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Taking the online brokerage not quite a leap forward, the online real estate broker Movoto went beta this morning in San Francisco, having operated previously only on the Peninsula. You find your new home with Movoto's MLS-derived data and easy-to-use search page, along with Google maps and bird's eye views from Microsoft's Virtual Earth. There's an attempt made at comparables, but those are dicey even with human realtors, so don't bother. Basically, you find the house and contact Movoto to guide you through the process to completion- including, we imagine, a visit to the property.

The arm's-length and armchair shopping that Movoto provides is appealing. The tone is cool and detached, without realtors screaming "trust me" and no scary pictures of them, either. It's more like "here's what you say you're looking for, give us a shout when you're ready."

The listing information does provide the important "days on the market", but does not indicate price reductions that may have taken place. So there's no way you'd know that 731 Duboce started out life $325K higher than the current $1,550,000. There's no way to know if a listing has been "freshened" or relisted as new. Each of the birds-eye views were at least a hundred feet off, picking the wrong house every time, or worst-case, locating the multi-million dollar SUV of your dreams. This may be Microsoft's problem, or the fact that Curbed SF is a Mac household (we use Firefox) but seamless operation is critical to the future of online brokerages.

Should you register, the terms-of-use agreement confirms that you're not currently contracted to another realtor, so no double-dipping. But it's also sobering- who reads terms-of-use agreements anymore- and an ice-water cold reminder that real estate is serious business. It may be prudent to first splash about in the warm, shallow waters of Trulia and Zillow
· Movoto
· 731 Duboce [MLS]