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What Are The Best Home Search Sites?

What Are The Best Home Search Sites?

So, you want to buy a house?

Well, congratulations! Let the house hunting begin!

OR, maybe you’re testing the waters and confused about what website to trust? They all claim to be the “best” when it comes to online home search sites so, who’s the real leader in the industry? Where should you go to look for houses that are for sale?

Fear not! We know all the best places to look for houses online! There’s Zillow, Trulia,,,, remax, and Honestly, the list is huge, and I haven’t even made a dent in the hundreds of real estate sites out there.

Then, when you have a real estate agent, they’ll send you to their website. So many choices!!

So, what real estate websites should you use in your house search?

Use the site(s) that you like. Seriously, if you like one better than the rest – use it. This is about YOUR search, after all.

However, there are some things you should be aware of. Really, no website is perfect.

For example, the major websites (Zillow, Trulia and, etc.) make money from advertising. No surprise there. And, to sell advertising, they need website traffic, aka page views. That’s where you come in. Every time you look at a listing – that’s a page view.

The more page views, the more advertising they can sell. Capitalism, amiright?

The primary reason for people to visit these websites is to view the active listings, or houses currently for sale. Well, a few years ago, Zillow came out with pre-market listings to help boost traffic and make more in advertising. At the time, it was a great idea! A pre-market listing is defined as a house that has some sort of indication that it might be up for sale soon. (Lots of “maybe” in this equation.) Foreclosures and pre-foreclosures are examples of pre-market listings.

In short, when the owner of a house doesn’t make their payments on time, the mortgage company (bank) starts to collect. Makes sense, right?

Everyone wants to get paid!

Anyway, when the bank doesn’t get paid on time, they initiate the foreclosure process. If a notice of foreclosure is filed with the county, that’s public record. Zillow scans the public record for those notices and they can determine if it’s been foreclosed on already (foreclosure) or if it’s in default at risk of going to foreclosure (pre-foreclosure).

Unfortunately, their system can’t tell when the house has changed owners. So, if a house was a foreclosure in 2012, but someone bought it and has been living there, happily making payments on time – it still shows as a foreclosure.

Why does any of this matter to you?

Don’t get distracted by pre-market listings when you’re searching for homes to buy. They are not actually for sale. And, to make matters worse, the data is probably old and outdated. Even if you’re hoping to score a killer deal on a foreclosure, these houses aren’t for sale. (But, you can get foreclosure listings in Polk county here.)

If you’ve been searching for homes for sale on Zillow this menu might be familiar:

online house search site

The “Listing Type” has a red dot and a blue dot next to it. Red dots = for sale. Blue dots = pre-market (not for sale).

house search


Zillow has renamed the pre-market listings to “potential listings”.


Don’t waste your time on these. When a house in foreclosure or pre-foreclosure come up for sale – then they’ll automatically move to the red dot category.

Same thing with the Make Me Move listings. Those are also in the blue dot pre-market category. I’m not even sure what the point of Make Me Move is except for owners of houses to invite calls from real estate agents. ?

Make Me Move is for owners of homes to list their house for the price that they would “consider” selling it. So, you can imagine the crazy prices in this category. If the owner were serious about selling, they would have it listed in the FOR SALE red dot category.

Zillow owns Trulia, so expect similar search quirks.

If you’re working with an agent, chances are good that they’re sending you listings that come directly from the MLS. Those are going to be the MOST accurate listings, but sometimes even then the information gets stale. For example, if a house sells on a Friday evening (when the real estate office is closed for the weekend) and then the agent doesn’t turn their paperwork in until Wednesday morning – that house is probably still going to show as an active “for sale” listing – even though it’s sold and under contract. See? Nothing’s perfect.

They’re all good websites, especially when you know what to look for. If you’re looking for a house for sale in the Des Moines area, I’ve got those listings here. If you have questions, we’re here with answers – drop us a line.



Heather Wright

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