You'd think the timing couldn't be worse. But despite the softening real-estate market and record foreclosure rates, real-estate search sites continue to pop up and thrive. CNET News.com's Kara Tsuboi explores the sites Trulia and Roost, and explains why consumers are seeking out these online tools.
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>> Greg Simpson: Welcome to the Wooded View Estate Property here in Los Gatos.
>> Kara Tsuboi: This is something else. This 8 thousand square foot property in Los Gatos, California has been on the market for months.
>> Greg Simpson: Six bedrooms and 6 bathrooms.
>> Kara Tsuboi: With an asking price of 10 million dollars, it's easy to see why, especially in the soft real estate market.
>> Greg Simpson: One of my favorites, this 2 thousand bottle wine cellar: climate and humidity controlled.
>> Kara Tsuboi: Because of the weak market, real estate agents like Greg Simpson are forced to be more creative with their marketing, and that means going online.
>> Greg Simpson: Yeah I mean you used to go to your travel agent. Now you go to Travelocity or Orbitz. Or music, you used to go to Tar [assumed spelling] Records or Warehouse and buy CDs. Now you go to iTunes and download into your iPod. So if you're looking at the old way of doing it, you're losing.
>> Kara Tsuboi: According to Simpson, 80 percent of American consumers begin their real estate searches online.
>> Greg Simpson: So unless you've got your properties in front of those clients who are looking in all of the appropriate places, you're not doing a great job for your sellers.
>> Kara Tsuboi: Despite the market downturn, record setting foreclosure rates and the mortgage crises, online real estate search sites like Zilla, Redfin, Tarabits [assumed spelling], Roost and Trulia have been surprisingly buoyant.
>> Pete Flint: That you benefit to that business because it means that our service is much more valuable today and that's being reflected in a lot of our traffic growth. So we're seeing phenomenal growth: about 4 million consumers come to our site every month. And that's been growing at least 10 percent every single month.
>> Kara Tsuboi: Pete Flint, the CEO and Co-Founder of Trulia, reasons that consumers are spending time on his site in search of tools to aid in the purchase process.
>> Pete Flint: Consumers are taking much longer about -- through the transaction process so they're spending huge amounts of time on sites like ours, really understanding the market, taking their time, looking at all the properties on the market. So they're becoming a lot more informed, a lot more educated and hopefully will make a much better decision. So this is a great tool to visualize trends, and we have this all across the US.
>> Kara Tsuboi: Besides the search tools, the site also offers places to get your questions answered by real estate professionals.
>> Pete Flint: What's kind of amazing is that the real estate industry is really adopting Web 2.0. You see them logging. You see them responding to questions in Trulia Voices. You see them out on their BlackBerrys. They're absolutely embracing new technologies in really surprising ways.
>> Kara Tsuboi: Another site - Roost.com - launched in January of 2008. Again, sounds like unfortunate timing, but CEO Alex Chang is optimistic.
>> Alex Chang: In a soft market, that broker can probably sit back and just have business coming in, but they've got to work harder in this market. From a consumer prospective, it's very similar. In a tough market you know, you're probably going to spend a lot more time thinking about whether or not this is the right time to buy, am I seeing all the deals out there, you know making sure that you're doing your homework cause you're probably feeling a little -- you know, if you're like me you're feeling a little bit nervous about the market. So I want to do a lot of research online.
>> Kara Tsuboi: Roost markets itself as "The place for a consumer to start a search."
>> Alex Chang: It's the marriage of great search and great data. If you're looking for places to live, you kind of want to be sure that you're getting to see everything that's available and not just a little segment of the market, or things that are outdated. So it's really about great data and great experience and we think we've done that differently than most.
>> Kara Tsuboi: It also provides tools for the savvy shopper to find exactly what he's looking for.
>> Alex Chang: Anything that Google knows about and can plot on a map, we can put in relation to those homes. And I think it should be fun. And I think it should be easy. And I think it should be intuitive. And it should save you time. And it should feel like something that you want to do. I mean you're really dreaming about your next home, so you know, that's what we're trying to make easier.
>> Greg Simpson: It's just to be in as many places as you can because consumers are looking in so many different areas.
>> Kara Tsuboi: Back to that 6 bedroom mans [assumed spelling], purchased atop 6 acres. To market it, Simpson's firm Enterro [assumed spelling] syndicates their listings out to 18 different sites on a daily basis: Roost and Trulia among them, in the hope that someone, somewhere will search online and click onto one of their properties. I'm Kara Tsuboi, CNET News.com.