Trulia, Zillow, Cyberhomes or the Charlottesville MLS?

Let’s see – when searching for homes in the 22901 zip code, the predominant zip in the Charlottesville area, which one is most “accurate”?

The Charlottesville MLS is not sexy. It is not nearly as cool, neat, or “hot” as the rest, but it has something that the others don’t – most of the listings. As much as I’d like to have the tools that Trulia, Zillow and Cyberhomes have, perhaps one day the local MLS will evolve … or maybe not. But for now, I’ll take having the most comprehensive listing of homes for sale over admittedly very cool displays of information.

A fundamental difference between the MLS and these other sources – the MLS is only about properties, whereas Trulia has blogs, neighborhood resources, heat maps, and more. Zillow is becoming more and more of a media company as much as a home “valuation” company.

My thinking is this – search for homes here or here, and then do more research at one of the places below, as well as the respective localities’ websites for tax records, GIS information, etc.

The Charlottesville Area Multiple Listing service weighs in at …*

369 homes on the market in the 22901 Zip Code!

Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® - LIST-IT

Trulia has 285 homes.

22901 Real Estate & 22901 Homes For Sale — Trulia.com

Zillow has 91.

Charlottesville, VA 22901 Real Estate and Homes for Sale | Zillow Real Estate

Cyberhomes has 53 homes for sale.

Cyberhomes.com - Homes for Sale in Charlottesville, VA 22901.jpg

I’ll take function over form every day of the week. That being said, the lead won’t last.

* as of 11 September 2008. This is a scheduled post; I don’t think much will have changed in 17 days.

Edit 30 September 2008: Bumped to the top to highlight the comments. Buyers/Sellers – your thoughts?

(Visited 13 times, 1 visits today)

24 Comments

  1. Jim Duncan September 28, 2008 at 19:41

    Odd. Now when I search Zillow via the link you provided, I get 1,190 homes for sale.

    Agreed – the local sites aren’t nearly as easy to use, but they do have the best data … now, if someone could figure out a way to make the MLS more Zilulihomes like …

    Reply
  2. downtownenvy September 29, 2008 at 06:30

    The new format looks great Jim!

    Reply
  3. Jim Duncan September 29, 2008 at 11:09

    Thanks, downtownenvy – for reading and commenting!

    Reply
  4. David G from Zillow.com September 29, 2008 at 15:57

    Hi Jim,

    I can explain the confusion with the count. On Zillow we count the number of listings that appear on the map and our maps are dynamically resized to fill your screen so the count will differ from one user to the next. I understand that it makes these comparative exercises challenging – we’re discussing a solution to this problem but nothing’s scheduled yet.

    While I understand where this article (and its ilk) are coming from I wonder whether it’s really good advice.

    From a pure information perspective … close to 100% of all of these homes are on Zillow (regardless of whether they’re for sale on the site.) Thanks to Zestimates and other data, Zillow gets over 4,000 page views a month from buyers and sellers searching in the 22901 ZIP code alone. It looks like that’s about the same amount of traffic the entire Charlottesville area MLS site is getting monthly. So Zillow is seeing way way more traffic from Charlottesville buyers. From a sellers perspective it’s a no-brainer … if you want to sell your Charlottesville home as quickly as possible you will want it posted on Zillow.

    From a buyers’ perspective … as you know, not all homes sell via the MLS. If you were my agent, I would certainly expect you to search the MLS but I would also want you searching the sites that offer unique inventory which cannot be found in the MLS. As far as I know there is no one place that anyone can go to look for all the homes that are for sale and anyone who suggests there is is probably just trying to sell something.

    Surely the good advice for buyers is … “no website has 100% of the listings and no one website provides all the information you will need to make your decision. So, use a few different sites to find the homes you want to visit and be sure to visit them (the listings) all because there is no substitute for visiting a home you may buy.”

    * ed note – I edited this comment per David G’s follow-up comment

    Reply
  5. David G from Zillow September 29, 2008 at 16:01

    Corrections:

    – “guyers” = “buyers”
    – When I said “visit them all”, I was talking about listings, not websites.

    Reply
  6. Jim Duncan September 29, 2008 at 21:38

    David –

    Thanks so much for stopping by and clarifying.

    I always thought “ilk” had negative connotations … but I was wrong.

    Thanks for the traffic comparisons … what did you use to determine this?

    My argument remains – while Zillow has lots of traffic they also have a vast minority of the listings (for now) …

    As a buyers’ agent my job is becoming less and less about finding the homes and more and more about representing buyers – anybody can “find” a home (even though I search lots of places) – it’s becoming commoditized – but representing buyers’ best interests is a more nuanced, learned and intricate expertise.

