Local News

New Web Sites Change The Face Of Real Estate

Posted April 11, 2006 8:17 a.m. EDT

— Ana Walle did a lot of research before putting her house on the market. She had to, since she went the "For Sale By Owner" route.

"I used Wake County tax records, as well as just really beating the streets and looking around the neighborhood myself," said Walle.

Walle wishes she had known about the web site Zillow. Its target audience is people like her, who sell houses on their own and people who buy on their own.

Zillow provides previous sales prices, and prices of similar properties on millions of homes nationwide, along with satellite images. It also has something that has been a primary function of commission-based real estate agents -- a free home value estimator, known as a "zestimate".

Josh Swindell manages 28 real estate agents. He says Zillow is user-friendly and has a lot of information. But he also says it can't do some things that an agent can.

"Agents and appraisers are going to come out and measure the home, and take into consideration upgrades you may have made to the home," said Swindell.

In 2005, 85 percent of people who bought homes in the Heritage Wake Forest neighborhood used a real estate agent. In 2006, even with a new tool like Zillow, real estate experts don't expect that number to go down. But Walle isn't so sure.

"I think that we're all smart people today, and the web has really allowed us the opportunity to do our own research," she said.

The same man who created Expedia, the online travel agency that helped shake up the travel agent industry, backs Zillow. That site does have some competition in a similar home valuation service that is in the testing stage known as RealEstateABC.