Posted in Features on March 4, 2008
What do Web 2.0 and real estate have in common? Well, at the moment, you might say that commonality includes the various mashups of Google maps, where little colored balloons may indicate homes for sale or rent. Or, those balloons could point to rotten neighbors or even to homes you can rent for a month in an exotic location. But, that’s just the tip of the real estate Web 2.0 revolution. Ever since Dion Hinchcliffe tried to visualize Web 2.0 through mere words in 2005, the user experience has blossomed to include blogs, shared photos, video, social networking and more. A person who wants to purchase a home today can first research the latest market news at a real estate & finance news social site, then go to a listing site, and describe his or her desires in a few written words and have that home appear as if by magic through a widget that is tuned to keywords and locations. The buyer can view photos, floorplans, videos, three-dimensional tours, learn about the neighborhood, talk with residents who live in the area, and contact the seller directly. Almost every detail that goes into a home sale or purchase can be initialized and even finalized online by the buyer or seller.
This is the current state of the Web, where users generate and influence content. Granted, some of the sites listed below are more on the leading edge than others in what they offer (not all of the sites are pure Web 2.0 — many are Web 1.0 sites that are slowly evolving Web2 features). But, if the list below is any indication, then the buyer and seller have the advantage as transparency becomes the norm.
The list below is separated into various categories that will guide you to sites that specialize in everything from real estate auction mashups to vacation home purchases and management. While the sites are numbered, the numbering does not indicate that we favor one site over another or that they are listed in order of value. They are listed alphabetically under each category.
- 2RealEstateAuctions: More of a directory to eBay listings than an actual real estate site, 2RealEstateAuctions provides a perfect example of a web 2.0 mashup. This particular mix is between Google Maps, eBay’s API, and U.S. Census data for housing & occupancy. The items you see listed on these pages are provided by eBay users, and you can sort by residential and commercial property, land for sale, and timeshares.
- CondoBid: CondoBid provides users with the opportunity to join in on online bidding events for condominiums provided through motivated sellers worldwide. You’ll see agent fees, most of which are paid by the seller at closing. The “Buyer’s Premium” is what the buyer pays to purchase a discounted condo through CondoBid. All it doesn’t appear as if they many listings yet, their integration of clickable maps, and video makes them a web 2.0 real estate contender to watch out for.
- RealtyBid: If your market is sluggish and you need to sell that real estate property, you may have a solution with RealtyBid.com. Thousands of residential homes and properties have already sold across the nation through this site’s easy-to-use online bidding platform. The site has attracted a growing contingent of real estate agents, and buyers have learned that this site is a great vehicle for purchasing residential, commercial and luxury properties and land at discounted prices. Although condominiums are listed here, you’ll find fewer listed here than you would through CondoBid, a sister site listed above. This site seems a logical platform for new developments, pre-foreclosures, and other real estate that suffers from sluggish market atmosphers. Fees include Buyer Agent Fee, transaction fee and deposit.
- RealtyTrac: There are dozens of foreclosure sites on the Internet, but this site comes the closest to representing the Web 2.0. RealtyTrac is a search engine that allows agents and buyers to find foreclosure properties nationwide. The foreclosure process offers three bargain-buying opportunities, an the pre-foreclosure, public auction, and the purchase of bank-owned properties are represented by six different property statuses on RealtyTrac. Buyers must pay a fee, as with any other foreclosure site, to view all information about the foreclosed property.
For Sale by Owner
- ChoiceA: Users are encouraged to list their property for sale for free, and you can then cross-post your ChoiceA listings to Craigslist or Backpage. Buyers can browse listings with new technologies including drag-n-drop favorites, endless scroll searches and compare listings with data, pictures or maps. ChoiceA provides free downloadable real estate transaction forms. This site went live in November 2007, so keep one eye on this site while browsing other FSBO sites. Keep the other eye on the blog, as you’ll understand the motivation behind the site and may champion their cause. Their very simple interface is refreshing.
- Fizber: Home owners can place a listing with Fizber and they will add your listing to 70+ partner sites. This is a one-stop shop for yard signs, ad writing tips, home staging advice and more for the seller. For the buyer, Fizber provides city and school profiles, crime rate statistics, mortgage lenders and cost of living advice. The blog focuses on various areas throughout the country and the forum provides users with an outlet to learn and teach others how to buy and sell without a real estate agent. The tools include integration with Microsoft Virtual Earth maps (a hybrid of streets and aerial photography), photos, and a means to contact the seller directly. You can also use Webcam to sell your home’s features.
