Ah, the great listing sites debate.
Is Zillow worth it?
Are agents being duped by third-party sites?
Should we boycott IDX?
Bottom line: Homebuyers have more knowledge and more options than ever before. As a Realtor, it’s your job to cut through the noise and help them escape the info overwhelm. Whether you choose to do that via — or in the face of — third-party listing sites is completely up to you.
And if you’re not sure yet, read on. We’ve narrowed it down to the top 24 that can help bring in the buyers. As with all things business, the ones that work for you will have everything to do with your unique beliefs and marketing strategy.
Love it or hate it, Zillow owns the top spot in the hearts of homebuyers and sellers throughout the US. According to their website, Zillow’s database includes, “more than 110 million US homes — including homes for sale, homes for rent and homes not currently on the market”. But we all know it’s the catchy Zestimates that really sealed the deal. Zillow’s Zestimates give would-be buyers and sellers a home value in a matter of minutes. For better or worse, everyone from the ready-to-strike homebuyer to the quiet lurkers who just want to know how much cash their neighbors are sitting on, goes to Zillow to get their questions answered.
Trulia is owned by Zillow and, like Zillow, it aims to be a one-stop shop for homebuyers and sellers. The main difference between the two is that Trulia has a stronger focus on education and community engagement. For example, the site offers neighborhood insights, crime mapsand the option to engage with agents and brokers via a dedicated online community called Trulia Voices.
Realtor.com is the other major listing site in the “big three”. It’s also the official listing site of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Like the above two, it also aims to be the most comprehensive source of listings and information for homebuyers and sellers. So what’s the difference? This Quora answer from Matthew Holder of Houzz (and formerly Trulia) perfectly sums it up:
The main difference is that Realtor.com has listings that are inputted into any of the regional MLS systems, systems operated as non-profits and overseen by a board of local brokers, where Zillow or Trulia aggregate their listing data from individual broker sites (Coldwell Banker’s listings automatically syndicate to Trulia and Zillow).
Homes.com boasts a monthly visitor count of more than 12 million homebuyers and over 4 million homes listed for sale. Compared to the top three, this listing site is more of an up-and-comer. It doesn’t quite have the content, reach or reputation as the others, but with millions of listings and homebuyers, it’s definitely one to watch.
Keller Williams Realty claims to be the world’s largest real estate franchise by agent count, and the largest in the US by units sold. They have roughly 900 offices around the globe. Needless to say, you can find some great properties on their listing site. As with any brokerage-based listing site, browsers will be connected with a Keller Williams agent.
RE/MAX is a world-leading brokerage founded by real estate moguls Dave and Gail Liniger. They have a network of over 100,000 in more than 100 countries across the globe and according to their website, “Nobody sells more real estate than RE/MAX”. Social responsibility is a fundamental value for the brand and they have raised over $130 million for charities like Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and Susan G. Komen. Listings are handled by RE/MAX agents, so browsers who are interested in working with an independent agent would be better off using a different site.
Century 21 is right up there with RE/MAX and Keller Williams as one of the world’s largest residential real estate brokerages. According to their website, they have 7,100 independently owned and operated franchised broker offices in 74 countries. Browsers on Century21 will be connected to a Century21 agent.
Who hasn’t heard of Better Homes and Gardens? The brand as been a leader in the real estate world for over 90 years. Its listing site has a comprehensive network of agents and brokers across the country. It’s part of the Realogy group which is one of the most influential holdings company in the industry. As with the other major brokerage listing sites, browsers on the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate search engine will be connected with an affiliated agent in their network.
The Coldwell Banker brand is the oldest and most established residential real estate franchise system in North America. In fact, in many ways it was the original real estate “start up.” Founded by young entrepreneurs Colbert Coldwell in 1906 and later Benjamin Banker, Coldwell Banker changed the way people bought and sold homes across America, ultimately becoming one of the most trusted real estate brands in the world. More than 100 years later, the Coldwell Banker network is still continuously recognized for its innovation and leadership across 3,000 offices in 49 countries and territories.
Redfin is one of the originals. In fact, it’s credited with inventing map-based search for real estate. As a brokerage, Redfin offers a low fee of only 1% in some markets when a seller lists with one of their agents. The company also prides itself on being one of the more modern and technologically advanced listing sites in the market, offering 3D walkthroughs as well as local yard signs and marketing material.
ZipRealty includes listings from 19 markets across the US. While it doesn’t offer nationwide listings, it does have a great network of its own properties and real estate agents. And many users say its mobile app is one of the best. The app automatically notifies users about new listings based on their unique search criteria. ZipRealty is owned by Realogy, the same group that owns leading brokerages like Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Century 21 and Coldwell Banker.
