It profiles local schools, throwing in parent comments from another site, GreatSchools.net; demographic information on Santa Monica contained the predictable household income data etc. but also included political party affiliations, so you can gauge the likelihood of sparring with your neighbors come November.
Realtor.com: This website turned up 103 properties in the three-or-more-bedrooms category and offered many specifics, including address, room features etc. Move Inc., which runs Realtor.com for the National Assn. of Realtors, has added a load of tools in the last year: The Market Conditions feature broke Santa Monica down into neighborhoods and offered local data and commentary from area real estate agents, some of whom were quite specific about what's happening in their marketplace; the Find a Neighborhood button provided a long menu of demographic, economic and school data.
A separate search device may help the uncertain buyer narrow down which towns and neighborhoods might be a good fit. The number of photos per house varies greatly, depending on the brokerage that supplies the data.
RealEstate.msn.com: If the listings look familiar, it's because the Microsoft site links you directly to Realtor.com to look for existing homes, so we ended up with its aforementioned 103 properties. (It also sends you to RealtyTrac for foreclosures and to Move.com for new homes and rentals.)
Want neighborhood demographics? You'll be whisked to Yahoo.com. In terms of unique content, RealEstate.msn.com has an aggregation of real estate news and information, though much of the latter comes from BankRate.com.
ReMax.com: The nationwide listings site of Re/Max International claims to have "millions" of listings, though it includes for-sale properties from other brokerages. It turned up 91 candidate homes for us. The site has numerous ways to tailor a search, such as specifying a subdivision, lot size, open houses etc. The quantity of information one could glean about each house without actually contacting a real estate agent was minimal, however. Typically, there were lots of pictures per property, and the site had links to local demographic and school data.
Trulia.com: This is arguably the most feature-rich site of the dozen here, found 77 single-family homes with three bedrooms; an additional 17 showed up when we asked for four. The site displays photos of the homes via Google Street Maps, alongside snapshots and links for half a dozen homes it regards as similar properties for sale, plus six recently sold comparable ones.
It also graphs how a home's price compares with similar for-sale and recently sold properties, as well as Santa Monica homes in general. Its "heat maps" generalize trends in recent asking prices in Santa Monica neighborhoods.
Trulia helpfully groups many of its tools on one page instead of linking to other pages of school data, price trends categorized in several ways, number of sales and recent sales activity in various neighborhoods.
ColdwellBanker.com: Coldwell Banker wants you to see its listings before any other brokerage's, so that's all you get on an initial query at its site -- in this case, 29 homes with three or more bedrooms. But if you open one of the listings, you can click on a link to CaliforniaMoves.com, which offers a slew of listings from area brokers; this link turned up 96. Most listings come with lots of photos. Other data -- income, demographics etc. -- take a little surfing to locate, but there's a lot of local information here. An interactive map pinpoints other listings nearby.
RealEstate.aol.com: America Online's real estate channel turned up 49 listings in a search for three or more bedrooms; these included foreclosure, new construction and for-sale-by-owner properties. MapQuest pinpointed their locations. A separate search feature broke down the town by ZIP Code, with demographic and home-sales data for each. Each listing has headings for square footage, number of bathrooms, local schools etc., though on many individual listings, those spots were blank. Finding out more about listed foreclosure properties requires entering personal information to get a free trial subscription to its Bargain Homes Network.
Next week: Some other real estate websites worth noting.
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About our search
The Internet-data firms that supplied our "top sites" lists -- Hitwise, ComScore Media Metrix and Nielsen Online -- don't define "real estate" in the same way, so to come up with a list of sites for our search, we eliminated foreclosures-only sites and those that don't have for-sale listings. ComScore regards the numerous domains within Move.com as one, but we looked only at its Realtor.com, which has existing-homes listings.
On many sites, one cannot just search for three bedrooms -- most will search for three or more bedrooms at a time, which may turn up four-, five- and six-bedroom homes, thus skewing the results. So, in fairness, for the sites that had a category for three bedrooms only, we also searched at the next highest bedroom level.
And, granted, searching these sites over two days instead of one might not yield 100% comparable numerical results, but it does reduce the likelihood of the searcher's brain going completely numb.
-- Mary Umberger