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Zillow Searches & Other Public Website Searches Vs MLS Searches

Updated: Sep 8

In this article I wanted to dive into the question of whether or not you should use Zillow (or other public websites) instead of a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) search with an agent. Getting a targeted search is important to saving you time in searching, and time saved is critical since it's much easier to be burned out in a search that's not expertly put together. Burn out can lead to not being on top of things when the right property becomes available, which can mean another person seeing it, making an offer, and getting under contract before you (sometimes <12 hrs after it hits the market).

Below I'll be going over:

I. Where Public Websites Fall Short

II. Where Public Websites to Find Homes are Helpful

Image here & many others courtesy Zillow

I. Where Public Websites Fall Short:

Reduced Accuracy (i.e. >30% of properties in Hampton Roads listed as "for sale" are actually already under contract with another buyer, while MLS can weed out the majority of those properties)

Reduced Options for Searching

Reduced Details/Features on Property

Flood Zones

Lag Time

Missing Properties

Problematic Features

Missing Buyer Agent Feedback

II. Where Public Websites to Find Homes are Helpful:

In Brief: When to Use Public Websites as Primary or Supplemental Search

Rental Search

For Sale by Owner Properties - #1 Reason to Have 1 or More Separate Searches from Public Websites Going to Supplement MLS Search for Properties for Sale

New Construction Search & Mobile Homes - #2 Reason to have 1 or More Separate Searches from Public Websites Going to Supplement MLS Search

MLS Search Issues: Acreage

Large Coverage Area Crossing Dozens of Counties/Cities & >5 MLS

Working with Low-Quality Buyer's Agents

Working with an Agent Outside Their Primary Coverage Area

Certain Integrated Features

Other Specialized Searches Not Possible in MLS & Possible Only on Unique Public Websites You Probably Never Heard Of

Some MLS Portals are Better than Others


Seeing Photo Captions in MLS

Zillow Search Setup

Phantom Property Availability on Public Search Websites

Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

Expeditious Showings

House Buyer Guide

Land Purchases & Sales

What Adam Offers Buyers

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