What Home Buyers Need to Know About National Real Estate Sites

In this day and age of real estate, you can find listings of homes for sale on literally thousands of websites.  There are brokerage sites, agent sites and then there are several national real estate sites.  The big three are Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow, but often home buyers don’t know exactly how they work or where they get the information that is displayed on them.

While they might seem to be the best source of homes for sale, in reality each of them exist to provide advertising – not of homes, but of agents, lenders and insurance companies.  Before you put all of your eggs into one home search basket, here’s a break down on how they work.


The biggest name in real estate websites, Realtor.com is not actually owned by the National Association of Realtors, despite the name.  Their listing information comes directly from participating Multiple Listing Services (MLS) across the country, although there are a handful of areas that they don’t provide coverage for.

The pros:

  • Because the data comes from the MLS, it’s typically accurate and timely
  • They have an excellent app for the iPhone and iPad
  • You can register to receive new listings as they become available

The cons:

  • Unless an agent chooses to advertise with them, you won’t find more than 4 photos of any property nor will you see any virtual tours, even though they may be available via the MLS
  • Their business is not selling homes, it’s selling placement of agents and other service providers on a rotating basis.  Have you ever noticed that each time you visit, the featured properties or agents are different?
  • If you register for listings, your name is then provided to one of their advertisers who may or may not be an expert in the area you are searching for a home


Trulia provides listing data that is gathered from brokerages, from participating MLSs and from 3rd party syndication providers that get their data from listing agents.

The pros:

  • An easy to use site
  • A mobile app for when you are on the go
  • A question and answer section

The cons:

  • Not all MLSs partner with Trulia (the New Orleans MLS does not) to provide listing information
  • If a listing agent uses a 3rd party provider to get their listings on Trulia and doesn’t go back and update when the property is sold or taken off the market, the information on Trulia will be inaccurate
  • The answers to questions are sometimes often provided by agents or brokers who work in a completely different state that has different laws and rules for real estate sales.


Zillow provides not just homes for sale, but also values estimates of properties that they call Zestimates.  In addition to properties listed with an agent, there are some For Sale by Owners along with some “Make Me Move” homes, where the owner has not put their house up for sale, but would consider an offer at the listed price.

The pros:

  • The site is easy to navigate
  • There’s an app for home searches on mobile devices
  • For Sale by Owners can submit their own listings

The cons:

  • Some of the foreclosure listings on Zillow are not actually available for sale.  Instead, they are pre-foreclosures, which simply means that the home owner has missed one or more payments.  These properties may or may not end up owned by the mortgage company, but they certainly are not for sale.
  • Zestimates are horrendously inaccurate in the New Orleans metro area, since they rely on public records.  Our records are only updated when a property is sold or the tax assessment is changed, so it could have been years since new information was received on a particular house.  Check your own home and you’ll see what I mean.
  • As with the other sites, the ability to connect with an agent is not based on their expertise in an area, but in their ability to write a check in order to receive contact information on a particular zip code

So what should New Orleans home buyers do?

Do a little research.  Google agents in the areas and neighborhoods you are most interested in.  Check them out and see who provides solid information on the home buying process.  Find one that gives current listings without asking for your first born in return for photos of houses.  Pick the person who matches your communication style, your personality and gives you a warm and fuzzy that they are the right agent to entrust with your home search.

Take control of the process of selecting an agent rather than letting a website choose for you.

Need more information about buying or selling New Orleans homes?  Contact us today.  It would be our pleasure to earn your business.


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