When you’re ready to start your home search online, don’t let the sheer volume of listings overwhelm you. Below are some tips to help you narrow down your search results on the many different residential real estate listing sites
1) Use Reputable Sites…but only a few
Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t make it true. Avoid free listing sites like Craigslist when searching for a home, this will save you many headaches. You should use real estate specific search portals because the data on these sites is either pulled directly from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or placed there by licensed Realtor.
Find one or two sites that work best for you.
There are literally thousands of real estate search websites out there, each with their own search interface and tools. Finding a real estate website that is enjoyable to use will make searching for a home easier and less confusing. Since most of the real estate portals have pretty much the same listings on them, we recommend limiting your search to one or two sites. You will find it’s much easier to get good at using the search tools on one or two sites than trying to learn how to use 10 different sites.
Once you have found a site or two that work for you, create an account which will give you the ability to save your searches.
The 5 Most Popular Residential Real Estate Search Portals
2) Save Your Searches & Sign up for Email Notifications
Creating and savings search settings for your desired location, size, features and price range will allow you to quickly perform the same search in the future without having to redo all the settings. You should also create auto-notifications where you’ll get daily/weekly/monthly emails when new listings that match your criteria hit the market. This will save you a lot time versus having to login to see if any new matches are available.
If you are serious about buying a home right now you should setup immediate listing notifications. Here in the South Bay, the best properties are going into escrow in matter of days so the quicker you catch the top new listings, the better your chances of getting in early and getting the property. Even buyers who search daily can miss out on a home, since some properties can be under contract within hours!
WARNING…If you’re not ready to buy now, look at setting up weekly or monthly notifications. This will keep your email inbox from getting clogged up with listing updates.
3) Location, Location, Location!
Oftentimes, buyers get so wrapped up in the photos, they forget to look at the home’s location on a map. It might be in your desired school district, but how far away is it from the school? Or the closest grocery store or the highway you will take to work? With today’s online mapping technology not only can you view a potential home on a map, but you can also use the ‘get directions’ functions on Google Maps or other sites to get an idea of how long it will take to get to work or drop the kids off at school.
Use mapping technology to get a feel for the neighborhood
Google Street View allows you to quickly see what a home really looks like and take a virtual drive through the neighborhood. You have full control to pan, zoom, and reposition the 360 degree images. This give you the ability to explore a property with 360 degree overhead images that allow you to zoom in enough to make out details about the property and the surrounding area. This is a great way to check out the size of the yard is and see how close together homes are in the neighborhood.
4) Don’t Trust Online Price Estimates
While they are sometimes accurate, most of the time online value estimators, like Zestimates® are wildly inaccurate. Some searchers get caught up in using online valuation tools to detect good/bad deals on a home, but the fact is that those estimators are simply not working from the same information that real estate agents or appraisers use to come up with the real market value for a home.
5) Read Between the Lines
“Executive Home with Tons of Potential”
Descriptions for real estate listings have always been notoriously optimistic. But in hot markets, like we have experienced in the last few years here in the beach cities, listing descriptions can be hilariously inaccurate and sometimes downright deceptive. In order for that ‘not so perfect’ property to stand out, real estate agents will sometimes take their creative writing skills to whole new level.
Here’s a fun list of real estate descriptions you may see and what the ‘true’ meaning is…
|When it says:||This is what it REALLY means:|
|MUCH POTENTIAL||Steer clear unless you have a lot of money!|
|UNIQUE CITY HOME||Used to be a warehouse|
|ONE-OF-A-KIND||Ugly as sin|
|WALK TO STORES||Nowhere to park your car|
|BRIGHT AND SUNNY||Drapes and blinds not included|
|SECLUDED SETTING||Just try and find it|
|STARTER HOME||Run Down|
|PARK LIKE SETTING||There’s a tree in the yard|
As great as the internet is for saving time when it comes to searching for a new home, there is no substitute for having your Realtor as your trusted advisor help you with sort through your choices to help you make a better decision before you actually schedule a viewing.