Who Do You Love?


Since I got the ball rolling musically with that Tom Petty Free Fallin post on July 31 I figured it was time for another post with musical accompaniment. I can’t think of anybody more appropriately paired for a Real Estate technology discussion than…George Thorogood! Just click the little button below to add to your reading enjoyment:


 I got a call the other day from a saleswoman working for Realtor.com who pitched me on the idea of advertising on that site. She, of course, had multiple reasons why I would be a complete idiot not to do so. Two things crossed my mind during the pitch, 1) At any of the Real Estate conventions I’ve been to Realtor.com has, by far, the largest presence. Larger than Bank of America or Wells Fargo’s presense. They might have two thousand square feet of floor space dedicated to hooking real estate agents into their program. At the last National Association of Realtors convention I went to agents were lining up to pay for a beefed up presence on Realtor.com. 2) The second thing that crossed my mind was…who uses Realtor.com? I honestly don’t think that I’ve ever had a client, even one time, mention that they search on Realtor.com. I personally never use Realtor.com…do you?

For quite a few years this area, by virtue of it’s technological sophistication, has been blessed to have MLSListings.com. Very few other regions have an actual MLS database available to the public and I know that many of my clients have used that resource over the years. Clients of mine have used my own websites to search, (and they are available via links on the bar above) Honestly, I think that most of my clients use multiple resources to search for homes.

It’s really incredible how many are out there right now! Patrick mentioned in his comment the other day how technology democratizes the process for all parties…isn’t that the truth! Except it’s sort of like the Presidential primaries in Iowa…who the heck is Mike Gravel or Tom Tancredo? Right now we have Homes.com, Homegain, Redfin, Zip, Zillow, Trulia, Movoto, Yahoo, BlueRoof, RealtyTrac, Cyberhomes, a new one called Roost…not to mention all of the individual realtors and their offices that also have search capability. Do you remember how many portals there were in 2000? Alta Vista, Excite, HotBot…the list went on and on. I can’t imagine all of these real estate search sites making it either.

Several of these sites exist, or so it seems, to collect fees from realtors who then will be referred out to consumers…and if that e-harmony like scenario works out another fee will be paid to the website. I went into Homegain last night and signed up as a consumer looking for a 4 bedroom house in 94404, 94070 and 94402. So far I’ve received e-mails from 9 agents wanting to be my best friend. Seven of them are from out of the area and as far away as Alameda, San Jose and Castro Valley. One’s actually from my own office! (I’m sure we’ll be chatting) I did the same thing on Movoto…I’m supposed to get phone calls instead of e-mails from them. YIKES!  The sharks are out!

I won’t be buying advertising on Realtor.com, but I am still curious, do you ever use it? Old George Thorogood is asking the question: Who do you love? I know that whenever I search out of state listings I use Trulia…I like it. Who do you use?



  1. Like a house, my rule for choosing a realtor has been, location, location, location.

    I have never used realtor dot com. I do use ziprealty.com. Basically, I can define a search, including, city, # of beds and baths, and price range and save it. Then, when something comes up that matches, I get an email with all the details including photos, maps and MLS info. It works great for me.

    Thanks Jim.


  2. Jim,

    I use MLSListings.com and Redfin. I like Redfin because they have stats galore, just like when you do your Summary of SFRs or Townhome/Condos. I love to see $/sq ft, DOM, age of property, last sold price, all recent price drops (if any), pictures, etc.

  3. Hi Jim,
    Haven’t done much searching outside of the State, but when I do troll the websites for kicks, my typical sources (in no particular order) are any updates to your site for our area, and then between Zillow and MLSListings.com, we pretty much can get most of the information we need. Be it property price, history, charts, photos, specs, virtual tours, etc.

    Hope that’s helpful.

    BTW – I’ve NEVER, and I mean NEVER used Realtor.com

  4. Jim Minkey says:

    Well, as of 2:44PM I’ve received 17 invitations to be the new friend and client of a Realtor. I also received a phone call from a nice lady at Movoto who invited me to “partner” with one of their “Top agents”. I may call her later to ask some more questions.

