Even if a homebuilder recovery is several quarters away, that doesn't mean that real estate websites will remain condemned properties for that long.

Move's (Nasdaq: MOVE) Realtor.com was last month's hottest real estate website, according to traffic-watcher comScore. In an encouraging sign, Move's websites, led by Realtor.com's 4.4 million visitors, attracted 14% more visitors this December than they did a year ago.

The news confirms rival tracker Hitwise's designation of Realtor.com as the top draw in its category, accounting for 8% of market share last month.




MSN Real Estate


Yahoo! Real Estate












HPC Interactive



Source: comScore.

Zillow's slip from No. 7 in November is surprising. It may also come as a sobering splash of reality to see leading Web portals like Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) outdoing the dedicated realty sites.

Strong showings at Apartments.com and eBay's (Nasdaq: EBAY) Rent.com confirm the strength in the rental market. Apartments.com and HomeGain are run by Classified Ventures, a consortium of newspaper companies like Belo (NYSE: BLC) and Washington Post (NYSE: WPO), which proves that you can teach an old-school company some new-economy tricks.

ServiceMagic's making the list indicates that homeowners are looking for contractors to do home improvement projects. The lead-generating site owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp (Nasdaq: IACI) outranks IAC's own RealEstate.com site.

And did Zillow really get lapped by even Primedia's HPC Interactive? I'm still hoping that Zillow goes public later this year, but it will probably have to claw its way back up in popularity before pulling off an effective IPO.

In sum: It's encouraging. Even if the market isn't abuzz with activity -- and the most recent spike in mortgage applications is due to a spurt in refinancing given the lower rates -- at least we're still looking. In a sorry real estate market hungry for any kind of good news, that will have to do for now.

As long as you're under our roof:

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is not looking to move anytime soon, but he does enjoy browsing through real estate sites to see what's out there. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.