- For Sale by Owner: Buy or sell a home online through this site that incorporates Google Maps. Otherwise, the site is very similar to the one previously mentioned. The huge difference is that this site has been around since 1999, whereas Fizber is newer (no specific date of development found). While Fizber seems more competitive with the incorporation of new ‘widgets’ and tools to help the independent buyer and seller with transactions, FSBO relies on their long-standing reputation with their standing as one of the top 5 real estate websites, and the fact that they offer a home selling guarantee. If you want to buy or sell through a for-sale-by-owner situation, check out both sites as they both carried different listings as of the writing of this article.
- Owners.com: This site claims to be the largest FSBO marketplace for buyers and sellers. Founded in 1995, it is the oldest if not the largest FSBO site online. This privately held company has helped owners in all 50 states market over 1 million homes, accounting for more than $200 billion in home sales. The integration with Google Maps is a popup, so be sure to allow popups if you have them turned off while studying this site.
Potential Home Buyer
- DotHomes: This search engine originated in the U.K., spread to South Africa, and now has made its debut in the U.S. Only agents can list, and agents must have a Web site so the search engine can crawl through it to pick up listings for free. Buyers simply type the description of the home of their dreams into the home page search box and await for the crystal ball to reveal their choices in brick and mortar realities. Instead of hitting an “I’m feeling lucky” button like a searcher would at Google, buyers can tap into the “I’m feeling wealthy” button at DotHomes to be surprised with the results (when you hit that button, the word “expensive” shows up in the search box). Once the homes come up on the page, you can map them via Google map, find the realtor and more.
- HomeGain: Brokers and agents can sign up so that potential customers can find them through a localized search. Buyers and sellers can then compare agents to find one to work with in a given area. This site also offers home valuations, mortgage options, and a way to view MLS homes nationwide. MLS listings are through HomeGain, where a buyer can click on a state to find homes in the city or town desired; however, foreclosure listings lead to RealtyTrac and new construction leads to HomeScout.
- Homethinking: Homethinking helps you find a real estate agent by showing you sales histories and reviews from clients. Homethinking is a real estate application with a difference. They take an Amazon/ eBay approach in that you can find agents and see “reviews” of that agent, as well a list and a map of what properties they are handling at present. Details of how many properties they have sold are also provided, including location, house details, and asking and final prices. A random query for Atlanta showed a list of agents for whom no reviews were present. However, Homethinking claims over 1.5 million listed agents and nearly 2.5 million transactions.
- HomePages: This was one of the first professional sites - after HousingMaps - to use map mashups as the primary display and navigational vehicle for real estate listings. This site provides complete MLS data, and buyers and sellers can use agents to place or search through various neighborhoods for buy and sell opportunities. This site is an extension of HouseValues, a free home valuation service (not included in the list at the end of this article).
- International Listings: This is the premier listing service for luxury homes worldwide. If you are shopping for luxury property, you can browse listings by location. If you are selling a property, you can submit a listing online. You can describe the property any way you want as a seller, as the site owners review the listing only to confirm that sellers have included essential information. Sellers also can include up to 12 interior and exterior photos of the property for sale. Buyers can find links to online auctions for exclusive properties as well.
- Move.com: Launched in May 2006, Move.com is a comprehensive real estate search engine with exclusive access to REALTOR.com’s® listing content as well as new home and rental content from all over the Web. The “move” aspect covers a magazine-like addition to the site that provides articles and advice on everything from the actual moving process to renovation and beyond. The search and sort feature gives quick access to homes and rentals in your area, with a Microsoft Visual Earth map of the area.
- MyRealPlace: MyRealPlace brings together buyers, sellers, and home owners with realtors, mortgage brokers, insurance brokers, home stagers, architects, legal services, moving services and contractors. In fact anything that consumers may need when buying, selling or owning a home. It’s a mashup that is under beta as well, as this site is pushing out new Web 2.0 technologies as we write this article. By the time they complete the site, they intend to have will have over 80,000 realty related professionals and over 70,000 property listings including rental and for sale by owner properties to peruse.
- Propsmart: Propsmart is a next-generation, independent real estate search engine. They crawl and index millions of homes for sale and other properties, then organize and display them on a slick Google Map interface. They already index a majority of the listings in the top 25 US metropolitan areas. If you’re a real estate broker with a large number of listings you can help by letting the site owners that your site is available to “crawl.”
- REALTOR.com®: This real estate search engine is probably the most popular if for no other reason than it’s been around the longest. You can find a neighborhood, buy a home, rent a home, find a realtor, lender, and a mover. Sellers and buyers can find out what a home is worth, stay on top of market conditions and local mortgage rates, and use calculators to find financial parameters. They’ve added more “web-twenty” features recently, including a map search and web 2.0 style graphics across the site.
