LA Times Examines Local Home Search Options

Over two days in June, we searched each site for three-bedroom, single-family homes on the market in Santa Monica.

The results:

These numbers are always in flux, but from what I’m seeing I think there are between  90 and 100 MLS listings on the market and around 45 to 50 foreclosure listings.

Finally, it’s kind of a waste to do this kind of research unless you’re willing to do a quality analysis. My experience has been that the sites that do not have direct access to MLS info tend to have more listings that are out-of-date and/or listed with outdated prices.

zillow homes in santa monica

* It’s worth noting that I’m pretty sure the reporters messed up with their Zillow numbers… When I just did a search that limits the results to 3+ bedrooms in Santa Monica, then there’s a little graphic that says there are 166 listings for sale, but those are for ALL homes for sale and only 64 of the homes match my criteria.   The Zillow results should probably have been closer to 64 listings which would put them slightly below Trulia.

4realz Exclusive: Realtor.com unleashes the Zillow killer and you…

…didn’t even notice:

new home values tool on Realtor.com

Apparently, Realtor.com launched their answer to Zillow recently without much fanfare!

The first thing to note is that the new tool mixes estimates for home values along side listings from the Realtor.com database. This would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but even with an announcement from NAR, the blog world has been silent. (And I’m told by someone-in-the-know that it has been live with a link from Realtor.com for a few weeks already!)

The part that seems to be missing is accuracy of the listings.

For example, the VERY first comparable I tried shows a home value estimate that is clearly way off base… The home at 26227 Adamor Road in Calabasas, CA which recently sold for $575K is listed on Realtor.com with an estimated value of $925,399 and Zillow with a zestimate of $564,000.

Recently sold home on Realtor.com

OUCH! If I was a REALTOR trying to sell a home on Adamor Road, I sure would be pissed if REALTOR.com was estimating homes were selling in the million dollar range, but actual sales were closer to the $600K range! A “beta” label only goes so far!

The second example I tried (by simply typing in Seattle, WA and then zooming in randomly until I could see a listing) was the home at 7352 26th Ave in Seattle, WA showed a recently sold price of $880K, the Realtor.com home value is $690,000, while the zestimate is $900,500.

For the third example, I decided to head further east to Chicago (no real reason other than NAR is located in that area). I randomly landed at 1729 N Melvina Ave in Chicago, IL which recently sold for $225K. the Realtor.com home value is $218,183, while the zestimate is $247K.

Results:

Two horrible estimates and one decent estimate out of three tries. It makes sense that the realtor.com team has not made a PR push around this feature yet! 🙂

On a related note: Things get even more interesting when you think that NAR took on a similar project (was called “Gateway”, now called “Real Estate Channel”) to aggregate home information across the country. These types of projects are not cheap… so why create duplicate efforts?

A fascinating conversation about NAR/DOJ…

I really want to thank the industry titans who participated in today’s podcast:

As well as all the people who listened in and provided wonderful chat commentary throughout the podcast. There were so many great names that showed up that I can’t wait to get many of you on future podcasts!

I thought if I gave us a half-hour we’d be able to cover the subject completely… but with the crew above, we were flying along after an about an hour when I decided to pull the plug in order to save some energy for next week! 😉

And if you missed the live call, don’t worry, you can still catch all the recored action here:

That was so much fun, I know we’ll do that again… Hopefully soon! 😉

Live Podcast: What does the DOJ/NAR Settlement mean to REALTORS?

I’m totally excited about the live podcast that is set to go live in a few hours!

Earlier today, I was at an caravan event with a large group of REALTORS… When the agents found out I was an internet guy, many of them kept asking me for insight into the settlement between the DOJ and NAR and how it was going to affect their online business. However, like many of the agents, I have more questions than answers, so I decided to use this opportunity to put together a podcast where some great guests can talk through the implications of the settlement.

With that background, I’m extremely excited that the following three guests have agreed to take part in a 1/2 hour roundtable discussion at 4pm (PST) today:

The podcast will be streaming live at TalkShoe and I encourage you to join in the conversation live!

Initially, I’m only going to have the mics turned on for the guests to cover the basics, but assuming that we have some time beyond that, I’m looking forward to opening up the mic to others on the line (That means you!).

And if you have some specific questions you want to be sure get addressed, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to work it into the agenda! Hope to hear from you at 4pm!

UPDATE:

Redfin releases a genuinely interesting update!

According to their press release, they are now commingling MLS, FSBO and Foreclosure listings on one map… and this has me scratching my head!

Are they allowed to do this? Isn’t this type of commingling of listings against MLS rules?

redfin search in woodland hills

Notice the purple and pink icons… Those are REO (foreclosures) and FSBOs, respectively (green icons are MLS listings).

I have four ideas about how they are able to get away with this:

  1. They found a loophole in MLS agreements that let’s them commingle listings (but I would find this hard to believe).
  2. They got buy-off from all their local MLS organizations (but I would find this hard to believe)
  3. They have reason to believe they can win this battle in the courts… (maybe a DOJ brief in support of this or something similar?)
  4. They just don’t care about the rules and believe that consumer support for this feature will be so great that they’ll risk MLS fines.

None of these scenarios seem likely to me. What am I missing?

With that said, I REALLY like how they are approaching the foreclosure data. I’ve received a few press releases recently from real estate search sites that “announce” they are now publishing foreclosures on their site. However, inevitably, when I tested out the feature, the sites were just regurgitating RealtyTrac data that required consumers to pay a fee to get the actual address of the property. Redfin is providing the address.

Also interesting, someone from Redfin let me know that they are going to phase in a flat-fee buying option in order to accommodate these new listings types.

I want to send my congrats out to the Redfin team for pushing the boundaries yet again. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re working pretty darn hard to deliver features and tools that they think will do a better job serving their customers.

UPDATE:

There’s some debate in the comments about whether there are local MLS rules against commingling of data, with some people claiming it’s just a misunderstanding that the data can’t be commingled.  However, someone (who wished to remain anonymous) send me the following email which demonstrates that for at least one MLS where Redfin is commingling data, the rules are pretty clear:

Check it out:   http://www.imrmls.com/centsite/idx_policy.htm

“4.13. Listings obtained through IDX must be displayed separately from listings obtained from other sources, not including information provided by other MLSs.”

What that says to ME (having experience with MLS rules) is that MRMLS doesn’t allow FSBO properties side-by-side with MLS listings.

It’s great to see so much progress being made on…

…the listing standards front.   While it will definitely help the big boys lower their aggregation costs, it should also help make the online listing search space even more competitive as I think (hope?) it will help lower the bar to creating a viable national presence for new startups.

Free IDX solution?

I met the guys from softRealty in Atlanta last week and they convinced me the have a pretty good thing going. Their plan is to offer a free IDX solution to agents that is ad supported. (They also offer a $30/month solution that is ad-free).

They’ve got two* one thing working against them:

  • My guess is that most agents will stay away from any solution that puts ads on their website

Like most IDX solutions, they’ve built the backend so that it can be framed into other agent sites. I’m not a fan of framed solutions, but the price is right, so it will be interesting to see if they get buzz as they roll out into markets beyond the Atlanta area…

* whoops!

[Update:  I notice I get a lot of traffic from folks looking for technology solutions to this post.   If you’re one of them, head over to my real estate technology tool shed where I’ve got lots of information that can get you up to speed quickly]