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The Internet

Searching for Real Estate Using the 'Net? 242

Posted by Cliff
from the find-your-dream-home-online dept.
digThisXL asks: "We've all used the Internet to search for real estate at one time or another. But has the 'net truly become an effective tool to search for real estate? Are we going to be stuck with using real estate agents forever? I have found HomeSeekers to provide nice maps; Realtor.Com and the Michigan Multiple Listing Service provide up-to-date listings; but there doesn't seem to be a definitive search site! What are the best ways your readers have discovered to uncover those hidden gems?" There's also (obviously) Realty.Com (no confusion there), as well, but I've never used it and happened into it one day. What do you folks think of these sites? If you have local real estate sites that you know of (like the Michigan site listed by the submittor), then please share -- another Slashdot reader who lives close to you may be asking this same question.
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Searching for Real Estate Using the 'Net?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Just input your preferred GPS coordinates and a radius and it lists all houses for sale sorted by price, sq. ft., etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    www.cyberhomes.com [cyberhomes.com] is a good starting point.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    realtor.com (run by homestore.com) will have most of the MLS listings for most areas of the US. many individual realtors and brokers/real estate companies that have their own websites and info-by-phone systems use the same data as realtor.com. lag time for a listing becoming active and actually showing on the web can be anywhere from a day to a couple of weeks, depending on how often the site gets updated... in many cases, it's all automated, and unless an agent sees that one of their listings isn't there, it might not ever show up on the web. and when it does, don't trust the picture. go look at the house. it's amazing what resizing can do to a picture.

    when I bought my house, I printed up a few houses I liked from realtor.com, and took them to a company I was somewhat familiar with. the house I bought hadn't even hit the web yet, and it was exactly what I was looking for. so use the web to browse, and get a firm idea of what you're looking for, then deal with an agent directly. if the agent doesn't listen to you, ask for another agent or go to a different company. also, agents will show houses that are listed by different companies.

    good luck!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    califmls.com will send you e-mail alerts of every house that comes up in your parimeters. . . .
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I moved from one european country to another recently and used the net to find my current property (and to determine whether salaries were reasonable wrt house prices.).

    What could I do online?

    • Search for houses for sale (I eventually moved to Dundee in Scotland and there all the houses for sale are avialable via a collaborative website between all the solicitors in the area)
    • enter my potential postcode into a site that deals with neighbourhood details and find out
      • The nearest schools, their academic records and the full text of the last government schoools inspection
      • The nearest amenities such as pubs, supermarkets, post offices, swimming pools etc.
      • The social makeup of the neighbourhood (blue/white collar, locally employed/commuting/unemployed etc)
      • The typical sale prices of various types of house and the recent trends
    • contact the local council to find out (via their website) typical charges etc for the local area

    My wife and I had four days to see Dundee before moving so we needed a relatively short list of properties to view. This really helped winnow the list down.

    As a result I have a house of a suitable size, walking/bike distance from work, 5min walk from school (for my kids), park, shops, swimming pool etc.

    It could have been done without the web but it was so much easier with.

    ..d

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 14, 2001 @09:58AM (#150904)
    For the first-time buyer, a good realtor can be immensely helpful. There's tons of paperwork and bureaucracy involved, and unless you've really done your homework, a realtor can be quite helpful. And if you're new to the area, there's plenty about prospective neighborhoods that the internet will never reveal, and you need an experienced realtor to help clue you in.

    Also, in a tight market, a good percentage of places will be sold the first day they get listed, and will never make it to the web.

    I should qualify that we used a buyer's broker -- in other words, he worked for us, and helped us to find a place, and wasn't trying to sell us a house he was listing. This is a change from the old-fashioned realtor who was really only working for the seller, but would claim to have your interests in mind. (This isn't to say there aren't plenty of worthless realtors or buyer brokers out there...)

    For the experienced and knowledgable buyer or seller, a realtor is probably not necessary. But for someone new to the process, it would be very difficult to get by without one. Just do your homework and interview any prospective agents until you find one you like. It worked for us.
  • Not necessarily. When my wife and I wanted to buy a house in Howard County (MD - 45 min. from DC), she started haunting Realtor.com, and she found the place we bought (and now live in) less than 4 hours after it was listed.