    From a sellers perspective it’s a no-brainer … if you want to sell your Charlottesville home as quickly as possible you will want it posted on Zillow.

    From a sellers’ perspective, I’d want my home put in front of the most buyers – and right now that means dispersing the commodity to as many places as possible using whatever tools are available. I don’t agree that it’s a no-brainer, as Zillow just doesn’t have close to critical mass in the Charlottesville market, but it may be someday. A good Realtor’s core competency is no longer MLS access. (heck, some MLS’ send their feeds to Zillow)

    there is no one place that anyone can go to look for all the homes that are for sale and anyone who suggests there is is probably just trying to sell something.

    Agreed. 🙂

    So, use a few different sites to find the homes you want to visit and be sure to visit them all because there is no substitute for visiting a home you may buy.”

    And frankly, there is no subsitute for walking riding a bike and driving through neighbhoorhoods to see new unrepresented sellers’ signs, talk to neighbors about upcoming moves, see signs of Realtors’ listings that are incorrectly entered into the MLS …

    Finding a home is (becoming) a commodity … interpreting the data is where the real a professional’s value is proven.

    * I tried Zillow on a house I am looking at for buyer clients in the Charlottesville area – Zillow has no zestimate and a 2006 tax assessor’s value. 🙂

    Reply
  7. jf.sellsius September 30, 2008 at 08:55

    This brings up a good point– buyers DO NOT know that 3rd party listing sites are lacking complete MLS coverage. In part, because they advertise the gross listings number ( “we’ve got 5 million listings folks”)– giving the impression they have all the listings– it’s a perception marketing technique old as dirt. If they were truly transparent, they would publish their local MLS coverage so buyers WOULD KNOW the truth.

    What say you David G? Should 3rd party RE listing sites publish their local MLS coverage %?

    Reply
  8. Brett September 30, 2008 at 09:28

    Brett Shaw from Cyberhomes:

    Hey Jim. I just wanted to also let you know that the number of homes that show up for sale at Cyberhomes.com is a result of the viewing area (map size). When you search a zip code on the site, the map on the right hand side is sized based on the area borders. Some are small and compact while others are large and oddly shaped. Couple this with high population density and you get a large number.

    For example: I just did the same search at Cyberhomes for the 22901 zip code. When the results came back, the map was zoomed out as far as it could go because the area of the zip code covers a large area. Because of this, my search returned 8,732 homes. I certainly see your frustration in this. Most of the listings that show up are outside the zip code. Zooming in on the map will automatically change the number as you narrow down where you are looking for.

    I know that my MLS site breaks counties into many different areas (not zip codes) so I have to do a broad search to get what I’m looking for. Regardless of this, I strongly feel that most (if not all) of the listings in the Charlottsville, VA area are represented on Cyberhomes. All that said, a good agent knows the boundaries of the MLS and online sites. They will able to show a complete list of available homes.

    Reply
  9. David G from Zillow.com September 30, 2008 at 09:47

    “As a buyers’ agent my job is becoming less and less about finding the homes and more and more about representing buyer”

    Oh, cool. Just like Redfin. Sorry – I couldn’t resist that one, Jim. I understand that buyers today do much of the hunting and that this market doesn’t require much looking for most people to find a home but I also know that one of the two properties I’ve bought in my life thus far (the one that’s been a good investment) was not in the MLS or even on the market when my awesome agent found it for me.

    “Thanks for the traffic comparisons … what did you use to determine this?”

    You can get an accurate, albeit conservative measure of Zillow’s page views in any ZIP code by skipping to step 2 in the showcase ads pipeline: http://www.zillow.com/showcase/GetStarted.htm?s_cid=ez-site-adwithus For mycaar.com I looked at the estimates from Compete.

    I guess I like to think that there’s a huge difference between finding “a” home and finding “the” home. Maybe that’s just a fantasy of mine but as a shopper, I’m not satisfied with only seeing 4 out of 5 of the homes on the market and I’m certainly not going to only take the seller or their agent’s word (i.e. the listing info) into consideration before I choose which homes to visit. And I believe that as consumers are increasingly empowered with info more of them will become discerning shoppers like me.

    Again – I don’t disagree with your advice to use the MLS and IDX sites to search for listings but I do totally disagree with the suggestion that they’re a one-stop-shop for home buyers.

    Joe –

    To define “all the homes for sale” as “in the MLS” is simply dishonest FUD. Of course we are not going to further confuse home buyers by pretending that that is the case. But we also don’t have anything to hide – Zillow displays the count of listings returned by any given search which is how Jim got his numbers. This issue of MLS feeds to 3rd party sites is also much more complex than I think you realize. Just because the MLS is the source of any one site’s listings, it does not necessarily follow that that site is also licensed to publish all of the listings from that MLS. This is the little secret the MLS-fed 3rd party sites are hoping you don’t learn as they spin their FUD.

