Nowadays, it's hard to imagine the process of buying, selling, or renting without the Internet as a guide. Whether we are trying to find communities of people who buy and sell the same things we do, or are seeking "wisdom of the crowd" opinion on potential buys, the Internet is often the first place we look. The sites below, we feel, are best at bringing buyers, sellers, and renters together, and arming them with the intel they need to do the deal.
Craigslist: Want ads work so much better on the Web than in print that newspaper want ads are all but extinct. You can buy, sell, or rent just about anything, anywhere on this no-nonsense site.
Freecycle: This grassroots, nonprofit site organizes and connects (via Yahoo Groups) people who might like to trade items within their own communities. It works really well for finding someone to come over and get that one useless thing out of your house, but not into a landfill.
Zilok: Whereas Freecycle focuses on giving or trading, Zilok focuses on renting. The site hosts rental listings from people in your community for things you might need to use only once--a power tool, a picnic table, a warehouse space, a van--things you'd usually be far better off renting than buying outright.
CarsDirect: A great place to buy a car online--or at least to get a good starting point on a price--this is the only Web site of its kind that instantly shows you a buy-it-now price, with no haggling and no calls from snaky salespeople.
Zillow: From some of the creators of Expedia comes Zillow, which gathers in one place a bevy of information on properties and their prices in many parts of the United States. If a house is for sale, you can find contact information, read descriptions, and ask questions of the sellers. Plus it's just fun to see how much your neighbor's house is worth.
Greenzer: Greenzer brings it down to the local level by helping you choose products from companies that are really walking the walk, not just talking the "green" talk to help their bottom line.
HousingMaps: "Mashups," to me, have been largely an overhyped, unrealized concept. HousingMaps, however, is a notable exception. It's a simple mashup of Google Maps and Craigslist housing listings. Choose the part of town in which you want to live, and see what's available in your price range.
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