I wanted to give a summary of my thoughts on searching for homes on the Internet, which most buyers do. I think this is some relevant information which will hopefully make things easier for you. I will briefly touch on a few of the more popular options and give an opinion on them. I will end with what I think is your best choice for searching for homes in Iowa.
Zillow - In a nutshell, I think Zillow stinks. This is one I would avoid. Zillow has MANY out of date listings on their site. As a buyer, you will think these are active listings and get frustrated to find out they have been off the market for MONTHS in many cases. They do a horrible job of keeping their inventory fresh.
Also, many people like Zillow for the "Zestimate" they provide on a home. This is supposed to be an estimate of what the home is worth. Zestimates are a joke! I almost never agree with them. They just are not in touch with reality in most cases.
The look and feel of Zillow is also bad in my opinion. The just don't offer the content that some other simlilar sites offer.
Trulia - Trulia is like Zillow in many ways, but much better. Trulia seems to eliminate more of the old listings instead of letting them hang out on their site forever. Trulia is brighter and easier to navigate than many other competitors. It also has a good community feature where you can ask questions and get answers from agents, and they allow agents like me to blog, which allows for diverse content.
You can also search for an agent using many different search criteria which might help you pick who to work with.
Realtor.com - This site is still considered the King of home searches and that makes sense because it is directly tied to the professionals who make this business run. There are many great things about Realtor.com, but it can be frustrating searching on it for a couple of reasons.
1. Some agents like me are on more than one multiple listing service. Because of this, the same listing gets put on the site more than once. This clutters things up when you are searching for a home.
2. The quality of the listings vary greatly depending upon what the agent does with them. If I pay to upgrade my listings on Realtor.com I can add more text, more photos, headlines, etc. and I choose to do this, but many agents do not. Their listings go to the site with minimal text and one photo in many cases. This makes Realtor.com a bit hot and cold when it comes to finding out info on a property.
National Real Estate Sites - I would include Century21.com, ColdwellBanker.com and Remax.com in this group. All of these sites do things a little differently, but are they geared towards you the consumer, or their own agents? I ran a little test to find out. This is far from scientific, but the results were interesting.
I looked up Ankeny properties on my local MLS between $300,000 and $330,000. I found 21 of them. In a perfect world, that means that all of those listings are on those other sites as well, because you as a buyer deserve to know about ALL available properties right? Of course you do.
ColdwellBanker.com showed 7 available listing in Ankeny in that price range. Keep in mind I did not search beds or baths or anything like that, just a simple search for Ankeny homes between those price points.
Century21.com showed 6 available listings in Ankeny.
Remax.com showed 21 homes available. Obviously, as a RE/MAX agent myself I was excited to see that our site is giving the public a fair shake at what is available.
With that in mind, you tell me which of those sites you should choose.
So what is my top pick??? That belongs to IowaRealty.com.
Because they are a competitor of mine, I hate saying it, but when it comes to up to date info, photos, and easy searches like simply entering in a street name or a house number, they are the best for searching for a home in Iowa.
I will however include a note about that site and many other sites too. It is common for them to make a listing look like it is their listing, when in fact, it belongs to another company. If you look at the very bottom of most listings you will see a disclaimer that says something like "Listing Courtesy of Century 21". This means that the listing agent works for Century 21, and not Iowa Realty.
This is important to know, because when you are on a site like Iowa Realty and click "contact agent" to learn more about the property, in many cases, you are not being connected to the actual listing agent. You are being connected to somebody who many not know anything at all about the house in question.
Because of that, always look at the bottom to see who the listing actually belongs to, regardless of what site you are on. You have to do this if you want to talk to the listing agent directly.
Hope this guide helps you out moving forward!
RE/MAX Real Estate Center
Licensed to sell real estate in Iowa