    The agent said he had 5 inquiries from Realtor.com users before he had time to put up a "For Sale" sign.

    Speed of posting seems to depend entirely on the agent or broker.

    I don't happen to like Realtor.com much, myself. If you're not sure exactly sure what you want or exactly where you want to live, it's useless. It only works if your wants/needs are already well-defined.

    But for our most recent purchase, it did its job -- which was to put us in touch with the agent who had the listing with as little fuss as possible.

    - Robin
  • I agree with the subject of your post.

    I do not agree with the negative slant. If a "Realtor" "sits on a house" and decides to let their clients (or their office's clients) get first crack, it affects almost all MLS agent/users, not just independent buyers.

    In addition, this "monopoly" of which you write is a farce. The MLSes are generally not public or government supported entities. They are realtor funded and supported resources who's purpose is to add value to _realtors_, not give you a free ride. If all you get to see is slightly aged (and older) listings, well, I guess you are out a whole $0.00.

    Disclaimer: IANAREA, but I could fake it.
  • i'm settling on a house in ten days. i was lucky in that i used to work for realtors, so i hired one as my buyer's broker, and he just gave me access to the mls system and let me search. the mls system's search features are completely useless, but by going to the websites of various real estate companies, you can often find mls numbers to look up. one word of warning: double-check the information you find in the mls listings. for details on why it's not necessarily accurate, see my rant at:

    http://jeffcovey.net/ramblings/mris.html [jeffcovey.net]
    --

  • by !Xabbu (1769)
    www.mls.ca [www.mls.ca] is the site I used to hunt down my house. You will never really get rid of the estate agents. They get paid to watch your ass. They also give your home more exposure when its on the market. All this costs money. Personally I'd rather pay some schmuck who knows what they are doing to do it then stick a 'house for sale by owner' sign on my doorstep.

    Why did I use mls.ca? Simple. I don't like sales people. This limits my time with the necessary evil of dealing with them.



    - Xabbu - Sysop: clockworkorangebbs.org
    - Tradewars - LoRD - FidoNet and much more!

  • New listings show up daily. There's enough calling and faxing and so on already with a house purchase that it's *really* nice for there to be a good web interface that you can look over without having any human/low-tech interaction.
  • My wife and I just used them (http://ziprealty.com [ziprealty.com]) to purchase a condo in Boston. We were very happy with the whole process -- we had a lot more control over what we were doing than we would have with a conventional broker (since we got to go over the actual MLS information), and when we wanted to go out to see actual places, the agent was very nice and helpful. Totally recommended.

    And the 1% rebate doesn't hurt!
  • many of the ads are actually spam - they're false listings, or (now and then) real listings provided by a realtor through whom you must go to view the property.

    Of course, this isn't unique to the internet -- you'll find exactly the same behavior in the classified ads in the newspaper.

  • I recently put a downpayment on a piece of property sight unseen, and found that it wasn't quite what we were expecting. Fortunately, I asked the seller to add a clause specifying that we had 60 days to see the property in person, and cancel the contract with full refund of downpayment, if desired. Get this clause should you decide to purchase property over the 'net, it's a life saver.
  • What advantage does a realtor have in spending time (and thus money) to put ads up on the internet?

    My spouse and I just (two days ago) sold our house [realtor.com], and our realtor told us that close to 80% of their clients came to them and asked to see houses that they had found on the net. He said it was well worth the money to list the house (and get the IPix shots).

    It's also great for us, since we're moving to the other side of the continent [portland.or.us]. We can pick some examples of houses we like, and give the MLS numbers to our buying agent, and save a lot of time by not looking at houses that don't fit our needs/wants.
  • I wanted to sell my house and did not want to pay a Realtor(tm). It was obvious that the net was the way to go so I built IndyFSBO.com [indyfsbo.com]. FSBO stands for For Sale By Owner. We've sold $136 Million in real estate since then. We've taken almost $10 million out of the Realtor's pockets in saved commissions. If there's a better search system than ours I haven't seen it.

