Once you have a list of the features and requirements for the home you want to purchase, you can begin your search in earnest. Don’t be surprised as you go through the search process to find that you will modify your requirements. You may decide that some features are more, or less important than you thought. You may also find that a certain area in which you would like to live is more expensive (or less expensive) than you thought, requiring you to compromise or change your other criteria. Use the Tellus Real Estate Solutions search tools and My Listing Manager to conduct your web search.
Agent set-up searches
Brokers such as those with Tellus Real Estate Solutions have back-end access to the MLS databases. We are able to search on more data points and with more accuracy by working with the MLS backend because we have access to data the MLS does not allow to be published on public websites. We can also set up automated searches for you and have emails sent from the MLS system with updates. Because these searches are done directly in the MLS system you will be notified much more quickly than you would from local or national agent websites.
Previewing homes during your search
Once you’ve made a list of properties from your internet search that look good, its time to look at them in person. There are several approaches to doing this. If your list is long, we recommend using this list, in order:
- Drive by: Drive by the properties and see if they, and the neighborhood appeal to you from the street. Photos on the internet can often make a home look better than it does in reality. Bad pictures can do the opposite.
- Open houses: Open houses are a great, low pressure way to see the interior of a home that looks interesting. Keep in mind that the agent at the open house is looking for clients to represent. The easiest way to avoid an accidental commitment is to tell them you already have an agent. At the same time, don’t ask the agent to do a lot of work or follow-up unless you want to commit to using them as your agent. (Its just good etiquette.). You can find out about open houses on the internet or you may find a notice on a yard sign.
- Agent showings: If you have an agent, you can have them arrange a showing of the property. You can request a showing directly from every listing your find on the Tellus Real Estate website. It is wise to try and arrange showings several days in advance. Some homes are vacant and can be shown on a moment’s notice, but others might require that appointments be made several days ahead of showing. Many agents prefer to schedule several showings around the same time. At Tellus Real Estate Solutions, we may ask you to sign a representation agreement before showing you homes.
- Agent previews: If you have an agent, put them to work for you. If you’re short on time and your agent has a good idea of what you like and don’t like, they can look at properties for you, and come back with a list that they feel will meet your needs.
When viewing homes, you should note aspects of the homes that you liked or didn’t like. Use a spreadsheet or a notepad to track comparisons of different properties. It can also be helpful to rate homes against each other, making a ‘stack ranking’ so you can decide what property you like the best. As you look at homes, review your requirements list and see if you need to make any changes. Add items or remove items as appropriate.
Website search tools
Below is a list of some of the major websites that offer search tools along with a brief description of how they compile their information:
- The local MLS (Muliple Listing Service): The modern MLS is an extension of an old practice. Real estate brokerages would share information with each other about properties they had listed for sale and offer part of the sales commission to other brokers if they brought a buyer. Over the years, this practice has been refined and formalized to the extent that the vast majority of residential real estate transactions happen through this system. The ‘nature of the beast’ is that for a given area, there is likely only one MLS. Almost every property available on the market, except for a few “for sale by owner” (FSBO) are in the system. If you can search that system, you have access to the majority of available properties. It is the root source of almost all information available on the internet.
- Real estate brokerage firm websites: Tellus Real Estate Solutions, Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Remax, John L. Scott, Windermere). Real estate brokerage firms pull data from the local MLS for their websites. Multiple listing services, such as Northwest MLS, have rules for what data is available. This means that each company has access to basically the same information. Each company, including Tellus Real Estate Solutions, has a system for adding additional information to their own listings, so there may be more information available about listings that belong to that particular brokerage firm. Also, a brokerage may have the ability to list properties on their website that are not in the MLS. These are typically properties that the owner does not want listed publicly for whatever reason. Tellus Real Estate Solutions has this capability as well. Individual brokerages that are part of larger franchise systems, such as CENTURY 21, Coldwell Banker, etc., will also push their MLS data feeds to their national company websites. This means that most national websites will have this same information.
- Craigslist: Has taken the place of the traditional newspaper classified ad. It is one of the most popular places for buyers to look for local real estate, especially when looking for “For Sale by Owner (FSBO)” properties. It is popular with both real estate agents as well as individuals and you will find properties listed by both. Although real estate agents are supposed to make it obvious that they are agents, some of them don’t; a clear sign of an unscrupulous agent. Craigslist is the best source of FSBO data. Craigslist does not let you save your searches
- Zillow.com: A large, popular national website that is a competitor to Trulia.com. It aggregates data from multiple sources, typically real estate agents and brokerages. It also pulls data from county websites to provide historical sale data. Homeowners can post their home on the site for a fee, so you can find FSBOs here as well.
- Trulia.com: A large, popular national website. Trulia is very similar to Zillow.com. It aggregates data from agents and county websites also. It does not provide a way for homeowners to list their properties directly, so it its not much good for finding FSBOs
- Realtor.com: The public facing website for the National Association of Realtors, a professional organization focused primarily on the needs of real estate industry (and indirectly, property owners and buyers). It pulls data from its members, who are most of the brokerages already mentioned, so it reflects the contents of the MLS.
- Homefinder.com: Similar to Zillow and Trulia, but not as large. It pulls data primarily from real estate agent syndication (automatic data feeds from their websites or other tools) or direct input by the agents, so again, its the same as the MLS. The site allows sellers to post their home for sale directly.
- FrontDoor.com: Similar to Zillow and Trulia, but not as large. It is associated with HGTV. It gets its data primarily from real estate agent syndication (automatic data feeds from their websites or other tools) or direct input by the agents.
- HomeGain.com: Does not let owners to post their home for sale directly. Focused more on investors, this site pulls its data primarily from real estate agent syndication (automatic data feeds from their websites or other tools) or direct input by the agents.
- Propbot.com: Allows owners to list their FSBOs. It works more like creating a website and is marketed more to landlords and tenants. It pulls its data primarily from real estate agent syndication (automatic data feeds from their websites or other tools) or direct input by the agents.
- Hotpads.com: Specializes in map-based search tools. Owners can post their own properties, so it is a source of FSBO property information. It gets its data primarily from real estate agent syndication (automatic data feeds from their websites or other tools) or direct input by the agents.
- Oodle.com: oodle.com A classified ad website that looks a bit like Facebook. Posts can be more than real estate. It is location (city or neighborhood) focused. Data comes more from individuals, but real estate data is syndicated by agents also. So, you can find FSBOs here.
- Yahoo Real Estate: Yahoo’s real estate sub-domain. It provides both real estate and mortgage data, similar to Trulia and Zillow. It gets its data primarily from real estate agent syndication (automatic data feeds from their websites or other tools) or direct input by the agents.