- Redfin: Redfin is an online real estate brokerage that puts you in charge of buying or selling your home. They combine listings direct from every broker with data on past sales & days on market, then their local agents guide buyers and sellers on price and negotiate the best deal. Areas are limited to larger U.S. cities at this time, where you can see the location of a house for sale, contact a Redfin agent, schedule a tour and more all through one site.
- Retrove: Retrove is a national vertical real estate search engine that allows buyers to search all types of real estate listings such as MLS listings, FSBO, foreclosures, classifieds and other types of property for sale across the nation. Once users plug in parameters, Retrove will provide all the listings in an easy-to use list. More than anything, this search engine saves tons of time for buyers who are looking to buy in a given region. Users can search by state as well.
- Roost: Roost offers two services in parallel - a consumer search engine for places to live and a technology platform for REALTORSÂ®. Their mission is to make it easier for everyone to find their next home. But, beyond this, Roost is a search engine for residences for sale that sits atop a network of real-estate broker sites that you can search by city, state, region or zip code. The Google map mashup helps you to define housing possibilities by location. They partner with local Multiple Listing Services, brokers, builders, data providers and more to help ensure viewers that they’re getting the freshest, most comprehensive data available.
- Terabitz: Terabitz is a comprehensive and customizable real estate search engine that allows buyers to search by area, number of baths and beds, price range and more. Once the boundaries are laid out, the search will take you to a portion of a Google map that shows all the listings within your parameters in that given area, along with the usual satellite and hybrid options for viewing. Additionally, the listings are shown to the right, where you can view price, address, and more. Terabitz also helps renters. They also list foreclosures, but the listings will take you to Realty Bargains, where you can find information via a free trial.
- Trulia: Trulia is a real estate search engine for the United States that provides options for specifying price range, property type, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and square footage in the search. You can specify region by city or zip code, and a search produces not only a list of properties and a link to the appropriate seller, but a Google map of the region with icons marking each. They also offer interactive heat maps which show price trends. So if you are interested in investing in one or more properties, Trulia gives you a birds eye view of what’s available that fits your criteria. Trulia announced its Trulia Publisher Platform, or TPP, in January 2008. With TPP, media companies and publishers can have their own version of Trulia’s real estate search capability, and publishers can serve their own ads, at no cost, on the search page of the sites that Trulia builds for them.
- Zillow.com: Zillow has a database of millions of residential properties natonwide that buyers can browse, along with maps, estimates of a property compared against nearby properties, advice on loans, and a loan calculator. Sellers can get an estimate of their home and keep it private or make public. They can also compare profiles of nearby properties. Current homeowners who are neither buying nor selling can get an estimate of their home and compare it to other properties.
- Apartment Finder: Search this user-friendly database for apartments nationwide. You can find apartments listed near the most expensive colleges or military bases, or directly by address; however, you also can find rental properties through map-based and keyword searches. The site allows you to create an account and save your apartment prospects for later review. Only drawback of the site is its design: perhaps the webmaster should go back to web design school?
- Apartment Ratings: If you plan to rent and you don’t know the area, go to this site before you sign the lease. While a few folks do post positive remarks, you’ll mainly find the problems with any given rental property. Read all the comments about a specific property to find a common thread throughout about issues like noise or lousy maintenance. Then you’ll know that there probably is an issue with noise or maintenance at that property.
- Hubbuzz: Although the locations are slim, Hubbuzz takes pride in finding a rental for you that’s based upon your personal lifestyle. Once you find a selection, you can view relevant community information, neighborhood maps, descriptions and photos. This site also incorporates extensive neighborhood information and user generated blogs and comments from anyone in the community.
- Rentomatic: If you became familiar with all the Web 2.0 hype generated around iiProperty, then you might become confused if you search for that site and end up at Rentomatic. Still owned by Investment Instruments Corporation, Rentomatic is just a change of name and face. The services are improved. You can mange investment property with software that allows you to track rents, bills, advertising, and invoicing. If you list your property, you can post photos, send notices to tenants, and view status indicators and alerts as well. If you want to test this tool out, start with the Lite (free), where you can advertise property, post to Craigslist, and track online ads, leases, tenant records, rent due and more. Tenants also can pay online through this interface. If you’re happy, you have four more levels that you can buy into to manage more complex properties.
- Rentometer: The Rentometer is owned by the same company that owns Rentomatic. Landlords and tenants can use this meter to discover if they’re being gouged or if the rent is too low for a given area. This tool utilizes Yahoo! maps and “data from publicly available sources on the internet and in print.” Be aware that the meter gauges areas within approximately ten miles, which can cover a lot of territory within a city. So, the median rent may be low and your rent may seem overpriced if you live in one pocket of hot properties among many pockets of lower rent properties.
