Dear Monty: My wife and I are new to computers and the internet. We are interested in all the real estate sites because we are considering downsizing.

When we have questions about navigating, searching and getting help, we fumble around. Some of these sites seem difficult to get help from.

Can you give us some pointers?

Monty: As the internet has evolved over the past 20 years, several types of websites have emerged. Some fit into multiple categories.

Here are five commonly utilized real estate resources online.


Real estate websites are ubiquitous. Examples include real estate companies, agents, trade associations and associated industries such as land surveyors, title companies, appraisers and home-improvement companies.

They provide multiple information pages where you can insert your email address to receive information, ask questions, live chat or call.

Some may have a bot — short for robot — that simulates human activity. These sites generate leads for the site owners.

Examples are Redfin, and the National Association of Realtors.


Blogs are generally one page where you scroll down to the bottom to get information, and they may or may not have links to additional information. Some allow you to ask questions or post comments. They also generate potential customers.

They are easy to build and inexpensive to operate compared to the other examples in this list. Examples are Engadget, BiggerPockets and Mashable.


Think of a real estate platform as a theater where outside software applications can come in and connect with the original software.

This feature allows the software product to expand its service offerings. You can get support by submitting a support ticket.

Only a few companies have the scope and power of a platform. They are expensive to build and maintain and are designed for a mass audience.

Examples are Zillow, Trulia and social media companies like Twitter, as social media has become a powerful real estate tool.


The acronym SaaS stands for “software as a service.” These companies are subscription-based, on-demand software as service-based solutions for real estate.

They differ from platforms in that they are product-specific. They use bots, instructional videos and written directions to help you navigate and communicate.

They also work hard to make your journey so easy that you do not need to speak with someone. When they achieve this, they can operate inexpensively compared to the other choices.

Examples are DocuSign, Dotloop and Dropbox.


The marketplace has the widest reach in web design. A real estate marketplace is an online platform that connects real estate vendor services with their customers or from one customer to another.

A marketplace is in the multichannel e-commerce vertical; its primary task is to enable smooth transactions and service exchange.

Examples are Redfin, Zillow and Trulia.

Finally, there are always new entrants as the real estate internet evolves. While these companies are early in the space, they are worth investigating.

Because they are the underdogs, let’s give them a link boost. Examples are endpoint, a new company that closes real estate transactions online; Rex, which is operating multiple disruptive real-estate-related companies; and PropBox, an advertising company (Full disclosure: This writer has a financial interest) specializing in peer-to-peer single-family home ads that help you complete the entire real estate transaction online.

Richard Montgomery is the author of House Money: An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home. He advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Click here to ask him a question at, or follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty. The opinions expressed are his own.