With the recent launch of our new findwell search website, I decided to dive in and compare the various major real estate sites in Seattle. The best websites to find homes for sale in the Seattle area are all based on data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service(MLS) database. By using data from the MLS, you have access to all of the current listings from real estate agents in the Seattle area. While other sites such as Zillow or Trulia are interesting and useful, their listings are not based on MLS data, so their listings remain incomplete. Also, Realtor.com is a really bad way to search for properties in the Seattle area. There are major brokerages who refuse to share their listings with Realtor.com, so it remains terribly incomplete for our region.
Seattle Real Estate Website Comparison
I logged on and created accounts at each of the major real estate sites in the Seattle area to compare their search features and functionality. The chart below contains a comparison of all of the major real estate sites in the Seattle area. There are hundreds more out there with all of the small independent brokerages in our area, but this comparison captures the major companies. In comparing websites, there is a set of features that they all share in common. With all of the sites you can create personal accounts, save your searches & favorites, plus get updates via email. After those basic features, the comparison between websites is quite dramatic.
Smaller Companies = Better Real Estate Search
It is interesting to note that the most capable real estate websites in the Seattle area are all provided by small companies. It seems that the larger the brokerage, the less features they offer to home buyers searching for homes. Not quite the result I was expecting, given the large national presence and technology budgets that some of these companies have. However, it is not entirely surprising, given the attitudes of older brokerages about maintaining control of listing data. There is a clear desire by some of the traditional companies to withhold data from the real estate consumer, in hopes of enticing them to contact one of their agents to provide more “information & expertise”. With the avalanche of real estate data now available online, this strategy seems short-sighted. I think it is a wakeup call to the established real estate brokerages that consumers want the data and will quickly migrate to sites which provide it.
The key differences between Seattle real estate websites appear to be the depth of data provided, plus increased user interactivity and data sharing. The best sites provide a wealth of information above and beyond just the basic property data. You can find out details about the neighborhood, search for recent price reductions, view previous sales and listing price history, and figure out how close a particular home it to local transit. The best websites also provide better interactivity and sharing options. They offer the ability to save personal notes about each property, generate RSS feeds for your searches and favorites, and share your favorite listings with friends.
Which Website Should I Use to Search for Homes in Seattle?
To us, it seems like the best websites for searching homes in Seattle boil down to three choices. We are biased, of course, and recommend findwell.com/Estately as a great search website, but we’ll also give kudos to our friends at Redfin who also have a great website for home buyers. The big real estate brokerages come up short on their search capabilities and still omit basic information about properties, most likely in the hopes that you will call one of their agent to get more information. None of the websites are perfect, and I can still get more property data from our agent-only MLS database, but our local MLS is gradually providing greater and greater public access capabilities to their data, so hopefully consumers can become more self-sufficient in their property research in the future.