Customers Are Ditching Big Real Estate Portals For Smaller Home Search Platforms – But Why?

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Big real estate portals are all the rage right now for potential homebuyers, but some people have decided to leave them behind and turn to smaller businesses. 

Although big home search platforms like Redfin and Zillow seem like the most accessible way to find a home these days, there are many underlying problems that clients may not know about. 

In this article, we will discuss the many reasons why customers are turning away from these big companies and what steps you can take to make sure you have the safest home-buying experience possible.

What Qualifies as a Big Real Estate Portal?

A big real estate portal will have a few main features:
  • A multi-use search bar where you can search addresses, ZIP codes, cities, and even the names of schools.
  • A tab where you can search for an agent
  • Some kind of mortgage calculator tool
  • Millions of listings that range from rented apartments to mansions for sale

These websites draw the customer in because even if they are not actually in the market to buy or sell a house, they can play with the calculators, look at homes in places they will never live, or even learn more about their own neighborhood and what their house is valued at. 

None of these reasons give any indication that big real estate portals are doing anything wrong by letting potential customers play around on the website, but what customers don’t know is that the more personal information they plug into the search bar, the more data the company can collect from them.  

Why Are People Abandoning Big Real Estate Portals?

Big Real Estate Websites Often Sell Their Client’s Information

When prospective clients log on to one of these big real estate portals, the company gains access to personal information. Just like social media apps like Facebook, these portals collect data from your phone. 

On social media apps, they use your data to sell you targeted advertising. Similarly, these companies will take your data and use it to curate your searches. That aspect of it is ok and normal for all real estate websites, but what these larger companies do is take it a step further. 

If they know that you live in a certain city, for example, they may sell that information to local or regional third parties. These third parties might be real estate agents looking for new clients, companies trying to sell their products, or even scammers.  

After using one of these websites, people may start to notice that they are getting more spam emails or calls from numbers with area codes they’ve never even heard of. That is because their email and phone number have been sold to the highest bidder so that the big real estate company can rack in the cash.  

These Companies Lack a Personal Touch 

Many people in recent years have started to feel the “human” aspect of certain activities has diminished significantly. With so many businesses moving online, it is hard to make a personal connection these days. 

Buying a house used to be a deeply personal experience where new homeowners would walk away with a friend for life in their real estate agent. Now with big websites like Zillow, most of the process is done through a computer screen. You can click on a listing and see incredible professional photos of houses for sale and even have a virtual tour throughout the house, all while sitting on the sofa or in your office chair. 

Many prospective homeowners, though, still want the experience of being led through a house by a real estate agent who knows the area and is familiar with the home they are showing. They want to know that the house they may be spending their lives in is made well and up to their standards.

These big companies that have an immense amount of properties and agents don’t have the intimacy that people still crave when making such a big decision. Many of these sites also don’t have a vetting process for real estate agents and some homes may just be listed by the owner.

Homebuyers Want More Privacy When Making a Large Financial Investment

When a client uses one of these websites, they are inputting a lot of personal information into the search bar. When looking for a new home, people search for sizes, number of rooms, locations, and much more. This can reveal a lot about a person and their family and some people just don’t want that information to be broadcasted to the world. 

Using a smaller real estate site that has a better reputation for privacy is appealing to many people who just want to find an agent, tour some houses, and find the home of their dreams.

Big Real Estate Portals Can Be Unethical

As mentioned before, the fact that these larger companies make the bulk of their money by selling the personal information of their clients makes them quite unethical. To some people, having their phone number sold to some anonymous group doesn’t seem very harmful. We all get scam calls sometimes, right? 

But what if that turns into something bigger? What if the information that gets sold is not just your phone number but your social security number? Information like this gets moved around a lot when big transactions like buying a house occur. Although getting your identity stolen is probably the worst-case scenario, it’s better to be safe than sorry when choosing a platform in which to find a house.  

What Are The Main Benefits of Smaller Home Search Platforms?  

No Bombardment of Real Estate Agents Trying to Collect Clients

Now that we know that the bigger real estate platforms have access to personal information and sell it to others, it is important to note that sometimes those who purchased the information can be real estate agents.