    Like Taco, I sold out about two years ago and still own a piece and run the tech side of the site.

    Few if any people actually BUY online but most buyers use the net heavily to sift and sort the potential homes. We also offer a system which notifies buyers when new listings match their search criteria. We've been doing that for over 3 years. Most folks go through two stages in the search. First they use the search system to look at the existing listings to see if they find anything they like. Then they switch over to a mode where they focus on the new listings. We add about 5-10 listings per day.

    Most folks agree that anyone with the title of Broker, Agent, or Dealer will be a vanishing breed. These middlemen used to have total control of the market because they controlled the information.

    There are lots of sites that have tried to make FSBO work. One of the big national sites, Owners.com [owners.com], went under May 1st. They offered three levels of service $150, $80 and free. All but a few went with free. Because the listing werefree there was no barrier to keep junk or trial listings off of the site so it was full of junk listings. Junk listings made it useless to search the site so the buyers stayed away. We focus on just Indy for now. Having a hundred listings is useless if there are just 2 in each state. You must have a critical mass to succeed.

    We charge $239. Only serious sellers put their home on our site. For that fee we can advertise, pay our staff, make Sharp looking signs, and do all the other things which keep our success rate at or above that for the local Agents and we never refuse a listing. Ever. We also offer contract, consulting, and mortgage services for those who want help.

    I sold my last house through the site last May. It was just a little harder than selling a car. We saved $11,000. Hell yes! I'm willing to put in a little effort to save that much. You can't save that much clipping coupons in a lifetime! Selling on the web, without an agent, is actually easier since you show the home far fewer times. This is because our listings have 5-6 photos and you don't show the house to people who are going to take one step inside and go "I HATE that [fill in the blank]!" They already looked at it online and didn't waste your time. Our buyer was in a town 60 miles away when she found our house. Arranged the showing over the phone and made an offer within 10 days. At full price. An agent might show your house 50-100 times to get ONE offer. That's fifty times you have to Clean the place from top to bottom and drag the kids out. I have toddlers and that's a HUGE pain.

    The feedback we get usually follows that model. I've had customers say they that they want one call and one showing per offer. One some houses we get VERY close to that ratio. It is the greatest rush to get a message from a seller saying that they just saved enough to send their kids to COLLEGE! There are some neighborhoods where people don't list with agents anymore. They've seen all their neighbors succeed with us. (go to the site and do a keyword search for "old stone")

    I could go on for hours. Running IndyFSBO/Homeyeah has been a real eye-opener for me. Lots of folks with the Broker/Agent/Dealer title make a pile of money doing what most consumers could themselves.

  • by astrashe (7452) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @09:42AM (#150915) Journal
    I used to work on real estate web sites.

    Most local MLSs (multiple listing services) have sites that are open to the public. Here in Chicago, the site is called www.mlsni.com.

    Although MLSs aren't national, they tend to be the most complete databases around. But sometimes there isn't a single MLS you can use. I think there are something like 20 MLSs in Cleveland, and I'm pretty sure that at least parts of Manhattan don't have one at all. So depending on where you are, you might have some luck with your local newspaper's site.

    It also makes sense to look at the company specific sites. Most towns have one or two large players who control most of the listings -- searching their sites will turn up most of the stuff you're interested in.

    In order to understand the situation, you have to start with the fact that Realtors make their money in large part from their privilaged access to MLS systems. If you want to sell your house getting listed in the MLS is important, and if you want to do that, you have to pay a Realtor.

    And on the flip side, a great deal of the profits from the business come from selling things like mortgages to home buyers. That's why you see companies like GMAC running their own real estate companies.

    How does this affect the web? Well, in a universe where MS's Home Advisor functions as a national real estate marketing database, MS gets to sell the banner ads to the mortgage companies. Large realtors want to keep control over the customer -- they want to steer him or her to their own mortgage company. So the national aggregator web sites like Realtor.com and Home Advisor were seen as threats.

    Just because the rise of the web has rendered the proprietary systems of the past obsolete technically doesn't mean that Realtors want to give up their leverage. None of the 800 lb. gorillas in the current dynamic have an interest in an efficient web based system where everyone has equal access to the market.

