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Do-it-yourself real estate tools

Do-it-yourself real estate tools

Whether you call it an unprecedented real estate boom or a housing bubble, the skyward spike in property prices in recent years has coincided with the release of tools that make it easier than ever to research real estate. The free Google Local, desktop maps, MSN Virtual Earth, Google Earth, and GPS can zero in on terrain from space. Naturally, new Web sites for real estate agents, buyers, and sellers are exploiting such technology to map property prices, too.

  • Founded by former Expedia bigwigs, Zillow claims to list more than 60 million properties. Type an address and see how much people paid for nearby homes. The service also estimates your property value, give or take, say, 10 percent.
  • Trulia tracks prices in 10 California cities as well as Manhattan and Brooklyn. Popular searches include San Francisco for less than $650K (dream on, entry-level shoppers).
  • HomePriceRecords covers closing costs in the Big Apple, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and San Diego.
  • The aptly named Property Shark shows off foreclosures and other listings throughout New York City.
  • Seattle residents can look up housing maps through Redfin, which also serves as an agent.
  • still has the most thorough listings nationwide, as it connects with the Multiple Listing Service, but it lacks the bird's-eye views that give you a sense of the trees or highways in your territory.
  • Across the Atlantic, Britons can peer down at properties via OnOneMap, Propertyfinder, and PrimeMove.

    I'd like to see tools like these get more helpful by pointing out mortgage resources, area tax rates, inspection reports, and even a long-term history of sales prices. Meanwhile, in Madison, Wisconsin, the homespun For Sale by Owner and similar sites in at least 10 other small cities are making realtors worry that more enterprising, digitally empowered homeowners will choose to show and sell their own properties.