Compass is a fast-growing listing site that aims to simplify the process of purchasing a luxury home. It’s a relatively newer site, founded in 2012, but it’s quickly risen through the ranks to become one of the US’s largest luxury brokerages. It’s currently available in just 17 key markets throughout the US but it prides itself in matching buyers with only the very best local agents.
HotPads specializes in apartment and home listings in urban areas across the US. It’s a map-based search engine known for its quick speed. It also offers five mobile apps to help users find their perfect home as easily as possible. It’s also owned by Zillow.
Curbed is a different kind of listings site. It focuses on content first and foremost, providing potential homebuyers with deep resources on neighborhoods across the world. They cover a wide range of topics including, interior design and architecture, renovations, prefab, and real estate. Because you love where you live, Curbed is on the ground in cities across the world. Curbed is owned by Vox Media which has an audience of 165 million readers.
Corcoran search is a staple in the New York City area for residential and healthcare facility properties. As part of the Realogy group, they’re a reputable listings site with excellent properties in NYC, the Hamptons and South Florida. They have a network of over 2,200 independent agents. The site also offers helpful information for browsers looking to relocate.
Raveis isn’t just a listings site. It also gives you mortgage and insurance estimates all in one central place. Listings include luxury and high-end properties from the Northeast US. It offers highly personalized search criteria, as well as neighborhood mapping, market statistics and school information.
According to their website, LoopNet is the most heavily trafficked commercial real estate marketplace online with more than 7 million registered members and 5 million unique monthly visitors. They offer all types of commercial properties, including office, industrial, retail, multifamily, land, and businesses.
As the names suggests, Rent.com is the go-to site for all types of residential rental listings. They have a massive selection and cool features like HD photos and 3D floor plans. Users can also access certified ratings and reviews directly from residents, a major perk when you don’t have direct access to the landlord. Rent.com’s mission is “to make it easier for renters to find and live in a place they love. Until we touch every renter, in every rental property across the world, our job is not complete.”
Yep. The classic hard copy guide is now one of the most trusted residential listing sites online. Apartment Guide is owned by RentPath, the same company that also owns Rent.com and Livelovely.com. The big perk of this site is that it has a seriously strong search function and like Rent.com, it offers plenty of information for property searchers. They also have a Reputation Monitor feature to help listings owners track renter reviews and better engage potential leads. According to their website, “The brand’s commitment to maximizing owner and manager value makes Apartment Guide a leading multi-family housing industry partner.”
Rentberry is a transparent rental platform that streamlines all the rental tasks from A to Z: from the application process to the rent payments and legally-binding eSigning of the agreements. The platform currently operates in more than 48 countries which makes Rentberry one of the biggest worldwide rental listings website. Their global partnerships include big names like Domain Group, ImmobilienScout24, RealtyMX, Erasmusu and other big names in the real estate industry. Tenants can make custom offers to the landlords and transparently discuss the rent price before they seal the deal.
Livelovely.com is the newest rental listing site under the RentPath umbrella. It features residential rental listings from all across the US, updated in real-time. It doesn’t offer free educational content as the other sites do, but its simple, user-friendly design is great for focused browsing.
MyNewPlace.com is another big one for residential rentals. It’s owned by RealPage and has over 4 million monthly users. Their mission is to “be the thought leaders of this dynamic industry.” They provide resources to help browsers find pet friendly rentals, check their credit scores and get free quotes on rental properties. They also offer cool visual features, such as 3D floor plans.
Apartments.com provides personalized searches, community reviews, and even walk-through video demonstrations, for renters looking to for various types of residential properties. The site also has a great mobile app to make the user experience as easy as possible. Apartments.com also offers advertising to landlords and property management companies.
Much like ApartmentGuide, ForRent.com was originally For Rent Magazine®. This is a smaller rental listings site, but it does provide apartment listings nationwide and offers in-depth visual features such as 3D floor plans and virtual tours. This site also goes above and beyond a pure listings site by offering access to moving companies and insurance providers. One big perk of ForRent.com is that it has another three websites under ownership, AFTER55.com™, CorporateHousing.com™ and ForRentUniversity.com® and can therefore distribute listings across a wider network.
For all its benefits, technology has also brought some unwelcome drama to the world of real estate. From claims of lead theft, fraud and bold-faced unfairness, many Realtors have a major beef with third-party listing sites.
But others say it's not all bad. With the right workarounds, they're able to sell more homes and bring in quality leads from third-party sites. If you're still unsure whether you're the former or the latter, taking a closer look at the sites available can definitely help.
