Using a browser to search for potential real estate investments has certainly put a wealth of information at the fingertips of investors. Maybe even too much information. Load a search term like “houses for sale Minneapolis” into Google and you get back more than 4 million hits. All of these listings are dynamic with changes constantly being made. Making it impossible for an investor to sort through all of this information and stay current.
What you want to do is become familiar with how the major real estate search engines differentiated themselves. This enables you to begin your search on the website intended to deliver results closest to your investing criteria. This article explains how five of the most used real estate search engines are unique.
1. Zillow maintains a database of approximately 100 million homes across the U.S. In 2011, Zillow averaged over 19 million unique site visitors per month. Zestimate® and Rent Zestimate are it’s two most unique features. While Zestimate is no substitution for an appraisal, it’s a good starting place for researching a property’s market value. The accuracy of the property value depends on the amount of information available. The secret formula relies on a combination of data input by the listing agent and appraiser as well as data from public records. One of the most influential factors are the number of recent transactions in the neighborhood. The more transactions, the more accurate the estimate. Examining the “value range” gives you an idea of the accuracy of the data. A wider “value range’” indicates a less accurate value estimate. Also useful is the historical price change chart that shows how the house value has changed over time. The Rent Zestimate is similar but based on local rental data. It’s no substitute for a local rent survey but is a good starting place for landlords needing to establish fair market rents.
2. However, it’s the most visited consumer real estate website with 6 million visitors each month. The site is composed exclusively of listings from the MLS. It updates once each day – Monday through Friday during the evening hours. It takes between 24 and 48 hours before updates appear online.
3. Truila has about 5.5 million unique visitors each month. It’s similar to most real estate search engines in that it provides basic sales and rental data. What makes it unique is some of the neighborhood data it provides. An example of available data are crime statistics down to the street level. Additionally, the site has applications you can use to extract the neighborhood data you want to automatically display with your own marketing materials.
4. RealtyTrac averages more than 3 million unique visitors each month. This website specializes in foreclosure related properties and is the most quoted authority on the subject. It tracks substantial information in all three stages of the foreclosure process – pre-foreclosure, foreclosure, and bank owned properties. It also provides tools and other data related to individual foreclosure houses. These include an estimated value of the property, sales data for surrounding properties, information regarding other financial encumbrances on the property, and MLS listed properties in the vicinity.
5. However, it is useful to investors seeking demographic information for specific cities. The website is widely followed with over 11 million monthly visitors. The available demographic data is extensive including income, race, school test scores, hospitals, car accidents, property tax assessments, and cell phone towers.
6. Loopnet is the leading commercial real estate website with more than 5 million registered users and 2.7 million monthly visitors. The website makes it possible to search and compare not only current commercial listings but also properties not listed for sale or lease. Along with traditional information about building and lot size, it also provides information regarding owners, tenants and historical sales, leasing, and mortgage information. The comparables tool alone contains more than 35 variables.
While this blog is not a comprehensive guide to these online investing resources, the descriptions will point you towards the site you should use when you need unique and specific information about a potential investment property.