awful. I like the new pre-foreclosure search feature on zillow.

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  20. ARDELL

    One of the reasons I like to manually upload to Zillow in addition to mls feed sources is they don’t limit to 15 photos. Often 15 photos is plenty…but sometimes I have a hard time narrowing it down from 20 or so to 15 and Zillow lets me put all 20 as in this one.

    http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/10304-NE-123rd-Pl-Kirkland-WA-98034/48880643_zpid/

    I am not a big fan of uploading to Trulia because the information is not as easy for me to control when they pull in bad information, especially after the property closes escrow. Like this one:

    http://www.trulia.com/property/1057707745-8532-16th-Ave-NW-Seattle-WA-98117

    While the correct info that it sold in 2012 for $560,000 appears in the history, the largest printed price at the top of $749,950…well I have no idea where they are getting that from. Just appears to be pulled out of thin air and my contact info is still associated with the address, so the erroneous info reflects poorly on me.

    I added the property to Trulia reluctantly at my client’s request…but I am very sorry that I did and will not likely do it again.

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  21. ARDELL

    Very awesome. Redfin just added search by schools. Estately has had that for years, but clearly Redfin just got better. Searching by Elementary School is a great way to search by smaller pre-ordained boundaries, even if you are just looking for certain neighborhoods within the Elementary School Boundary.

    Love it!

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  22. Question Mark

    By ChrisM @ 19:

    RE: ChrisM @ 11 – … one can easily reproduce the result by searching for homes in 99352 zip code that are between $1 (one dollar) and $100 (one hundred dollars).

    Three listings show up.

    They’re commercial, but obviously Zillow has a fundamental lack of data quality checks.

    The listed priice makes some sense, since commercial property is usually priced by the square foot. Not to excuse Zillow [motto: all valuations are relative] at all.

    –Mark

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  23. Kary L. Krismer

    By ARDELL @ 23:

    Very awesome. Redfin just added search by schools. Estately has had that for years, but clearly Redfin just got better. Searching by Elementary School is a great way to search by smaller pre-ordained boundaries, even if you are just looking for certain neighborhoods within the Elementary School Boundary.

    Love it!

    Do they do this off their own data, or off the data provided by the listing agent?

    If off their own data, I can hardly wait for Craig Blackmon to sue them on behalf of some buyer who bought a house in the wrong area based on faulty data.

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  24. Craig Blackmon

    I’m not crazy about that lawsuit. What are the damages? The child would have made “x” in salary had the home really been within the boundaries of the good school, but because the child attended some other, not-as-good school the child earns “y”? Or would have gotten into Columbia but instead is attending Seattle Central? Plus there is that little disclaimer issue noted by Tim…

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  25. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: Craig Blackmon @ 27 – The damages would be the cost of selling the house they bought (9%), and the cost of moving. Clearly not mega-lawsuit range.

    Perhaps I worry about it because so many buyers are so limited on their schools, and expressly so. If they don’t get it, they’re going to be very vocal!

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  26. krs

    Redfin _was_ a great website. Absolutely the best. It’s too bad they ruined it with all the recent “improvements.”

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  27. ChrisM

    RE: krs @ 29 – Try using realtor.com and then check back….

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

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