    The big companies definitely saw things like Home Advisor as a real threat. And they've done what they can to block it.

    So why do the aggregators exist at all? Well, MLSs are run by local boards of realtors. And those guys tend to be dominated by small realtors who have lots of votes. Coldwell Banker might sell 40% of the houses in your town, but they probably get pushed around a bit on the local realty board by small companies with a few offices at most. And those small companies user their votes to allow the MLS to sell all of its listings to the homestore.com and homeadvisor.com's of the world.

    There are an awful lot of complicated power struggles going on behind the scenes.

    The long and the short of it is that an open, efficient web based marketplace for homes is only slightly more likely to happen than open, efficient, online sales of GM cars. Too many people with too much money and clout will lose if it happens.

  • So which slashdot editor is looking for a house and expecting a good deal from one of the sites?

    This is without a doubt the most pathetic AskSlashdot in over 24 hours.
  • At first I was going to joke about using TerraServer to help with real estate decisions. (What should I buy today? I'll just give the TerraServer [microsoft.com] a spin...)

    Then i look it up...and Microsoft [microsoft.com] has placed it in their HomeAdvisor [slashdot.org] site.

    Of course, they no longer let you simply put in an address. (People want to see landmakrs! :P ) So you might want to get your latitude (slt) and longitute (slg) from your url returned by maps.yahoo.com [yahoo.com]

  • but when it came to finding someone to put a new roof on the house these guys [theroofingcompany.com] did a great job.
  • We did a job busting the local real estate association hq from Novell to NT several years ago and what with MLS etc they are ALREADY highly networked and databased - it's just a matter of putting up a web front end on it. For searching out of town it's a dream come true, or just for 'searching' (pattern matching) in general - you don't have to subscribe to out of town papers to get the classifieds, make long distance calls, completely trust some agents judgement to find what YOU want. Nobody is going to close deals over a web form, unless it's securing a property with a credit card # untill the agent can be contacted, but it is sure handy for seeing what's out there. I wish more automobiles (local) were listed online.
  • I'm interested in buying inexpensive rural real estate, and I've had pretty good experiences doing research using online resources. (I particularly like United Country (http://www.unitedcountry.com [unitedcountry.com]): I've subscribed to their paper catalogs for almost 20 years!)

    However, there's one thing I still can't find: Maps that compare average home/acreage prices throughout an area, or (preferably) countrywide. I've tried everything: Census, real estate pro sites... nothing. Can anyone offer some help?

    Thanks,


    Tom Geller

  • Heh.. I too am in the CNY area (buying a house in Bridgeport).. Try www.cnyhomes.com.. They get the MLS listings the day they are put in.. I actaully did find the house I am buying through www.realestate.com, but that was before I knew about cnyhomes.com....

  • ... as opposed to the kind of boring place anyone can find and buy.

    Check out the pictures of houses in your price range. Write down the addresses of homes whose pictures appeal to you. Be sure to be on the alert for neighborhood characteristics (trees, ocean views, etc) that might be in common with a number of houses.

    Physically visit the houses you like. If the neighborhood still looks appealing, go back to the real estate listings and look for more homes on those streets. (Ziprealty.com, which I recommend, makes this easy).

    This may be better suited to dreamers like me than people who actually want to buy homes now, but if you do it for a while it will give you a good feel for the market, probably better than all but a handful of realtors. Then you can visit realtors with a well-informed perspective.

    http://www.amazing.com/david/dream-house/ is my amusing take on the Los Angeles real estate market of a year or so ago. Sad to say, things have changed for buyers: They have gotten worse :-(.

    D


    ----
  • Ulp. What costs $50,000 would run you $350,000 in Southern California, and don't even think of Northern.

    Nice site, though.

    D

    ----
  • Realtor.com is an exceptionally poorly designed web site in my opinion.

    I've found that one of the most useful things to do is find a few streets you really like and search for homes on that street. Morro Drive in Woodland Hills is a nice example, as is Rambla Pacifico in Malibu. You can then visit the area and find similar streets (i.e. Castlewood Drive in Malibu). ZipRealty.com, as I said in another response, is excellent in finding things like this.