    Jennifer, even though I’m saying this through grit teeth I have to admit that Redfin’s website is truly excellent. That’s what happens when you have 16 million dollars in venture capital money. I really do honestly like it.

  5. Only a few clients have every mentioned using realtor.com. HAR.COM in Houston is a whole lot better. As for me I even I never use realtor.org it is so hard to use and you can’t even tell if you are logged in.

  6. Hi Jim,

    Third-party agregation websites like Realtor.com, Trulia, Zilow, etc can bring agents leads, but they harm the broker by taking away the branding. If a consumer searches on Trulia and finds a home, and agent, through that website, the next time they want to find a home they are going to go back to Trulia- and that’s bad for the broker.

    Brokers need to brand themselves and have their own web presence so their clients can use their website to search and not these third party sites.

    BlueRoof is actually just an agent site for my real estate team. We closed on 114 homes last year, all of which were leads we got from our website- we do not advertise on these third party sites- we spend our marketing money marketing our website (and our brand).

    BlueRoof360 is a different product. BlueRoof360 offers custom websites and lead management systems for agents, but it’s not to collect referal fees- they are just custom websites for those agents.

  7. Jim, You and I, among all the other Realtors, pay for Realtor.com. Even when you don’t sign up for the extra features! Your listings are fed to them, to Trulia, etc, by the mls. It is owned by NAR, therefore, we are all paying. I think it was the premier site, many years ago. However, now that has changed. We procure listings, pay to belong to the mls and our local boards, then pay them to promote our listings. It is a circle of life in our profession. Go out and get more listings! The jobs of many people depend on it!

  8. Sheila Guastamachio says:


    I noticed that you tried out HomeGain’s AgentEvaluator product and wanted to give a little more background on how AgentEvaluator works.

    I agree that no tool, program, or marketing solution is going to be right for every agent, and along those lines, AgentEvaluator won’t fit the needs of every agent out there.

    AgentEvaluator offers agents a way to connect online with homebuyers and sellers in their local area. It is differentiated from some of the other programs out there in that (as you saw in your consumer experience), consumers who come through AgentEvaluator will receive responses from multiple agents. For the consumer, this adds a lot of value because they’re able to find an agent that is best for them. For the agents, it enables them to present their services in a professional way and get in front of prospects they otherwise wouldn’t have reached.

    The reason you received responses from agents who weren’t in your immediate area is because agents are able to sign up to cover extra zip codes for free. Since a lot of agents represent clients in more than just a few zip codes, this feature helps agents to spread an even wider net from which to connect with prospects, for no extra cost. Agents have complete control over which areas they want to cover – each agent can choose the unique set of zip codes they want to receive prospects in.

    Your post also noted the frustration agents have with paying extra for a service or program and seeing no results. That’s another reason AgentEvaluator works well for some agents – the upfront costs are very low ($29.95/month), and agents only pay a referral fee when they close a deal. That model works for a lot of agents because there’s no risk of wasting a lot of money on the product, and (especially in today’s market) only paying for prospects that close with you holds a lot of value.

    I applaud you for looking into the different offerings out there and trying them out. It’s important for each agent to decide which is right for them. For that reason, HomeGain offers a few different solutions so that agents can customize their marketing to their needs. If you’re interested, I’d encourage you to check out BuyerLink (our pay per click product) and AgentView(a platform that agents can post their listings, profiles and blog from), to see if those are more in line with what you’re looking for.

    Sheila Guastamachio

    AgentEvaluator Product Manager, HomeGain

  9. Cathy Seckel says:

    We haven’t really looked at any real estate online except via MLS listings. Aside from you, we had an agent here who was referred and she sent us listings (Prudential) and then we just scanned MLS.

