Searching for a Home in Charlottesville? Start With the MLS

Here’s a tip: if you’re looking for a home in Charlottesville, please – save yourselves some frustration and don’t count on Zillow or Trulia for the most accurate, up to date listings. Seriously. I’ve said this before (love that conversation, by the way) – if you’re looking for a home in Charlottesville, you probably want the best data – the most accurate data possible. Right? As it stands right now, you’re not going to find that on the big portals.

A study came out today by the WAV Group, stating that, in part :

The results of this analysis are that the local brokerage sites are considerably more complete, more accurate, and timelier than the national portals.

Anyone paying attention knows this. Clients told me this week that they were “so frustrated with Trulia” because it didn’t have the most up to date listings.

Here’s why … (it’s called listing syndication and it’s surprisingly complicated). In short, Zillow and Trulia, etc. don’t list homes. Real estate brokers and brokerages do. Local Realtor sites (such as mine) and (at least in Charlottesville) have direct feeds from the MLS. Trulia and Zillow have some feeds directly from MLS’ and some from brokers and some from brokerages and some from God-knows-where-else. They have the unenviable task of trying to 1) get all the listings from so many sources and 2) trying to keep that awful amalgamation up to date and accurate.

In other words (from one of my favorite writers a few months ago):

It’s the content, stupid. And Zillow has a bit of a mess on its hands right now. Some feeds come from brokers; others come from individual agents. Much of the listing data they do have is out of date, incorrect, misattributed or otherwise misrepresented. And, with more agents and brokers opting out of the whole thing, the data set is incomplete.

I did a quick search for homes for sale in the 22901 (largest in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area) zip code:

Zillow – 386 (including one that is a “vacant land home”)

Trulia – 369 (the entire first page was of homes pulled from – for homes in “Charlottesville” — really: Ruckersville. Point. Made.

RealCentralVA – 277 (direct MLS feed)

Charlottesville MLS – 283 – (the actual MLS feed) – 281 (direct MLS feed) — On hold with today, part of their stalling music/voice-over touted that they have “Over 900 direct feeds”. Smart.

I don’t know how to say this any more clearly: use the portals for entertainment and some background information; use the sites with direct MLS feeds for the most relevant research.

* To be most accurate, I should pull these listings at 3 o’clock in the morning, as I don’t think many listings will be in the process of being added, marked under contract or sold …

And .. in Redfin’s (admittedly self-serving) words:

How Could the Brokers Have Such a Big Advantage Over the Portals?

The big difference is that Redfin and all the local brokers share listings via local Multiple Listing Services, which are cooperatives for listing agents to ensure everyone in the market can see all the homes for sales.

The portals don’t have their own real estate agents and don’t list properties. With no data to contribute, the portals aren’t members of local MLSs. And because the portals’ business model runs counter to the MLSs’ charter as a cooperative, MLSs hesitate to require every agent to contribute to a media website that charges agents money.

What does this mean for a seller? You want your house everywhere and syndication makes that happen. The listing might not be quite up to date, but it’ll be there. (anecdotally, I’ve

What does this mean for a buyer searching for a home? If you’re looking on Zillow or Trulia, be warned. The sites are fantastic. The people behind them are wonderful. The ancillary and area information are tremendously useful. But they simply aren’t the best places to search for homes that you want to see right now. They’re great for researching areas, homes for curiosity sake,

** I would be remiss if I didn’t note this story from four years ago in which I captured a few of my favorite – and still relevant – stories for buyers

(one day, MLSs likely won’t have such a hold on the vast majority of listings, I’m sure, but that day is not today.)


Geekwire: Redfin study: Trulia and Zillow lack listings and show out-of-date information

TechCrunch: Study: Redfin Features 20% More Real Estate Listings And Fewer Sold Houses Than Zillow And Trulia

Redfin: With a Gap This Big, It’s Sort of Hard Not to Say Something About It

Selected stuff I’ve written about Zillow’s Zestimates:

Knowing This, Would you Trust Zillow?

Zillow’s Still not Accurate in Charlottesville

If You’re Looking at Zillow to Value homes in the Charlottesville Area

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  1. Frankly October 3, 2012 at 15:57

    How does Franklymls do in cville?

    1. Jim Duncan October 10, 2012 at 14:29

      Sorry for not responding until now.

      Just ran the numbers:

      22901 in Charlottesville MLS : 288
      22901 in FranklyMLS: 55


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