Before we get into the top listing sites out there, here are some of the most commonly cited pros and cons to help you decide where you land.
More exposure to potential buyers
The initial appeal of third-party sites was the ability to reach a much greater audience than any individual broker could on their own. Many third-party sites have millions of monthly visitors and the ability to access a greater pool of buyer leads is an attractive benefit for many agents and brokers.
No cost to list properties
Many third-party sites let you list your properties for free, which was seen as a major step up from the days of expensive print advertising.
Find buyers faster
Sellers now expect to have their properties listed online and in many cases, listing with a third-party site can open them up to a larger audience of motivated buyers.
Quality leads from these sites are typically eager to buy
Many potential buyers who are viewing specific properties on third-party sites already know what they're looking for and can have a shorter conversion timeline.
Lag between updates in MLS listings and third-party sites
Depending on which site you're listing with, it can take approximately 72 hours to sync MLS listing data to the listing data presented on third-party sites. This can be a big source of confusion for both Realtors and consumers.
Inaccurate data presented to leads
Due to the lag mentioned above, there is often a disconnect in the data presented to buyers resulting in houses that are not for sale being served up to potential buyers and of course, some awkward conversations between agents and leads. Some critics believe this misinformation can hurt the reputation of the real estate industry at large.
Sites often bury or misrepresent the listing agent
Third-party sites do not give the listing agent as much exposure as broker IDX sites do and can limit their visibility in favor of agents who pay for premium features.
Increasing advertising costs
Many agents and brokers who are looking to purchase leads from third-party sites say that they are expensive and unpredictable, making it difficult to get good ROI.
If you're new to real estate, you're going to hear a lot of opinions on both sides of the fence. And they both have merit. Taking a good look at the third-party sites available can help you form your own opinion.
Image matters. Especially in real estate and especially online.
No matter which listing site(s) you use, the key to getting great results is how well you optimize your listings. Buyers are flooded with images of properties for rent and sale. They can tell in a blink which ones are worth viewing.
You owe it to your sellers to do whatever it takes to show their property in the best light and catch the eyes of potential buyers.
Here are some of the main marketing principles behind every listings power agent.
In the world of marketing, visuals reign supreme.
New virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies are making it possible for homebuyers to literally transcend time and space to get a more accurate picture of a property while helping Realtors close more deals.
But if you can't afford to give your leads the full 3D experience, that's ok. The most important thing is not to skimp on the quality of your photos.
"Without a doubt, professional photography is the most critical element of your listing marketing strategy. 86% of homebuyers state that listing photography is the #1 reason why they decide to view a home, yet only 35% of Realtors use a professional photography solution!"
That's according to Michael Yates, Marketing Director of real estate photography firm, Virtuance.
Michael says, "Using professional photography is the #1 way to get your listing to stand out from the competition and puts you in the best position to get more showings, more offers, and ultimately a higher sale price!"
We've all seen what happens when the listing agent has zero photography game. In real estate, an investment in pro photos is almost always worth it.
If your photos are what grabs your buyer's attention, your words are what holds it.
Write impressive listing descriptions to wow the reader and compel them to learn more. Start with the property's hottest features (see checklist below) and use powerful words to get them excited about the listing.
The goal is to communicate the most desirable attributes as quickly and powerfully as possible. Don't bore the reader with too many details. Consumers have short attention spans and there are a TON of listings competing for those eyeballs! If you can keep the description around 150 words, that's ideal — try not to exceed 250 max.
Also, remember that many listing sites' algorithms will use your descriptions as a way to match potential buyers with the properties and features they're looking for. Before you sit down to write your listing description, take a moment to put yourself in the buyer's shoes and think about what features and lifestyle amenities are most important to them.
Here's a quick checklist to help you nail your next listing.
Use a professional
Or at least, use a tripod
Always bring a flash
Go for a wide angle lens
Use natural light
According to Zillow, some of the top words to use are:
Aim for 250 words max
Here is a quick list of the top features buyers want according to Kiplinger.
Energy saving features
If you do all of the above to work your listings like a pro and then forget to follow up, you're letting A LOT of cash (not to mention all that time!) go to waste.
Agents who win with third-party listing sites know that it all comes down to the strength of your sales strategy.
These sites are extremely competitive. Leads will be served up to multiple agents. The one who acts the fastest and offers the most value over time will be the one who wins the sale. If you want that to be you, you need to have a long-term follow-up strategy in place.
Rather than trying to score quick wins on third-party listing sites, look at your listings strategy as an investment that will pay off over time. Set up an automated drip campaign to nurture leads with helpful, relevant content and you'll be the first in line when they're ready to buy.