We clicked around to check it out, then pulled up the old standby, Zillow.com, to see how the two compared.
A search just for "Dallas" at Sawbuck pulled a surprising 6,741 homes -- not bad for the site's first day on the job in DFW. Zillow had 10,437 homes by searching Dallas, but Zillow's definite of "Dallas" seems a little screwy. While Sawbuck has a clearly defined area on their aerial Google Maps version of the homes listed in Dallas, Zillow's version (on a Bing aerial satellite map) seems to include homes in Mesquite and even Irving. We'll give points to Sawbuck for accuracy and a more clearly defined map.
Sawbuck's listings includes the essentials -- square feet, bedrooms, baths, lot size, etc. -- but also adds the listing history, including price changes, and the ability to follow the listings via e-mail or RSS. Sawbuck also offers bird's eye, satellite and Google Street views of the property you're looking at. Looking at Zillow's listing for the same property gave us a satellite street map and a link to more visuals, but lacked a lot of the information Sawbuck provided without that extra click.
What Zillow has, though, is a major push to mortgage calculation tools and customized quotes. Sawbuck's concept is to connect buyers with agents as quickly and easily as possible, while Zillow seems to want to give consumers as much info about the financial elements as possible before talking to an agent. It's important to note that difference, as it's the main sticking point between what each site will tell you right on the first page of listings. If you're just looking for homes, either site is fine, though Sawbuck's listings may give you a better view of the neighborhood; when you're ready to buy, Zillow's calculators and comparisons on loans are a must.
Design and Ease of Use:
Sawbuck has turned the wealth of info that is the MLS into an easily accessible, user-friendly tool for getting to the data a home buyer needs. The design is fresh, clean, and easy to use, with plenty of little gizmos like RSS feeds, share/send buttons and PDF printing options that expand the functionality of the site without being too obtrusive. A big plus is the dynamic width and lack of ads, both of which give Sawbuck's site more space for their data, navigation and controls.
Zillow's site has redesigned itself rather recently, but it's still a little clunkier to use for a newbie. The search functions are robust, giving some real data right next to checkboxes for listing types or home types, but it feels more of a nuts-and-bolts, data-driven site than Sawbuck's sliders-for-bedrooms slick styling. That style isn't for everyone, which is why Zillow is still pulling a strong community and offering interesting features such as "Make Me Move" that are obvious and easy to understand.
All in all, both sites can easily get you to the meat of what you need, which is home listings for your area. We found Sawbuck's slick style and clean design was easy to navigate within our first use. Admittedly, because we've used Zillow before, the site was not difficult for us to navigate -- but we fear folks dealing with their first search for real estate online will have a bit of trouble.
Sawbuck's effort is very strong, but it's also very focused into only the specific markets listed on the site. Zillow's scale is incredible, but the site design is clunkier for an average buyer's use, at least right now. We found many of the same listings on each site, so either is likely to help you find a good option. Right now, it simply boils down to personal preference.