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Who's the King of Online Real Estate?

Posted by: Chris Palmeri on May 29, 2007

We’ve written a lot on our blog about the wars between competing online real estate sites. Data from Hitwise, which measures online traffic, shows it’s still on open-ended fight. The top dog in the game is, which with the backing of the National Association of Realtors, has the broadest list of homes for sale. Still, the site captured only 8% of visitors to online real estate sites in April.

Number two on the list—with 3% of visitors—was a bit of a shocker. RealtyTrac specializes in homes in foreclosure, a relatively small slice of the 6 million or so homes sold each year. RealtyTrac was recently the subject of an article in the Los Angeles Times,1,7573701.story The story noted that RealtyTrac’s data overstates the number of people actually losing their homes, since the company tallys up homes in the foreclosure process, i.e. owners are behind on their payments. Only a small percentage of those homes are actually taken back by lenders.

Sites you’d think would be top draws—Yahoo, Zillow, Re/Max and Coldwell Banker—are battling it out with just 2% of the traffic each. Interestingly the average online visitor to a real estate Web address spends about ten minutes on the site. That suggests most visitors are just checking out a particular property and not extensively researching homes for sale in a city.

Reader Comments


May 29, 2007 3:26 PM's position is not hard to understand if you're searching for a house. Where I'm looking in the Pacific NW, appears to have all the listings. Zillow and Trulia seem to have no more than about 10% of them. Enhanced search tools aren't useful if you don't have the data.

Jay Thompson

May 29, 2007 4:56 PM

When it comes to searching for homes on-line, a good IDX search on a local Realtor's site is generally the best place to go. Due mainly to lag time in collecting updates, and partly to some agents/brokers not submitting listings, isn't as accurate as the home search on my site. It often shows homes as listed for sale that are in fact pending, as well as not having the latest new listings.

Ernie Tabel

May 29, 2007 6:39 PM

The noted data lag issues for are interesting, as gets updates from all of its contributing MLSs daily, some of them multiple times a day. So either something's wrong with their update process itself, or the data being fed by some of the MLSs is lagging in updates.


May 29, 2007 8:04 PM

Hitwise is so far off it's not even funny. You guys need to pony up a few $ for the industry standard Comscore if you're going to be writing about such topics.

Susan McLaughlin, Red Bank, NJ

June 19, 2007 11:01 PM

I agree with Jay - there is nothing as good as the up to the minute listing information on a true MLS search. For whatever reason,there are times when I have waited days for a new listing I added to the MLS system to appear on In a fast market, that great property can be gone before it ever appears on the other websites.

Through a true MLS search on a real estate agent's own website, you can also get access to a broader offering of listings such as commercial or investment properties and in real time.

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BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.

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