- That Rental Site: That Rental Site is a free directory filled with apartments, houses, condos, duplexes, and garage apartments for rent nationwide. Anyone can embellish a rental, so if you post a rental property for free, then someone else may post a photo and someone else may add that link to their Web site. Once an ad is posted, you can expect fast cross-posting on Google, Craigslist, Oodle and more. Some areas of the country are more active with this app than others; so be aware that places like Louisville (Kentucky) haven’t caught onto this site yet, whereas you can find huge activity from other areas like Washington D.C. and some California cities.
- Visulate: Visulate is another Web-based software system that focuses on developing an online relationship, but this time it’s between property manager(s) and investor(s). This system allows for multiple managers and investors to focus on one property or on many properties. The main point is to eliminate time-consuming emails, because investors and property managers alike can view reports online. Property owners with between ten and 100 properties may find this tool invaluable. Investment clubs can maintain transparency for all club members, and investors may find the read-only access to the tenancy records and the ability to record loans and property appreciation invaluable.
Sellers, Buyers, and Renters
- BiggerPockets: BiggerPockets supports an online community filled with real estate investors, homeowners, and real estate professionals. The site was designed to help people network, make deals, and learn real estate so they can make wise decisions about their property investments. According to this site, you can get ‘bigger pockets’ when you spend time in their forums, by reading their blog and articles, by networking with other users, and by using their tools, resources, and listings. The reason this site is listed here rather than in the “For Sale by Owner” category is that this site reaches out to real estate professionals as well as to buyers and sellers (who sometimes are real estate professionals!).
- Blockhunter: Use blockhunter as a way to find a new place to live in and around London. If you want to move into the area, you can let people know that you’re looking. If you want to sell or let a place, you can find interested parties quickly. No estate agents involved - this is a no hassle, no obligation way to find a place to live. Hopefully Blockhunter will expand to include other cities!
- CityCribs: Not all U.S. cities nationwide are listed, but a good sampling is available to view rental, ‘for sale’ and furnished properties from Acworth (Georgia) to Honolulu (Hawaii) to Zephyrhills (Florida). The real attraction is the amount of apartment listings in New York City. Sign up for the “Crib Alert” to learn about new availabilities in the area where you want to live.
- HotPads: There are a lot of factors that come into play when deciding whether to buy or rent your next home. Buying is often better for the long term, but what if you know you’ll be moving to a new city in 2 years, or you’ll need a couple extra bedrooms in 5 years. We supply housing shoppers with the info they need to make sound financial decisions about whether to buy or rent. Will renting or buying leave you better off financially? Find out with our Buy vs. Rent calculator. Try saving a search to receive email updates on the latest homes and apartments
- HousingMaps.com: Use this Craigslists + Google Maps mashup to find properties for rent or for sale in your area. Simply click on a green bubble to zoom in on an area, then choose whether you’re looking for a room, to rent, to sell, or sublets. The closer you zoom in, the more information you discover. It’s like digging for buried treasure! The site has a simple and clean design, and wins the award for best real estate mashup site.
- NeighborhoodScout: This site focuses more on neighborhoods than on actual listings. This is a Web-based patent-pending neighborhood search engine that uses neighborhood statistics to build area profiles. This tool allows individuals and families instantly find the neighborhoods that fit them, no matter where in the U.S. they choose. The site doesn’t have a very web 2.0 look but their neighborhood matching and mapping technology spices the site up tremendously.
- Rotten Neighbor: Probably the most creative idea for a site on this list, Rotten Neighbor is the first real estate search engine of its kind allowing you to rate and review good and bad neighbors before and after you move so you can make a smart real estate decision. But, be careful, as your neighbor could rate you as well! Celebrities are not immune. Founded by Brant Walker, RottenNeighbor is privately owned by @ttenunit.com.
- Your Street: YourStreet scans thousands of newspaper sites and local blogs each day to bring you the most comprehensive local news available anywhere. Their algorithm interprets the articles, identifies specific locations in the text, and plots them on an interactive map, where you can zoom down to the news around the actual street where you live - or on the street where you want to live. Get the skinny before you move…
- Altos Research: Not every town in the U.S. can be tracked with this free tool, but it’s a fascinating way to stay on top of market trends in major U.S. cities. Even if you’re not in the market to buy or sell a home, you may learn that comparing home prices in Chicago to home prices in New York is like comparing apples and oranges. Lots of charts to help you visualize trending in the specified area whether your a realtor looking for hard data or a FSBO seller just doing some extra homework.