    If you're a compulsive researcher like me, you'll certainly find it quite enjoyable to check through the listings. Remember, you're blowing a lot of money for this house; you really should spend some extra time to find one that suits your taste. From what I have heard, all but the best realtors around find this quite difficult.

    D

    ----
  • I just went through a home search, extensively using the web. I was not interested in getting rid of the realtor method, and had one with me, but rather I could find homes and take them to the realtor.

    It works on two levels. One, the realtor may miss something you may actually like, even though it's not what you requested in the first place. We had a few of those.

    Two, the realtor can find homes that match what you want, however the web gives you a quick way of looking up what (s)he's given you. Sometimes just looking at a pink house with a bright blue garage just doesn't cut it, you know?

    I used MLS Online [www.mls.ca] to search in Calgary. It can be used for Canada, and became an invaluable tool.

    Here's an example of a home offering pictures. [www.mls.ca]

    And here's mine, come take a look! [www.mls.ca]

    In the end we ended up deciding to build a new home, but the process was there for the internet to help.

    Vip



  • I moved out to california about a year ago. I went through teh usual lines got a job an the second task was finding a house. I tried teh usual, rent.net, yahoo.com, and local pages, . like la.org, such like that. there were many listings but what I realized was that I was looking at a very small portion of what was actually listed. even newspaper website when you search there classifieds, in some cases you get directed to rent sites and not the actual classifieds. anyone who limits themselves to just the net is really limiting their prospects, and in my expereince the only firms which place stuff on the web are large developers with huge overhead, ie more cost.
  • ... that is hard to defeat. Realtors tend to not list hot properties so that they can sell them to their preferred customers (mainly people who buy investment properties but also for friends that they know are looking, family, ect).

    Additionally, sold houses will stay listed. Why? Because when you inquire about a place that is sold, they can then make a pitch to you to buy another place after they "sadly" inform you that your place of interest is no longer available.

    Sadly, this is a fact of life.

  • I work in San Francisco, and I telecommute from Tampa Florida. I found my Tampa house on-line from San Francsico using www.realtor.com. The agent had posted a 'virtual tour' that included some horridly distoreed 360 degree views, but otherwise the listing was very accurate and useful. I had my family check it out and after that I flew out to see it personally. Three weeks later I signed the papers and moved in.

    All in all, it was a pretty good experience.
  • "It must be true, I read it on the Internet!"

    A few weeks ago, HUD added some new houses to its listing of mortgage foreclosures that would be coming available. An error had them list my address as available for sale at about 1/2 the market price for this area. I had tons of people coming up to the house wanting to see inside and looking around the outside of the house. Many of them didn't believe me when I said that they had the wrong address.

    The Internet is a good way of getting information out to a lot of people, but the accuracy of that information is often wanting.
  • At least it is in a sellers market. Houses don't show up on MLS until after the listing realtor has offered it to 2-3 of his/her close clients. Once it's on MLS all of the realtors seem to get a head start vs. electronic updates to the Internet, and (the good ones) check for updates multiple times a day and call their clients.

    By the time _you_ see it on the Internet, it's been seen in person by several prospective buyers. The net result of this is that the really nice properties are always under contract by the time you see them show up on the Internet, if they get to the Internet at all.

    What's left is less desireable properties -- poor location, overpriced, poor condition, etc. And these tend to stay on the Internet for months at a time.

    I just bought a house after my wife and I spent endless hours driving around looking at houses we found on the Internet. None of them was any good. We finally got lucky and got a great house that our realtor hadn't put on MLS yet. Without the realtor we would still be renting.
  • by Scutter (18425)
    The Michigan MLS site is complete by law (except for Sale by Owner). All licensed real estate agents in Michigan are required to submit their homes for sale to the MLS database.

    FP
  • Absolutley correct. The web seems to promote a very do-it-yourself attitude, but sometimes you can't beat having a person who's been there before in the loop. When I bought a house, we went through a buyers agent as well, and it saved quite a bit of work. What a lot of people don't understand is not only do the agents have access to the latest houses to go on the market, they are also aware of houses that may soon go on the market.

