Fighting back against online real estate sites

The Internet has become an integral part of everything we do, and for the past few years that has included the purchase and sale of real estate.

Well, the real estate industry nowadays isn’t taking it anymore.

Websites such as and are fine, real estate brokers and agents say, but only to a point.

As of Oct. 17, Zillow and Trulia listed a combined total of more than 3,500 homes for sale in the Fort Collins area, ranging in price, size and every other factor that comes into play when shopping for a new home.

Users of the sites have the convenience of searching by neighborhood, building type, number of bedrooms, or whatever other criteria they like, as well as searching for research and information pulled from local multiple listing services.

Local real estate agents have a variety of perspectives on the sites and the effects they have on their business, but none seem to view them as a true source of competition.

In some cases, the sites can be used to boost an agent’s business, according to Ken Anderson of Re/Max Alliance, who posts all of his listings on Trulia.

Users of the site can pose questions that are directed back to the listing agent, Anderson said, which gets the agent more showings, and, in turn, more sales. In this regard, Trulia can be a very effective marketing tool, Anderson said.

Other agents see the sites merely as sources of information for consumers, although the information that clients get is not always the best available.

“Today’s customer is very tech-savvy,´ said Brandon Bidwell of 8Z Real Estate. “Something we see a lot of is a customer finding a home on Zillow that they want to see, but when they come to us, it turns out that home has been off the market for some time.”

Eric Thompson, president of The Group Inc., echoed Bidwell’s comments, saying he has heard from customers who want to see homes featured on Zillow that have been off the market for as long as a year.

“These sites have the potential to be a benefit to the customer, but the information provided is often less than reliable, but it is important that the customer trusts their source of information,” Thompson said.

As third-party companies, the websites don’t always have the best local data. Thompson said. Instead of making use of Zillow or Trulia, The Group updates its listings on

The information provided by the sites can be a good starting point for a conversation between a customer and a real estate agent, according to Chris Hardy of Coldwell Banker.

“These companies have spent lots of time and money on attractive interfaces for customers,” Hardy said. “And so clients go there, get estimates and start gathering information on their own, but agents have access to more real-time data.”

Because of their access to MLS data, Hardy said, real estate agents can provide “hyper-local” information to consumers. Information acquired from other sources can provide good tools for customers, he said, just not definitive solutions. Agents get the majority of their data from Information and Real Estate Services, a multiple-listing service for Northern Colorado sponsored by the boards and associations of Realtors in Fort Collins, Loveland-Berthoud, Greeley, Longmont and Boulder.

The Group Inc.’s website, for example, pulls new information from IRES daily, Thompson said.

For buyers, unreliable estimations of value can be problematic, according to Hardy. Online valuations are based on a generalized algorithm, and sometimes compare homes that aren’t really comparable, something a “boots on the ground” agent would be able to avoid.

“The valuations provided are similar to those homeowners receive when their property tax reassessment (are issued),´ said Bidwell. “The prices listed are usually either far too much or far too little.”

Molly Armbrister covers real estate for the Business Report. She can be reached at 970-221-5400, ext. 209 or at

Molly Armbrister covers real estate, banking and health care for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-232-3139, or

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