So... there are a few things Zip should be doing from a User Experience perspective which would help me, and every other buyer, but they are not....
HEY ZIPREALTY, PLEASE FIX THESE THINGS ASAP!!!
#1 What is the deal with Review This Home? It just doesn't work. This could be the most useful feature on the whole site, it could help SO many users filter through the crap. It could save people so much time and effort and it just does not work. Anybody, neighbors, not necessarily home buyers ought to be able to leave a comment about a home listed on zip. I can comment on almost anything on the internet except for the most important purchase of my life. WTF!!!? Hello! Product manager at Zip Realty - go talk to the folks at Disqus.
#2 I should be able to converse with agents, all agents, without leaving the site. Or without leaving the house detail page. It seems stupid to go back and forth over email so excessively. Why can't Zip BE a turbo charged email client for the purpose of selling homes?
#3 Filtering and organizing needs a lot of interaction design improvement. So many small interactions should automatically save. For example, if I'm trying to rank my interest level on a house this UI should automatically save my rank without me having to hit the little "save" button every single time I adjust this menu. You just don't need all those save buttons. It's called AJAX and here Zip needs to take some cues from Google.
#4 The sidebar is useless. No I do not need to see the photo, name and phone number of my agent on every sidebar in every single page view - I ALREADY HAVE THAT INFORMATION thanks. Instead I'd like to see ACTIONABLE interfaces, useful features, meaningful context, bubbled up above the fold of the page. Users should be able to customize the sidebar on a home detail view. All social and communication tools are buried down on the page and it's too difficult to share a listing with my friends & family. Right now If I want to post a home to facebook, or email a listing to my dad, I have to scratch my head for 2 minutes figure out how to do that - every time. It's not easy to find.
Overall Zip is pretty good, I consider it to be better than no real estate website. But the site could be greatly improved by a thorough user centered REDESIGN. My biggest complaint is that they haven't done this already, it's long overdue.