Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a new Inman News feature: product reviews. Inman News is putting together teams of real estate professionals to rate and review real-estate products, including Web sites, online applications, tools, and services. Please feel free to comment below to share your own experiences. The review teams include three members. Companies with reviewed products can offer a "rebuttal" to the review to clarify any perceived inaccuracies or mischaracterizations by reviewers. Please send your feedback, and recommendations for products to review, to email@example.com.
Product: Foreclosure.com basic subscription.
About: Foreclosure.com provides information on about 2.3 million foreclosure, preforeclosure, bankruptcy, for-sale-by-owner and tax-lien properties in the United States, according to the Web site. The site obtains its information from lenders, government agencies and corporate sellers. Users can search for properties by property type, ZIP code, city and county.
Cost: The site offers a seven-day free trial and a subscription-based service for $39.80 per month. There are also marketing and lead-generation tools available for real estate agents and brokers at an addition cost.
Review team: Deb Agliano (leader), Anita S. Crum, Janet Krauss.
Ratings: Ease: 90. Value: 86. Power: 87.
A team of three reviewers tested out Foreclosure.com, a real estate site that offers a subscription service to search for distressed properties and other property types, through a seven-day free trial.
On a rating scale of zero to 100, the site scored 86 or higher in all of the three rating categories: "ease," "value," and "power," with the highest rating (90) for ease of use — based on an average of the three reviewers’ ratings.
Debra Agliano, a real estate agent with ERA Andrew Realty in Massachusetts who served as the review team leader, rated Foreclosure.com highest (93) for "power," which gauges how powerful the site is and whether it has advanced features, is scalable, can replace existing tools or methods, etc.
She rated the site’s "value," or cost vs. benefit, a 92, and gave it an 83 in the category of "ease" (for its ease of use).
Agliano found the search function itself easy to use, though the results were "a bit confusing at first."
She noted that a "Power Search" option allows users to search by city, ZIP code, price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and that the results included for-sale-by-owner properties.
The search results also include "inactive" properties, or properties that are not for sale.
"All in all, though, you won’t need a lot of time as either a real estate professional or a consumer to figure out how to use the site."
Each property listing, she also noted, includes a name and mailing address, "along with the bank’s name, foreclosure filing date and amount of the last mortgage."
She noted that contact information for a "sponsoring agent" — an agent who pays to be associated with property searches in specific ZIP code areas — is displayed prominently on the site, which "is a weakness if you are looking for the foreclosure contact’s information, but a major plus if you are an agent sponsoring a ZIP code on the site."
Agliano noted that in addition to the $39.80 monthly subscription fee to use Foreclosure.com, real estate agents and brokers can pay an additional $20 per month per ZIP code to market themselves at the site, and can sign up for free as an "affiliate" by featuring a Foreclosure.com-based foreclosure listings search at their own site.
"As an affiliate, each time someone comes through your Web site, signs up and pays a fee to use the Foreclosure.com site, you’ll earn at least 25 percent of the fee," she noted, adding that there is a WordPress listings plug-in that can be added to WordPress sites.
In awarding 92 out of 100 points for "value," Agliano said she found some property information to be lacking.
"I found (some) properties that I knew were listed, but no listing agent information was on the site," she said.
"If you want to focus on distressed properties and/or buyers for these properties, Foreclosure.com looks to have the information you’ll want and an easy way to advertise to buyers at a reasonable cost," she stated. …CONTINUED
The affiliate program, she also said, offers a way to "potentially make some money while attracting new prospects to your site."
Agliano said that consumers and agents who are focused on short sales, foreclosure-related properties and wholesaling properties may find the greatest benefit in using Foerclosure.com on a regular basis.
"It certainly beats searching through the newspapers for notices" on properties, she said.
Anita S. Crum, associate broker with RE/MAX Peninsula in Newport News, Va., and a review team member, awarded the site a 90 for "ease," 70 for "value" and 75 for "power."
Among the site’s strengths are its map-based property search and the ability to save searches. There is a mouse-over function on the state-level map that displays "a quick summary of number of distressed properties by type."
"The initial search features and results page are easy to use and provide good information," she said, adding, "The actual property-result page is cluttered with a lot of links to ‘resources,’ many of which are just other online vendors," Crum stated.
While the site provides a starting point for researching distressed properties, users should take care "to verify (the) accuracy of the information," she also said.
While Foreclosure.com may not be considered "cutting-edge technology" and may not replace existing property-search methods, Crum said "it could be a nice supplement."
"This site is more likely to appeal to consumers starting initial research than to agents. It has the potential to be a very powerful tool if it would provide more detailed information and make sure that the data was current and accurate," she stated, and suggested that agents will need to visit other sources to obtain more information on specific properties.
Review team member Janet Gorman Krauss, associate broker at Keller Williams Real Estate in Philadelphia, offered the highest ratings among the three reviewers: 98 for "ease," 95 for "value," and 93 for "power."
"As an agent (who) has used another foreclosure site for the past several years, I did have a baseline to compare with in my evaluation of Foreclosure.com," Krauss stated.
"The site was easy to use and well organized," she said in her review. "The content was exactly what it should have been, detailed and concise. I was surprised to find the telephone numbers of the attorneys, trustees and Realtors listed with the properties, which is a very nice feature."
Krauss said that she compared data at the site to public records and to multiple listing service data, and found "the information was very accurate," and that she signed up for a paid subscription following her review of the site, and that she signed up to test the site’s ZIP code marketing feature for agents.
"In today’s economic and housing market, this is definitely a great tool to have in a Realtor’s foreclosure and preforeclosure marketing plan," Krauss wrote.
She also noted that the site contains information for those who know nothing about bank-owned (REO) properties, and noted that there are webinars and other training aids to help users get up to speed.
"It’s the extras that make this a very user-friendly foreclosure site to join," she stated, and she said she plans to find a way to export data from the site to a database to help market her services to owners of preforeclosure properties.
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