- Cyberhomes valuations provide users with access to most of the same information that real estate professionals use to evaluate homes. Whether you own your place, are thinking of buying, or even just looking around, you can explore data ranging from property facts, value estimates, and a variety of important indicators of local and national changes in the housing market. Now you also can search through a database of more than 2 million homes for sale. You can enter an area, and the price range, size, bedrooms and baths to narrow the search. This is a Fidelity National Financial Web site.
- eppraisal is a free service that allows anyone to quickly and easily take the first step to buying, selling, or refinancing a home by providing instant access to property valuations, real estate professionals and additional services. eppraisal pulls together public record data from over 70 million homes to quickly and easily provide users with an estimated value range. You also gain access to access to neighborhood information like schools, lifestyle, employment, local professionals and more.
- HomePredict: HomePredict is a service of my-currency and a tool that helps users predict home values in areas defined by zip code. The valuation is determined by individuals who are involved with the site and who live in a given area. In other words, this Web 2.0 application actually is a community-based-wiki type site that takes a little reading to figure out how it actually works. I couldn’t find any listings in some areas in the US, but you can expect the number of listings to increase substantially as the site starts to catch on.
- Real Estate ABC: This company, which was founded in 1998, uses a valuation tool that mixes Google maps in its mashup. Plus, it allows users to adjust values of properties given certain market conditions. Their “how to” guides appear on over 30,000 real estate web sites, and their site has had numerous mentions in the media including being named “Cool Site of the Day,” featured on CNBC’s “Power Lunch,” and named by PC Magazine as one of the “100 Best Sites You Didn’t Know You Couldn’t Live Without.”
- 1st Home Exchange: Home exchange / house swap is a vacation alternative where you allow someone else to stay in your home while you stay in theirs. During a home exchange you swap your home at a time that is convenient to both parties. A house swap may also include an automobile exchange. This is really a great way to get to know an area before you make a move, especially if you’re planning a move to a very different part of the country, let alone a different part of the world. You can book for a short vacation or for a long sabbatical at significant savings on hotel and car rental costs.
- All Star Vacation Homes: A visitor to this site will need to drill down a bit to find the true 2.0 spirit behind this vacation home rental/purchase service. But, we guarantee you can spend hours on this site dreaming, if not actually changing your perspective on how to buy and rent a vacation rental in Florida. Use maps, neighborhood information, videos, photos and more to pick and choose among four- and five-star rentals and other properties as both investment and personal property choices. Once you’ve made a decision, most of the ‘legwork’ involved in finalizing the processes can be conducted online.
- Black Tomato: According to creators Tom Marchant, James Merrett and Matt Smith, the Black Tomato is a refined variety of fruit found in rare locations and climates, but when discovered offers an amazing tasting experience. They named their travel agency after this fruit, as they want your travel experiences to be just as unique - after all, time-off is short and time to plan it is even shorter. None of their experiences are recommended unless our staff have been there, seen it and done it for themselves. So you can feel safe that at least one or two people have been to Madagascar, Cuba or at least surfing in Ecuador. They will take care of everything for you, so just go to the site and book (you can always tweak the trip before you leave).
- EscapeHomes: Escape Homes bills itself as “The Leading Real Estate Marketplace for Vacation Properties & Second Homes.” You can research cities, find local experts, search real estate listings for vacation, retirement, investment, and more at this interactive site. Founded in 1998 by Clark Thompson, this service focuses exclusively on the second home buyer, bringing together people searching for vacation property with the real estate professionals and properties that meet their needs.
- i-escape - Hip hideaways and boutique hotels have already been rated for you. Discover art motels in Wales and a sanctuary in Thailand. But, are they for you? Read the reviews and learn whether the plusses or minuses really mean a hoot to you. If you’re intrigued by the settings, then make a booking enquiry or just save as a favorite and come back later to compare your finds. The venues here are all rentals, but they provide very unique places to stay while checking out local real estate.
- Island Outpost: With properties located throughout the Bahamas and Jamaica, Island Outpost can provide users with an easy way to enjoy Caribbean hospitality. Plan a wedding (or let them plan it for you), a honeymoon, or just use their services for a spa or retreat vacation. You’ll need to call to book the first time you use Island Outpost, but from there your reservations are just a click away.
- Domegos Vacation Rentals Directory: Domegos is the first website that allows vacation rental owners to advertise unlimited properties for free, with the goal to provide the world’s largest vacation rentals directory. Renters can search for properties by country and narrow it down to state or territory and dates for vacation or business rental.
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