New: How Anyone Can Find Houston MLS Sale Prices Online

The website of upstart real-estate start-up Sawbuck Realty has a little something that anyone researching the Houston housing market might find helpful: the prices properties actually sold for. Well, at least the ones recorded in the MLS in the last year. Sale prices aren’t ordinarily made public in Texas — it’s a non-disclosure state. Instead, that info is hoarded by the keepers of the MLS, who now share it with a few appraisal districts but otherwise do their best to keep it out of the hands of consumers. But a 2008 settlement between Justice Dept. and the National Association of Realtors allows “virtual office websites” the same access to MLS data as regular brokers. That’s Sawbuck’s in: “When a user registers on our site they are establishing a relationship with us so we’re able to show them more information than just a standard public facing website,” explains Sawbuck’s Chewy Redding.


Sawbuck Realty is an online brokerage based in Washington D.C.; earlier this month Houston became its 12th local market. The Sawbuck website has a few neat features, including a decently annotated map and a Twitter-like stream of data for individual neighborhoods, which includes such “status updates” as price cuts, contract signings, and properties returning to market. Both maps and feeds should be useful for any non-broker scouting out a neighborhood.

The site gives up pretty easily info that HAR’s consumer site is stingy with, like how many days a property’s actually been on the market and the dates and amounts of all asking-price changes. But it does have some notable gaps: Duplexes aren’t included at all (they’re considered “multifamily properties”), and a bizarre glitch means you can’t find any info on a property listed for sale if it’s also listed for lease.

18 Comment

  • The website is amazing… I wonder what the local response will be.

  • sounds like realtors are going to have to work a little harder.

  • Thank God…finally this is easy to use and navigate. I’m not saying realtors don’t have a place, but its time to separate the true market experts from the people that couldn’t hack it as those trying to get you to sign up for cell service at the mall.

  • Good for them… Another step in eliminating the Realtor(tm) monopoly and rent-seeking, anti-competitive behavior.

    Long live the free market!

  • Wow, do all Swamplot readers hate REALTOR®s?

    Or, did I miss that this is National Hate a REALTOR® Day?

  • When I moved to Texas I was shocked to find that this information was so hard to find.

    The same information being available to buyers and sellers is one of the fundamental definitions of a free market; when members of a profession try to control information, my assumption is that they believe that they’re not offering much value to customers without it and therefore have to find some other sort of leverage to protect their business.

  • Maybe I’m not reading the info correctly, but a quick survey of my neighborhood shows “sales prices” pretty much all equaling the last list price on MLS. So either everyone is paying list, the realtors are entering that as the sales price, or this information isn’t picking up the true sales price field. Out of twenty that I looked at, only one was different (and it was higher than the list price, probably because there were seller contributions involved).

  • Here’s how Washington DC does it:

    It’s all in the city’s records so it’s all there & searchable on the web site. Very simple, transparency for buyers and sellers.

  • JD- I may be wrong, but I think you have “register” to see the actual sold data. I didn’t spend any time looking at how do that, but I read it somewhere.

  • JD

    when the little box comes up you have to click on listing details then is will show it.

  • As a Realtor, I think it is great that this information is now readily available to consumers (if it is accurate). It gives homeowners a better idea of what their home may sell for. When I go on a listing appointment, an educated seller is more aware of what their home is REALLY worth if they have done their research. It makes the pricing discussion much easier. It was only a matter of time before this information was available to everyone.
    In this market, most clients are not as into the historical data I can provide them, but the services I offer including internet syndication, open houses, etc that goes along with getting their home sold.
    This video is an exaggeration of what we Realtors deal with, but there is some truth to it. It is NFSW. Hopefully you will get a laugh out of it. I know I did.

  • I wholeheartedly agree with jcthoutx. I’m a Realtor also, and would much rather have the puclic know the real & accurate info than that available on other sites that are not so. True, the days on market/actual sold price is not available elswhere on line (that I know of), but I don’t know of any agent who would not want a client to know this info if they truly have their client’s best interest at heart.

  • RCH,
    Yes, you do have to register to see sold data.

    How are you searching for sold data? If you are looking under the “recent sales” tab, the default is “sale date”, which also includes properties under contract. Try a different sort or parameters; or you can see just sold data under the “news feed” tab (select “sales” in the drop-down). I hope this helps!
    Cynthia Nowak
    Sawbuck Realty

  • I’m registered, and I guess I wasn’t understanding the difference between the price with the slash through it, and the bolded price next to it. Perhaps all the ones I was looking at trully sold for asking, because now that I have selected a different zip (77035), I’m starting to see variances between those numbers.

  • JD,
    If this is confusing that is good feedback for us. It sounds like you have it all figured out? If you have other Qs or feedback feel free to email me directly at

    Happy hunting!


  • I’m glad there is info out there that will causes Realtors that are not providing a value-add to give up the ‘free auto 3%’ mentality.
    And I happen to be a Realtor
    With MLS being available to anyone (via looking to buy, and Craigslist available to anyone looking to rent, there isn’t much need for a Realtor unless you find one that can actually give you a return for the commission you pay.

  • I think it’s GREAT. It will show these unrealistic sellers with overpriced homes that their home is not worth what they think it is – Some sellers always think they have the best house on the block and want to always overprice their home because of all the upgrades they added, even after you show them comps in the area. When the agent tells them what their house is worth they don’t want to listen. Then it sits on the market for 100 days with hardly any showings and then they want to bitch at the agent and blame them because they aren’t getting showing and they are not marketing their house enough…. I am an agent and this is what I tell my sellers that want to beat me up about their house not selling because it’s overpriced….I can spend 1 million dollars a month marketing your home and run full page ads in every major newspaper in every city. However, no one will ever buy your house if it is overpriced.

    Buyers work with a buyer’s agents. So they provide the comps of what sold in the neighborhood. So at the end of the day it’s only worth what other homes sold for in the area. Furthermore the bank won’t even appraise it! I won’t take overpriced listings. If the seller is not serious about selling or motivated enough and they don’t want to price their house to the market, then I will not deal with them. Some sellers are just jerks and think they own us and we are at their mercy! Well I have news for them if the talk to me. And yes I have seller’s that love me and I sell a lot of real estate. My time and health is worth more than dealing with a seller yelling at me because they think I am not doing my job! In order to sell a property it has to be a two way street. If the seller gets bitch and snooty with me I just tell him SEE YOU. I don’t put up with that all by sellers! So I’ll be sending this site to all my sellers so that they can really see where the market is!

    For you overpriced sellers you need to watch this!

  • I like the real-time (or near to it) updates on current listings – much nicer than waiting 587483 years for HAR to update!