real estate

5 best real estate websites for home shopping

Ever since online home shopping replaced real estate magazines, classified ads and trips to your agent's office, a plethora of Web sites have popped up to meet your needs.

Whether you're shopping for a home or trying to price your home to sell, these real estate Web sites offer much the same information -- but presented a little bit differently and compiled from different data sources -- in the way of prices, photos, detailed listings, sale comparisons and more.

Here's a roundup of some of the most-visited real estate online home shopping and home valuation sites:

Cyberhomes.com

Key information: A home search and valuation Web site, Cyberhomes.com features home searches, fed by multiple listing services, or MLS, brokerage companies and franchises. It also features home valuations and a huge library of current content with current information for homebuyers, sellers, owners and renters.

How it's different: While some sites focus on just listings or just home valuations, Cyberhomes.com marries property and homeowner data with listing data to give users a complete look at what the home is worth and what's for sale in the area. In addition, the site's library of articles is original content that offers current information on buying, selling, renting and owning a home. Data is offered visually with a heavy use of maps and heat maps rather than tables. The goal is to help the average homeowner easily understand the mountains of data available.

Popular services: Home values (search is on home page), homes for sale search and market forecasts, which help homeowners, buyers and sellers -- for a fee -- find out what's happening in the local real estate market that might drive home values up or down.

Use this site when: You're looking for market trend information to help estimate the value of your home based on comparables, school quality and more.

Homes.com

Key information: Features properties for sale, values of homes recently sold (but not the estimated value of your home), and a directory of real estate professionals. Listing data comes directly from public records, multiple listing services, national franchise agreements and from Homes.com's client brokerages and agents.

How it's different: Offers numerous mobile search options with iPhone and BlackBerry apps and a full-featured mobile site (mobile.homes.com), allowing consumers multiple avenues to search more than 4 million homes for sale.

Popular services: Search for homes for sale and rent, mobile search applications.

Use this site when: Searching for sales or rentals, or to search prices on homes recently sold in your neighborhood. Alternatively, download the iPhone and BlackBerry apps so you can search for homes for sale while you're driving around neighborhoods.

Realtor.com

Key information: Offers homes for sale, access to home sales prices and detailed real estate professional contact information. Data are compiled from more than 933 multiple listing services across the nation.

How it's different: As the official site of the National Association of Realtors, more than half of the 4 million-plus listings on Realtor.com are updated every 15 minutes, and the rest at least once per day. This means up-to-the minute access to the most accurate property details, price changes, photos and videos.

Popular services: Find a Realtor, find homes, "What's Your Home Worth?" and search assist (which matches buyers with real estate professionals that specialize in specific areas), as well as Realtor.com blogs.

Use this site when: You want up-to-the-minute details and multiple photos of homes for sale in any area. You'll also find comprehensive information about real estate professionals in your area and market trend reports.

Trulia.com

Key information: Allows people to search for key information in one easy-to-use place -- such as the details about the home, true comparables, latest market trends, and data and neighborhood info.

How it's different: Through the Trulia Voice online community, consumers can ask questions about the homebuying and selling process, they can blog about their real estate experiences, and they can find more than 400,000 professionals ranging from real estate professionals to home stagers to plumbers.

Popular services: "Compare It" (compare up to five different properties side by side), "Price Reductions" (filters the search by homes that have been reduced 5 percent, 10 percent or 20 percent), customizable news feeds and alerts (new home listings, open houses) and the iPhone app.

Use this site when: As a seller, you want to track what's happening locally so you can price your home appropriately. It also instantly updates -- via smartphone texts or e-mails -- homebuyers on new listings, price reductions and open houses.

Zillow.com

Key information: Has data on more than 93 million homes, with "Zestimates" on 70 million and features information on all homes, not just those for sale, in 160 metro areas and 7,600-plus neighborhoods. Tracks key metrics such as homes in negative equity, home value changes, foreclosure resales and homes sold for a loss. Arms consumers with hyperlocal real estate data so they can better make decisions whether renting, buying, selling or refinancing.

How it's different: Offers public-record information on all homes, not just homes for sale, enabling users to find the value of their home as well as average prices in targeted neighborhoods.

Popular services: "Zestimates" (home valuation estimates), hyperlocal real estate data search, Zillow advice (an interactive Q&A with homeowners and real estate professionals), "Zillow Mortgage Marketplace" and iPhone app, which pinpoints where the user is on a map and allows users to research home information in real time.

Use this site when: You want to know what your home is worth. It also features information that facilitates mortgage loan shopping and allows users to track and chart home price fluctuations.

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