Top real estate website competitors Realtor.com, Redfin, Trulia and Zillow have more in common than they may want to admit, and each property search service has limitations, according to a recent Consumer Reports review of the websites.

  • Consumer Reports recently released a review comparing Realtor.com, Redfin, Trulia and Zillow and found little uniqueness among their offerings.
  • The key difference between the websites is the multiple listing services (MLSs) they each use.
  • The sites pose their own strengths and weaknesses with regard to search tool reliability, emphasis on lifestyle factors and notification preferences.

Top real estate website competitors realtor.com, Redfin, Trulia and Zillow have more in common than they may want to admit — and each property search service has limitations, according to a recent Consumer Reports review of the websites.

The report, “Real Estate Websites Review: Virtual House Hunting,” researched those top four websites, finding little uniqueness among their offerings. The review is also available in the March 2016 print issue of Consumer Reports.

All four websites are free, provide the same basic property information, allow users to filter searches by price range and other home features, and offer “save and share” listing options.

But the key difference between the websites is the multiple listing services (MLSs) they each use, according to the report, which noted that Redfin is the only non-portal website and operates more like a brokerage.

“None of the sites provides a complete picture of what’s currently on the market,” said Consumer Reports reviewer Tobie Stanger. “So we recommend that you try them all.”

The review also cautioned users to “exercise skepticism” when using the websites’ price valuation tools, as estimates can vary widely and may differ as much as 5 percent from the actual valuation.

“For more accuracy, ask a real estate agent for a free, comparative market analysis,” the report advised.

Here are a few pros and cons that Consumer Reports listed for the four websites.

Realtor.com

Pro: Allows users to easily check property records for every house on a street.
Con: No for-sale-by-owner listings.

Redfin

Pro: If users like a house that’s not for sale, they can “favorite” it and get an alert if it gets listed.
Con: Redfin doesn’t participate in every MLS, even within the states where it operates.

Trulia

Pro: Focus on lifestyle factors such as walkability, commute times and proximity to stores, restaurants and school districts.
Con: In some cases, users must consent to sending their contact information to a real estate agent for a home value estimate.

Zillow

Pro: Users can compare a particular property to comps they choose themselves to account for local factors that Zillow’s Zestimate algorithm may not contemplate.
Con: Online search tool is not as robust as those of Redfin or Trulia.

Email Amy Swinderman.

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