This is the third in a series on buying real estate. To access the first two posts click on Buying Real Estate on the right side bar under Labels.
We use several sites for looking at real estate on-line. The main one is to do a search for Multiple Listing Services (MLS) in the area you want to look. The MLS is the list realtors compile of all the listed properties for sale by a realtor or real estate agencies in that area. The list is constantly changing as properties are sold and new properties are being added.
Each area of the country has a MLS for the realtors group that serves that area. For example, we are currently in the Albuquerque area which is served by the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors (GAAR). When I go to their site I click on the tab Find a Home and fill in their search parameters. It takes a bit of practice to get used to the site and how their search works.
Not all realtor groups are the same and some sites are better than others. For example, we find the Taos area realtors group to have a terrible search. One has to go to a specific real estate agency and hope they have an on-line search. Unfortunately, they don't always list all the properties or maybe they only have residential when we want to look at multi-family. Worst of all they won't give all the information on a property such as excluding the address. I suppose they reason that we will have to call them to find out, where as all we want to do is a drive by to see if we think a street view warrants calling our realtor for a closer look.
The next place we go is craigslist. Many realtors use craigslist but best of all is the for sale by owner properties who may have no other place to list. But be careful with craigslist. I have found people who will list a property who in fact don't even own it. When contacted they will say that property is sold but they have something else to show you. Also I notice a lot of listings by fly by night types who will promise no down payment or some other lure. Don't bother.
And then there are the people who will describe their property with one sentence, no photos, and no phone number. I pass them on by. If they can't provide a nice description with a couple of photos I figure they are not really serious or worse. A pet peeve of mine is if they don't provide a contact other than the craigslist e-mail contact. Preferably I prefer a phone contact. Many people who advertise on craigslist won't give an e-mail address because they are worried about getting spam or a virus. Craigslist is a great resource but care should be taken.
There are many sites such as forsalebyowner.com that people selling real estate pay a fee to list their property. They are free to search. The listings vary according to the seller but the site certainly provides the space for the seller to post a nice listing.
Some sites my wife likes to use include Zillow.com which seems to compile MLS listings but I am not sure if they include all of them. Another is Realtor.com which is the official site of the National Association of Realtors.
There is much more on-line that a search will find. And after a bit of practice and familiarizing with the appropriate sites it will seem very easy. The internet has revolutionized looking for real estate and made it easy to search from home. Once you have found some suitable properties you want to look at call your realtor if it is listed or the owner if it is for sale by owner. Keep in mind that just because the property looks great on-line, an in person showing will be quite different.
Next time I continue this series on buying real estate I will talk about realtors.