Fragmented search with Zillow and Trulia

Searching for homes in the Charlottesville (or any area) is easier than ever – and more confusing and fragmented. Even the Wall Street Journal thinks so (albeit that wasn’t the intent of the article). Hopefully consumers don’t get drawn into the false sense of completeness that these sites offer. The local MLS, despite its clunky interface and consumer tools, offers the most comprehensive search available.

The tools Trulia and Zillow provide and the interfaces they offer consumers (and Realtors) should be forcing and local MLS’ to innovate and create better user experiences.    I’m curious to learn what is up to.


From yesterday’s WSJ:

For starters, users can enter a city, town or ZIP Code and see a listing of every home for sale, sortable by price, address, number of bedrooms or bathrooms, broker or type of home (single-family or multi-family). They can also narrow the search by establishing parameters for location, size and property type. (bolding mine)

For the 22901 zip code, one of the primary zip codes for Charlottesville:

Trulia – 216
Zillow – 77
CAARMLS – 290 – 290 + 6 multi-family + 2 Farms + 72 land listings

For Crozet (22932), a town just west of Charlottesville:

Trulia – 137
Zillow – 148
CAARMLS – 113 – 113 + 55 land listings

One question – how does Trulia have more listings than the MLS? Is it because they are drawing from more sources? How timely is their data and are there any duplicates?

This is the perfect opportunity to refer to a post I wrote in January – Where do you Search for homes In Charlottesville (hint: it’s more than the MLS).

This post was shamelessly stolen from Jay and localized for the Charlottesville area.

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  1. Charleston real estate blog December 13, 2007 at 09:20

    Jim, you have to wonder about the credibility of a site when Trulia has more listings than the mls.

    From what I can tell, your MLS uses Solid Earth just like Charleston and while I think their agent side is superb, they could improve the public side of their search portal.

  2. Mark December 13, 2007 at 11:30

    With Trulia, I have come across several old listings. They don’t do a good job of flushing out the old; that’s why they have so many.

    One more Trulia beef: Realtors are able to put “Charlottesville 22901” for the address when the actual location is Lake Monticello. It’s good marketing/dishonesty on the agent’s part, but Trulia should just require the ZIP code and the problem would be solved.

  3. Jim Duncan December 13, 2007 at 12:03

    Daniel –

    Sorry! That referenced post was written before your site came along. I’ll have to write a new one. Any other places to search that you can think of?

  4. Ernie Tabel December 13, 2007 at 13:42

    When a property listings site has more listings than the MLS, possible explanations might include:
    1. The site supports FSBOs and other types of listings that do not commonly appear in the MLS.
    2. The site supports listings from more than one MLS whose geographic coverages might overlap.
    3. The site, or one or more of its data sources, are not removing old/sold listings over time.
    I’m sure there are more, but you get the idea.

    One sadly common misconception is that an MLS necessarily has an infallably complete list of all properties for sale in its area. While the local MLS is often the closest to such a thing available, that’s not quite the same.

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  6. Frank Borges LL0SA= Broker December 14, 2007 at 02:03

    Double check Trulia for old and repeat listings. I did a similar analysis and found things that were months old. They don’t have a system to purge old data.


  7. Jim Duncan December 14, 2007 at 09:32

    Ernie –

    One sadly common misconception is that an MLS necessarily has an infallably complete list of all properties for sale in its area. While the local MLS is often the closest to such a thing available, that’s not quite the same.

    So true. It’s surprising that so many people don’t get that the local MLS, has probably about 85% of local listings.

    Yet another facet of the argument for using Buyer-Broker Agreements from start.

  8. Fsbo December 20, 2007 at 12:37

    Jim, you can also take into consideration Fizber –
    . The company is rather young but we are trying to do our best helping buyers and sellers.

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