    We bought our house the day it went on the market. There's no way we could have done this without an agent (or without being extremely lucky).

    In addition agents know a lot more about houses than most folks do. They know the history of a lot of houses as they may have seen them on the market, and also have access to when the house was last sold, and for how much.

    My agent calls me to work on her website, and I call her to find me a house... we both realize that the other has skills in an area we do not.
  • However, if you watch the MLS listings for a few weeks or months it becomes clear that realtors freely abuse the MLS for marketing purposes.

    Attractive properties remain listed on the MLS long after they actually close, because it works like an advertisement to those who read the MLS. Or like the signpost in the front yard with the little tag that says "sold", it serves no purpose but to advertise the agent's name and number for another potential buyer.

    There's no perfect information source, not even MLS, and realtors are perfectly satisfied with that.

  • The sign was up for weeks with the "sale pending" or "in escrow" tag. And then it disappears. Has it sold? More than likely.

    The only way someone could still believe it's for sale is if it's still listed in the MLS. Which, as I said before, is part of the realtor's game. n

  • I recommend a combination of meat broker and online sites.

    Best sites:
    ZipRealty.com -- for saved searches and search result display format
    Domania.com -- for looking up the sale history of the house, neighborhood, etc.
    Realtor.com -- has description with room dimensions. You can get the MLS # from ZipRealty, then do a lookup on Realtor.
    local paper -- for their mortgage comparison chart, updated daily

    These were invaluable not only for suggesting things to see, but letting me figure out what I DON'T want to see, and getting a good sense of what a house goes for in a particular town.

    I wish these sites allowed a more sophisticated search, though, like "where TYPE is NOT RANCH and NOT MULTI". They clogged up my result set.

    Worst part:
    The online maps. After you drive around a town enough, you know the chunks where you don't want to live. It's very hard to get a good Big Picture from Yahoo maps. Get an atlas. Do drive-bys.

    A buyer's broker sounded weird the first time I heard of it, but let's face it: the seller is going to pay a 5% commission, and it will either get split between the listing broker and the showing broker, or be kept entirely by the listing broker. It might as well be shared with someone who works for you. Many brokers have an MLS site that will send you daily e-mails on new search results.

    I did all the footwork for finding a house, but she helped with negotiating, calling the fire department to check for buried oil tanks, recommending home inspectors (who don't work for the selling broker), recommending a floor refinisher, etc.

    The drawback to online searches is they hit the web a few days after houses go on the market. Live brokers may know about them before the MLS listing goes out, and can show them before the world learns they're available. I just saw a "new" listing on zipRealty that I saw in person two weeks ago.

    You can leave your contact info with listing brokers in your target area, and say you're working with a buyers broker but would appreciate hearing about anything their agency lists that fits the bill. We got calls on some nice houses a selling broker was listing that way.

    Best technique for handling selling brokers:
    One of you asks questions about schools, neighborhood, etc. while the other gets a good look at the electrical box or condition of the roof.

    Happy hunting-

    --tangram
  • MLS (Multiple Listing Service) offers a good cross-section of the market across most of Canada:
    http://www.mls.ca/ [www.mls.ca]
    Of course, no amount of web-surfing will get you the perfect house. For that, you actually have to go out in the real world, and deal with real people. Horror of horrors!

    I take posession on the 15th of July.



    --
  • The firm where I used to work ( http://www.toop.com.au ) has got quite a system up: properties are added to the website before the first ad appears in a newspaper, ipix panoramas are on the website within a week of listing, you save your search criteria and get SMS/email notification when something comes in that suits you...

    This took a pretty major rearrangement of the business systems, though. My understanding is also that the major real estate portals for Australia slipped up to begin with a few years ago, retarding the uptake of the internet when it was 'boomtime' -- expensive, late to update (auctions had been held by the time the property was on the website, in far too many cases) and crashed too often. Also, as has been noted, the web was meant to reduce middlemen, and agents resist _that_ idea for obvious reasons.