    Nice website by the way! : )


  10. Jim Minkey says:

    It’s certainly amazing what technology allows, isn’t it? Sheila, thank you for the comment. I would disagree with the arguement that being contacted by multiple agents(18 now) with most of them being from a long way out of this area is a benefit for the consumer. Most of these agent’s couldn’t find Foster City without a map and certainly they would be unaware of the nuances of value here. I can’t imagine offering to work with a buyer in Livermore, for example, and the only reason I can think of for doing that would be that I desparately needed a sale. That’s not a good reason for any consumer to work with an agent.

    For what it’s worth I spoke to my buddy in my office who’s been working with Homegain (he’s one of the 18) and he had good things to say about your site.

    If the site is going to refer agents to the consumer who request info on homes in a few zip codes it will best serve them to work with an agent who is intimately familiar with those zip codes…and somebody who’s 30 to 50 miles away won’t be included in that group in my opinion.

  11. Jayson & I were looking for a place to buy for over a year. We used mlslistings.com, another realtor’s website (sorry it wasn’t yours), and craigslist (to see open houses). I only used Zillow.com when I had some extra time to kill and wanted to see what price range they had the homes listed at. I dont really take the site seriously, I use it more for fun. Only recently, have I noticed that realtors are starting to advertise homes for sale on the site and I think that is a waste of there time.

    My favorite site was actually the realtor’s website. We put our price range, location we wanted to live in, and received emails letting us know when there was an update. We would log in, look at the pictures, and see if or when there was an open house. Simple as that. There was no work needed on our side.

    On a side note, we went to an open house recently to see a condo. Long story short, the realtor talked more about Zip Reality than the condo; even going as far as handing us a huge packet on the site. We left the condo feeling sorry for the owners (who still have not sold the unit). I wonder why?

  12. I use Redfin when I want to see what houses are For Sale at any given time. The user interface and mapping functions are the best, making it very easy to browse and compare. It’s sometimes amazing/scary how similar the “Street View” is to the actual photo that comes with the listing.

    Zillow, on the other hand, does provide the ability to look at the information of almost any house, for sale or not. This is useful for looking at square footage, number of rooms and sale price histories. My opinion is that Zillow numbers in the hand of an experienced user (looking at historical prices and surrounding properties) are comparable to what real estate agents and appraisers can come up with. Zillow-bashing seems to still be in vogue, but I don’t think it is reasonable to expect anyone or any system to get more accurate than within +/- 5% of what a house is worth because the worth of a house is ultimately subjective.

    But what is still lacking on consumer sites for the really studious buyer is the ability to crunch historical numbers and chart out relevant details such as Price per square foot as a function of total square footage. Price per square foot by itself is pretty much meaningless when looking at a broad spectrum of houses yet is still widely used.

  13. Jim Minkey says:

    Edward, Zillow has been a true pioneer you have to take your hat off to them for what they’ve accomplished…no question about it. But I respectfully disagree that Zillow’s system is comparable to what real estate agents and appraisers come up with. I’d be thrilled with accuracy of +/-5%! My objection comes with multiple instances of +/-15%…which was typical of what I found in Foster City in the last month studying pending sales there and comparing them to Zillow’s estimates.

    Having said that I think Zillow does a very good job bringing you into the ballpark.

    It did do a fantastic job pricing a certain view house in the San Carlos hills! No wonder you like it! (I would tend to agree with that estimate too!)

  14. I usually go to redfin and zillow.

  15. Fabulous post and Your blog is really fun and educational but I hate George Thorogood!

  16. Doug Okamoto says:

    I primarily use Yahoo, mlslistings.com, and, of course, “Jim’s custom
    Remax” search.


  17. Jim – what do you make of this? I just got an appraisal to refinance my home. I had a previous appraisal done 5 months ago for another refinance. One home showed up as a comparable on both appraisals, but the latest had the value 15% lower than before. As far as I can tell, there is nothing in the comparables valuation to account for market conditions. So essentially, two appraiser are looking at exactly the same house and coming up with values 15% apart. Zillow puts a price somewhere in between the two appraisals.

    My opinion is that the people who do this for a living have about the same variability in their judgement of values as Zillow. Ultimately, this is not a science because the “correct answer” on value is what someone will pay for it on any given day, and that is inherently variable because of human nature.

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