Many "big box" nationally known real estate websites gained popularity by providing unsuspecting consumers with their version of market specific data, wrapped in an attractive platform, oozing with pretty images of homes and slick mapping features. One of those websites went so far as to "zell" consumers on the idea that they could provide an accurate estimate of a home's likely "zales" price. Imagine the surprise of buyers and sellers who learned the figure they'd seen on this popular site was sometimes off by as much as 10%, 20% or 30% (and on occasion perhaps even more). Now I can't weigh in on the rules and laws that govern real estate agents in all areas across the U.S.. But I can say with confidence that a real estate broker in my state, who supplied a buyer or seller of property with a comparative market analysis, off by even as little 10%, could be subject to disciplinary action from our real estate licensing entity.
Let's face it, there's great value to be found in an informed local perspective. And if you're running your expert real estate website out of Seattle with no office nor staff in Raleigh, how can you possibly know our community as well as those who call the "City of Oaks", home? The local real estate pro can deliver timely, market specific information with a high degree of accuracy plus some nuanced insights about the local community that one can only gather from living and working in the area. Still like your "big boxer" with the catchy, but strangely unfamiliar name? Want an example of how a local real estate website might serve you better than your "all things to all people" site? Ok...let's pretend:
You're relocating to Raleigh, North Carolina (a place you've visited only once) and will be working for one of the various technology companies who have campuses downtown. You seek a low maintenance housing style (let's say a condominium) close to work that will allow you more free time and a better quality of life. Close proximity to nightlife is important, but you're willing to call Uber for a short ride to Fayetteville Street if the right property is a little outside the range of a leisurely stroll to party central. You've had an introductory call with a HR rep at the new company who asks you about your housing needs. When you explain what you hope to find they say "oh, then you're going to want to stay ITB".
Unfamiliar with the acronym you quizzically reply "ITB"? They enthusiastically explain "yeah, Inside The Beltline". After a few more questions about what you initially thought to be an upstart nation with a bad name and plans to secede from the union (Attention: Friends in the North, this is merely a joke. Really...don't start organizing the militias. It's intended to be funny) you now know what "the beltline" is and come away from the call feeling more like a local. You even hatch a plan to start inserting the term ITB in many conversations over craft beer with new friends in Raleigh.
Now you go to your "Zilly" big box website and try to search for condos in the ITB neighborhood. Oops! ITB isn't a neighborhood. That won't work. Then you try to find a zip code that specifically relates to this defined geographic region. Foiled again. There are several zips that cover the ITB geo region and they extend way outside your desired search area (meaning, if you try and use them you're going to be inundated with unwanted property listings that just add confusion). Next you try to search using the address and city fields. In those fields you type "ITB" and "Raleigh". That zany website practically laughs at you, all the while flashing ads in your face for services you're not yet ready to consider. After 20 minutes (time you'll never reclaim) you give up and end your session, all the while questioning if there is an ITB official to whom you can complain. (FYI, there is. His name is Jenner Rahlee. JK! It's not true...I'm just messing with you. Bless your heart!).
After explaining your frustration to a contact at the new place of employment, she directs you to a local real estate website like http://MyHomeRaleigh.com. When you visit, you're relieved to see beautiful pictures, state of the art mapping tools from Google, information about home buying in Raleigh, and the names and contact information for some friendly faces that also appear on the site. You select one of the faces and click on their bio to learn more about them. You're practically giddy when you read that they actually live in Raleigh, North Carolina. Eventually you make your way to the site's Search for Homes tab when all of a sudden you come across an option that reads ITB Raleigh Condos. Siri somehow recognizes the importance of the occasion and begins to play the "Hallelujah Chorus" from your iPhone speaker at full volume. You've found it...the holy grail of Raleigh Real Estate websites. You click on the function and instantly you're viewing all active condo listings in the area of Raleigh you plan to call home...ITB. All that's left now is to set up the movers right? (Well there are a few minor details to handle beforehand but you're nearly there).
The moral of this story: Don't settle for general real estate websites that lack the tools, market specific data and insights you need when preparing for one of the biggest purchases you'll likely make in your lifetime. Find an experienced, local real estate professional who's taken the time to create an online tool (aka: a robust website) designed for his or her marketplace. If you can't find one, ask around. With a little effort you'll uncover more focused content, helpful tools and local information that will better prepare you for home finding (or home selling). It will probably even save you time in the long run!
If you're still not convinced, ask the support team at your big box real estate website where in Raleigh you can take a photo next to a giant acorn. I'll bet they can't tell you! But local Raleigh Real Estate pros like The Allan Rodgers Team can!