    Essentially, real estate won't shift to the 'net until they gain more from it (exposure to potential buyers) than they lose (by slimming margins) and even then, the shift will be slow rather than dramatic because real estate is an area where people can't depend entirely on the virtual. A book from Amazon will be the same as the book from the local bookstore chain, but a house is a much larger purchase, and unique in location/design/etc.

    Just my perspective on things...
  • Could. Not. Agree. More. As someone who just purchased a condo for the first time I have to say I could not have done it without a realator. Sure I tried to do the web search thing (Didn't know about the MLS system yet), but most of the sites offered little of what I was looking for. My realator was faxing me 4 or 5 listings a day of things she thought I might be interested in. In additon to actually being able to find what you're looking for (and the time savings associated with that), a realtor is invaluable when it comes to little things. Stuff I never would have thought to ask about she asked. What kind of insulation is in the house? What kind of fixtures are they? Stuff like that. Some people might know about all that Home Depot junk, but I certainly don't. The only questions I was prepared to ask were "Can I get a Direct TV dish?" and "What about DSL service?".

    Bottom line: First time buyer? Get a realtor.

    Pete

  • My wife and I just purchased a new house ... we chose a realtor to deal with in the local area (one I had dealt with before) and started looking. I mentioned that we were also searching on the net for houses that matched our parameters.

    The realtor informed me that, if a house is listed on the internet, it's either already sold ... or there is something wrong with it that has caused it not to be sold (and probably wouldn't sell anytime soon).

    Case in point: Once we found a house, made and offer, and had it accepted (with an "A" contingency) we put our condo on the market.

    Our condo sold within a week ... but it wasn't listed on the web sites (realtor.com, bairdwarner.com, etc) for 2 weeks. Needless to say, by the time the condo was on the internet, we had a contract and were out of attorneys approval.

    m
  • Um. No.

    If a wealthy someone wants to buy a house in some pastoral place they don't need the Internet to do it. They call up the local broker and throw an obscene amount of money at them, just like they have always done.

    As for supporting local real estate agents or newspapers, since when did these groups move to the top of the moral support food chain?

    Internet sites have major benefits over newspapers (better search, more info, maps) and have some benefits relative to a realtor (self-directed). In the near to medium term, the Internet will likely support the real estate agent and not supplant him or her. In the long-term, we'll see.

    JCS
  • I found my last house on Picket Fence Preview [picketfencepreview.com] It is a for sale by owner oriented listing, and they are specific to Vermont, New Hampshire and parts of New York. I had a great experience buying... and will definately use them when it comes time to sell my house.
  • And due to the fact we live in a supper hot market it was pointless. By the time the homes made it to the online sites all of the 'good' homes were already under contract.

    At least in the Maryland market we couldn't find a way to access the MLS listings as they were entered in the the database.

    We ended up going with a broker and found a great house and put a contract down on it the day of the first showing. As did 3 other people, but we got the contract anyways.

    So if you live in a market or want to buy a home nobody else likes that takes weeks to sell you can use the internet. Otherwise you need a broker to get you in a house the first day on market.

    Later,
    MarkV.
  • I know that I found the realtor that I used to just go to contract via the net, and I looked at a LOT of houses (Including one I made an offer on) via the net. The house I'm buying never made it to the net.

    The thing is, I knew the exact areas I wanted to buy in, and could weed the listings on Realtor.com close enough that 90% matched the area. That lead me close enough to email my realtor to say "setup a showing"
  • You mean Manhattan (I can tell by the brokers you listed)

    I found the Realtor.com did a good job out in Queens. It seems there are 2 MLSs dealing with Eastern Queens, LIBOR, and I forget the name of the other. Talking with the agents, even thier "In House" stuff delas with these 2 MLSs. One is dieing, as there system sucks, the other gets the info to the brokers FAST, and also puts the info right into realtor.com

    The BIG problem in Eastern Queens right now is that the market is VERY hot, and most houses go before they make the MLS system!

    An example - I'm in the middle of buying/selling. The house I bought was on the market 2 days, and was MLS from the first day. The house I'm selling, the agent asked me to let him have a 5 day exclusive (aka, NOT on the MLS system) - The house was gone the 2nd day of showings, and I had multiple offers

  • Exactly.

