Web could shift real estate market

Correction appended

Daniel Strickland had a friend that, like a lot of people nowadays, wanted to move to Charlottesville. So Strickland did what most anyone would do: He jumped on the Web to start researching neighborhoods and available houses. What he found, though, was a dearth of what he calls “good Charlottesville real estate websites.”

“I was really frustrated with the lack of great options on the Internet,” says Strickland. “So I decided to make my own."

What started as Strickland’s frustration grew to be CurbPlaces.com, a website that his company Cloudbrain launched that allows users to search neighborhoods in Charlottesville and specific addresses to find houses for sale, as well as assessment information for every house in the area. And it’s all done visually: A map shows you each house, complete with a pop-up bubble filled with info. Much like Google, CurbPlaces runs a Web crawler, scouring the Internet for home data. It pulls assessment numbers from the city and county websites while also pulling data from real estate sites like Realtor.com and the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

CurbPlaces is just one of many sites that are beginning to shift control from realtors to home buyers and sellers through the power of the Internet. Savvy consumers have long been able to market their homes and shop for new houses on sites like ForSaleByOwner.com and Zillow.com—for a price. But CurbPlaces is a free site, as is Iggyshouse.com, which allows home sellers to list their houses on MLS for free, something that once required a realtor.

Realtor and real estate blogger Daniel Rothamel says that while sellers listing their homes on MLS without a realtor do cut into some of the services he offers, marketing a house is just the first step. “Sure, now your house is marketed,” says Rothamel. “But now you’re also responsible for coordinating showings, doing the open houses and negotiating the contract. I think what you’ll see in the future is that the emphasis in real estate will start to shift towards representation, towards agency, as it becomes a lot easier to market property.”

The shift is beginning to happen, thanks to sites like CurbPlaces and Iggyshouse. “It seems to me that, slowly, the realtors are catching onto the Web,” says Strickland, “but not nearly as fast as I would like.”

C-VILLE welcomes news tips from readers. Send them to news@c-ville.com.

Correction, Sept. 19, 2007:

In this September 18 story ["Web could shift real estate market" by Scott Weaver] Zillow.com was identified as a site that charged to market homes for sale. In fact, Zillow.com offers this service for free.

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