The reason why this is not a problem with smaller platforms is that they do not sell your information. They are also run by real estate professionals instead of corporate executives, so their employees don’t want to sell your information to outside sources because then they could lose business. They want you to stay on their website and employ their real estate agents.  

Working with A Local Real Estate Agent

Smaller real estate platforms like eXp Realty have listings in all 50 states and multiple countries with local agents assigned to each house. If you were, for example, moving to Miami you would look up the highest-rated Florida real estate search on this platform and find listings provided by one of the many real estate professionals that work for the company. 

Buying a house is a huge undertaking that requires a high level of trust in the person who is helping you with the business side of things. Having a local real estate agent who knows the area and likely knows the property is extremely valuable and not always something you can get with large real estate companies.

Listings Are Straightforward and Well-Organized

On smaller home search platforms, it is easier for the company to go through and make sure that all listings are legitimate and presentable to clients. Not just anyone can post a listing, it has to be vetter by the real estate professionals at the company and assigned to an agent. 

Many people like this aspect of smaller companies because they can trust that listings are real and they can go visit them in person with an established professional.

Safety is a Priority

Smaller real estate platforms are only profiting from the sales they make from homes. They are not selling personal data to scammers or local independent realtors, so clients can know that their personal data is safe when they use these websites.  

Once again, small companies are trying to make a profit by selling homes, so they have no interest in selling their client’s data to someone who may steal the client out from under them. 

How to Prevent Your Personal Information From Being Used Online While Searching For a Home

 It can be easy to forget that when we go on the internet, we are constantly sharing information about ourselves. Even just perusing websites for houses for sale could be getting us into trouble. Below are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your information from scammers.

Read the Terms and Conditions When You Enter a Website

Unfortunately, in the fast-paced world that we live in, most of us always immediately accept the terms and conditions when we access a website without any second thought. Unbeknownst to us, this action is what allows websites like Zillow and Redfin to take our information as they please. 

Although it might seem tedious, actually going through and reading the terms and conditions and then clicking “reject” if needed will go a long way in protecting your personal data. This will prevent online companies from being able to access whatever information you have on the device you are using. 

Change Your Passwords Every 6 Months

This one is always hard because no one likes changing their password. Although it seems like a pain, it could make a difference. Many people use passwords related to their daily life: pet names, anniversaries, birthdays, and children’s names. If websites are tracking your activity, hackers are likely to pick up on certain information and may be able to guess your password. 

It’s always a good rule of thumb to not only change your password regularly but also create complicated ones with lots of numbers and symbols that are hard for people to guess. This small step might just save you from a lot of turmoil.  

Clear Data Regularly From AI Devices Like Voice-Activated Assistants 

According to the experts at Consumer Reports, if you have an Alexa device from Amazon, you can simply say, “Alexa, delete everything I said today”, and it will clear that data. Other devices can be cleared by going into the settings on the app associated with the device. 

These devices can pick up conversations even if you’re not directly speaking to them, so if you are in your house and discussing your plans to buy or sell a house, that information might make it into the hands of someone who shouldn’t have it. 

Vett Your Real Estate Websites

Do some research, read reviews, and be careful about what you search for on real estate websites. A lot of times regular people are your best sources for if something is upstanding or not. Ask friends who have sold or bought a house recently about their experience. See if they used one of the big real estate portals and if they are receiving more spam calls than normal. 

It is also good to read the news and see what is happening with big companies like these. A lot of lawsuits are happening right now regarding digital privacy. If you are unsure about a website, it is as easy as searching “*company’s name* lawsuit” and seeing if anything pops up. 

Are You Ready to Find Your Dream Home?

Whether you are browsing these websites for fun or seriously considering the purchase of a home, it is always important to remember that there are a lot of websites out there waiting for you. Many people are choosing to ditch the big and popular portals now that more and more information emerges about their use of personal data, and they may be right to do so. 

If you do choose to continue using these sites, even just for fun on a lazy afternoon, remember that any information that you enter into those search bars could put a target on your back. 

 Now that all of this information has been laid out for you, it is your turn to log on and find the home you have been waiting for. As long as you stick to the safety tips above and do your research before entering any real estate platform, you will find that there are many people out there ready to help you make this big investment. 

Buying a home is already a stressful and monumental task, so make it a little less stressful by choosing the right platforms to help you on your journey.