    Reply
  10. Jim Duncan September 30, 2008 at 10:40

    Oh, cool. Just like Redfin. Sorry – I couldn’t resist that one, Jim.

    Touché. (but we don’t have them here, either) 🙂

    I’m not saying that MLS or IDX are one-stop shops, but that for now, the MLS far and away has the best coverage of homes for sale … and, altering your statement … “From a sellers perspective it’s a no-brainer … if you want to sell your Charlottesville home as quickly as possible you will want it posted on Zillow” the Charlottesville MLS – because that’s where the inventory is, and thus, where the most informed buyers are. Zillow, et. al are great for ancillary stuff – aerial shots, demographics, etc. but in our market Zillow is just not viable … (and no, that’s not a challenge!) …

    I do agree that I want my clients to see all of the homes for sale but do think that they want one place to see all of the homes currently for sale. That’s one of the reasons I work with Buyer-Broker agreements – so that I have the freedom to show anything and everything ….

    Brett –

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting –

    I just did the search on 22901 again (it is a huge zip, as it’s the original one for our area) – regardless of how far out I zoomed, I still got 56 homes for sale. I don’t doubt that Zillow and Cyberhomes have the parcel information on most of the properties, but they do not yet have even close to critical mass to qualify for viability in our market. As a friend just said to me – they (for now) are distractions from the real task of finding a home in Charlottesville.

    Reply
  11. Joseph Ferrara.sellsius September 30, 2008 at 10:50

    So, David, should I take your comment as “NO, 3rd party RE listing sites should not publish their MLS coverage”?

    Or are you saying buyers do not want to know (or care) if Zillow has less MLS listings than the local broker? I say they do care.

    Shouldn’t the buyer determine what information is best for them? And if they might benefit from knowing your MLS coverage, would you deny it to them?

    It seems the Z-FUD is deciding for buyers what degree of transparency is in their best interests. That robe of transparency is akin to an emperor’s new clothes.

    Reply
  12. Joseph Ferrara.sellsius September 30, 2008 at 10:53

    P.S. Hypothetical: (answer at your own risk)

    If Zillow had 100% MLS coverage, would you advertise that fact?

    Reply
  13. Jim Duncan September 30, 2008 at 11:09

    Having absolutely no data other than my professional opinion on which to base this – I’d say that the local MLS has about 90% of the homes currently for sale – certainly a far cry better than the competitors, no?

    Reply
  14. Pingback: How Quick do Social Media Directors Respond? | Real Central VA

  15. Galen from Estately.com October 10, 2008 at 02:22

    I’m a little late to this game, but these pure numerical comparisons are missing something: a lot of those homes aren’t actually for sale. It takes Zillow a few weeks to wipe some of the homes that have sold off. I have no doubt they’ll report MORE listings someday, but that’s because some of them aren’t “real.”

    Reply
  16. Drew Meyers from Zillow October 10, 2008 at 11:36

    Galen-
    I’m by no means saying our system is 100% perfect, but please elaborate on what you mean when you say it takes us a few weeks to wipe some listings no longer on the market off Zillow. The majority of our listings come from XML feeds from brokerages, MLS’, or technology aggregators. As soon as a listing is removed from the feed, then it’ll be removed from Zillow. There’s no long delay in that process.

    Reply
  17. Galen October 10, 2008 at 12:32

    Drew, I was under the impression that a lot of your listings (or at least 10%) came directly from agents and consumers, who aren’t as vigilant as brokerages about removing properties (I certainly wouldn’t be!). Am I wrong? Do consumers really not post their homes on Zillow?

    Reply
  18. Drew Meyers from Zillow October 10, 2008 at 12:53

    Galen-
    Yes, we currently have roughly 260k listings posted directly by agents and owners (7.5% of total listings). It might surprise you, but stale manually posted listings have not been a huge issue from what we have seen — though of course some owners/agents are better at updating than others. We have some internal procedures in place (such as regular e-mail reminders to keep a listing updated) that help keep listings fresh. Also, if there is a listing that someone finds that is no longer on the market, they can flag that listing for our CS team to review and take down if we confirm it’s no longer active.

    Reply
  19. Pingback: Real Estate Radio in Charlottesville - Recap | Real Central VA

  20. Pingback: Google Assumes it is a Foregone Conclusion | Real Central VA

  21. Pingback: DS + Zillow = A whole Host of Questions | | RealCentralVA.comRealCentralVA.com

  22. Pingback: Searching for homes in Charlottesville – Zillow, Trulia, MLS? | | RealCentralVA.comRealCentralVA.com

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *