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Roost launches home-buying search engine

New real estate site lets people do quick searches for homes, with brokers paying for traffic directed to their sites.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
2 min read

To buy or not to buy? That is the question.

Regardless of where you stand in that debate, there is no dearth of Web sites to help you research, or just drool.

Joining the growing list of real estate sites is Roost, which was set to launch publicly on Wednesday.

The site differs from most of the more established real estate sites in that it is focused on search and is not supported by advertising. It also touts a comprehensive database and fast results.

Roost has partnered with Multiple Listing Services in 12 different U.S. cities with the goal of attracting prospective home buyers with its large number of listings. When you click on a "more information" link on any listing, it takes you to a real estate broker's site and that company pays for the traffic, which can lead to new customers. Roost creates the sites for the brokers in its network.

You can filter by school district and neighborhood among other criteria, and new results came up very quickly when changing the filters.

Roost displays photos with home listings and links to sites of brokers who pay for the traffic. Searches can be quickly refined for things like price, square footage, and time on the market. Roost
In addition to existing homes being sold by realtors and by individual owners, you can search for homes in development and see floor plans and model sketches, and you can filter your search by builder or community.

Photos are displayed within the search results. Mousing over the thumbnails pops up windows with larger photos. There is even a way to look at photos from multiple listings simultaneously.

You can plot different homes on a map, along with nearby points of interest such as schools and train stations (the site uses the Google Maps API), e-mail maps to other people, and save searches for later use.

A search for one-bedroom, one-bathroom homes in Irvine, Calif., priced between $600,000 and $900,000 displayed 321 listings out of 956 results. (On Zillow the same search showed 121 listings out of 375. There were 49 results for that search on Terabitz, and Trulia found 189 homes.)

Cities covered in the launch include Boston; Chicago; Dallas; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; Washington, D.C.; and even Boise, Idaho; and Orange County, Calif., but not New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, where the company is based. The number of cities is expected to double by the end of this year, said Roost Chief Executive Alex Chang.

The site does not have all the bells and whistles other sites have--like Zillow and its "zestimates," Trulia and its price and popularity heat map, and Terabitz and its market research. But at least it isn't littered with ads.