Roost expands search to San Francisco, Seattle
Roost Inc., a real estate search engine, announced the launch of its service in San Francisco and Seattle this week, expanding the company’s network to about 5,000 U.S. cities and market areas. Roost.com offers information on resale, new construction and for-sale-by-owner properties.

Roost also offers property listings information for homes in Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boise, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Fort Worth, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, Orange County (Calif.), Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, St. Paul, Tampa, California’s Silicon Valley, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., among other market areas.

Redfin announces neighborhood-level search
Redfin, a high-tech real estate brokerage company that offers low-cost services, has launched a new version of its Redfin.com site that allows users to view the latest homes listed for sale, price reductions, open houses and trends for recently sold homes for a given neighborhood, city or ZIP code area covered by the company. Scott Nagel, Redfin vice president of real estate operations, said in a statement that the neighborhood-level data can be valuable to consumers, as housing numbers for an entire city area "don’t mean much to someone shopping in a particular neighborhood, which may be holding up while prices across the tracks are collapsing." About 9,000 neighborhood-level pages have been added at the site.

Site changes allow consumers to evaluate Redfin agents by viewing details on the agents’ participation in recent home sales transactions, and the company has partnered with Zillow to add for-sale-by-owner property listings information from Zillow.com. The new release also features an "online shopping cart" that allows consumers to organize and schedule home tours with a Redfin agent — the company offers two home tours for free with the third and fourth tours reducing the company’s refund amount and subsequent tours costing $250 in advance or $125 to view a single home.

Agents’ role in home selection diminishes
The role of real estate agents in identifying for-sale homes for buyers has diminished with the rise in online home searches, according to an analysis by ForSaleByOwner.com that is based on National Association of Realtors survey data. While real estate agents still play a major role in identifying homes that buyers eventually purchase — with 34 percent of buyers in 2007 reporting that they first learned about the home they purchased from an agent — that share has dropped from 50 percent in 1997.

Meanwhile, the share of buyers who first found the home they purchased on the Internet grew from 2 percent in 1997 to 29 percent in 2007. Yard signs are still a major source for luring prospective buyers — and 14 percent of buyers in 2007 reported that they first found the home they purchased from a yard sign, compared with 17 percent in 1997. ForSaleByOwner.com, which is owned by media giant Tribune Co., offers Internet marketing services and other tools to assist home sellers in selling their homes without an agent.

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