Review: Ziprealty vs. Zillow vs. Redfin

I get this question quite often, what’s the best real estate listing website?  Which site should I use?  The answer is, they each have their own strengths and weaknesses, I use all three actively.  Which one I use depends what I am trying to do.

All three sites have many similar functionalities to provide search and browse capability for real estate listings, all have decent iPhone/iPad applications for on the go usage.   Let me highlight the key differences I see and how use them.   At high level, I found Redfin has the most up to date information but weak search capability, Ziprealty has the best search capability but not quite as up to data as Redfin, finally Zillow has the most comprehensive but least up to date information.  I’ll go through each site in more details in this post.

Redfin – Most up to date information

Most up to date information

redfin.comRedfin has the most up to date information, the data is refreshed on 30 minutes basis.  For example, when I bought my new house, the money was transferred in the morning, in the afternoon Redfin sent out update on the final closing price.  It was amazingly fast, most other sites takes days and weeks to update the selling price.  If you are in a very competitive market, faster access to information can give you an edge.

Redfin also offer instant alert, essentially a notification pops on your smartphone to give you latest information for your saved searches and favorites.  It can get to be too much distraction, I would only recommend turning on the instant alerts when I’m really active in the market.

Search is weak

Search is not one of Redfin’s strengths.  I’m particularly disappointed with its lack of tools to search for a particular area.  You can search on city, county, zip code, but that’s about it.  This is where Ziprealty really shines.

Opt-in facebook model can be annoying

If you use Facebook to sign in Redfin, any time you add a favorite to your its, it would show up on your Facebook activities.  I certainly didn’t intend to broadcast that type of information, it wasn’t until a friend mentioned to me a couple of weeks later i realize this was happening.   It took quite a bit of work to figure out how to shut it off.

Ziprealty – Best search capability

ziprealty.comZiprealty employees their agents, if you buy or sell home using Ziprealty agents , they used to that offer 1/3 of their commission as a rebate to buyers and sellers, though I don’t see that anymore.  I used zip realty to buy a town house years ago, generally a good experience. But individual agent matters more than the agency, so i wouldn’t place too much value in that.

Most comprehensive search capability

Search is Ziprealty’s strength.  Ziprealty allows user to specify all kind of parameters for your search.  Beyond city, zip, county, Ziprealty allows user to search based on sub neighborhood inside a city, school district, all kinds of property features like 1 story, 2 story, lot size, pool etc.

It’s easy to setup very target search on Ziprealty so you don’t get bombarded with too much information.  For each of my rental property, I sat up saved search to monitoring how similar properties are selling to keep my finger on the pulse of market.  I use this as a passive way of monitoring, for active monitoring, I prefer to use Redfin as the information is more up to date.

Zillow – Most comprehensive information

Zillow has most comprehensive information for people who like to analyze data.  I found particularly helpful for real estate investor.   As investor, one of the key metric I look for its rental price for the property, it helps me to determine the the price I’m willing to pay.  Particularly when I’m trying to decide which areas to invest in and don’t know too much about the area.

Rent estimate is decent

Along with property value estimate, rental estimate is also listed for each property.  Depends on the rental activities in the neighborhood, the estimates can be very accurate or quite a bit off.  But it gives me a general ballpark information on level of rent for the area, this very useful for investor who are rental properties.

Zillow recently lanched zillow rental iphone/ipad app which shows the rental properties in the areas, aggregating from multiple sources.  I used it as another source of information.

Most comprehensive but least up to date information

On the listing, Zillow provides the most complete property history – when the property listed, sold, foreclosed etc.  In the bay area, where the prices have gone up significantly in many areas, I find it fascinating to check the property history information.

Zillow also provides recent sold information in the neighborhood for doing comps with recent sold property.    This is very useful when you are deciding what to bid.  While Zillow has the most comprehensive information, it’s the least up to date.  I usually all three sites for comps to figure out the optimum price to offer.   Zilllow provides information about the nearly school, walking scores etc.   For people who like data, it’s great.

When should I use which one?

To quickly summarize, here’s how I used these sites:

  • For active buying and selling, use Redfin.
  • For passive watching and target search, use Ziprealty.
  • For investment analysis, use Zillow.

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