    A buyer's agent will do the research for you.

    A really good buyer's agent will interview you to figure out what you're looking for and what aspects of a house are important to you and then visit every property in your targeted neighborhoods and price range and then take you to visit the best canitdates in a really efficent tour.

    I tried looking at houses on my own and quicky learnd that 80% of the houses I visited were really disapointing, overpriced or not anywhere I would want to live. My agent more than earned his money in the time savings.

  • I just got back from my home inspection on a home I found via the Internet. I feel that sites like realtor.com are great as general guides, but they are definatly NOT up to date at all. Every single house we asked about on those websites was sold, pending sale, or off the market. Looking at those sites give you a really good idea what you can afford and provide realistic expectations for what that price will include however. Looking at those realtor websites gave us a good idea what neighborhoods we should look in/can afford. We actually ended up finding a for sale by owner by checking out the website of our local paper and reading the classifieds via the website (we dont get the daily paper).
    Malice95
  • I sold my house 4 years ago without a realtor, by creating a website for it, and listing it with several online listing services whose names I of course do not remember.

    I found that the realtors are incredibliy hostile and will do their best to steer people away from a "for sale by owner" house. The realtors realize that their 7% commision is in great danger if buyers and sellers can find each other. I would not be surprised if Realtors were actively trying to shut down home listing sites.

  • The only kind of real estate searching I've done on the net involved rental properties (apartments). I have done some searching for townhouses for sale, but those were usually found in apartment search engines. In southern California, Southbay Rentals is the most popular place (lists apts and roommates needed). I found a bunch of other sites, though, but they were extremely UNuseful. Almost all the sites that had stuff for sale or for rent required you to call and talk to the real estate agent in person/on the phone.

    So I guess I have searched a lot and haven't found anything useful in terms of rental and real estate stuff.

  • The Washington Post's .com [washingtonpost.com] column today is about realty sites.

    btw. I hate it when people say "real-ator".And "nuke-ular". Makes me twitchy.

  • Strangely enough, I actually found the house on the net, but I had my realtor do all of the dealings with the seller [who was a realtor themself].

    The first realtor I had [or thought I had, as the case may be] was a complete asshole. I had just moved into the area, and was taking a new job, which I was supposed to get the formal acceptance call that week. [I had already gotten an informal acceptance]. My mother, however, had recommended him as someone who had experience with HUD homes, as she had used him for a VA home.

    Being 24 and just starting a new job, he wanted nothing to do with me. I'm guessing that my asking him about what would happen if I significantly underbid the asking price didn't help, of course. Unfortunately, there was a limited bidding window, and he wouldn't return my calls, therefore, I missed the window. [And the house went for $85k, $30k under the asking price].

    I found another realtor, and went did the whole house hunting thing. There were a few decent homes, but nothing anywhere near a nice [nice being relative, as it was a definate fixer-uper] as the house I had lost. As I was also looking on the internet myself, I found out a house on the internet that sounded remarkably like the one I had lost out on. [right street, number of bedrooms, size, detached garage, etc] Unfortunately, there was no picture or street number.

    My realtor managed to look the house up on her system, and we found out that it was in fact the same house that had been up for sale by HUD the month before. After my realtor went through a lot of crap in trying to get to view the house [I found out later that they actually buy the house from HUD 'till a couple of days before they turned it around to me, even though the whole process took a few months].

    Over those months, however, my realtor did all of the harrassment work. We made them do some repairs before I took possession. Although I did something rather abnormal [I had about $5k of work done _before_ I owned the house, so I could get the loan approved, which is another story].

    I got them down to $105k, with them giving $5k in closing assistance, and they had to do a few assorted repairs [electrical, plumbing, heating] before I'd take posession.

    In all, it was many months of headaches, and I spent more than I would have if I didn't have the original asshole realtor, but in the end, I did get the house that I wanted, and I would have gone crazy if it hadn't been for my second realtor. There is no doubt in my mind that if it hadn't been for her and my checking various web sites on my own that I wouldn't have gotten the house. [And technically, her cut got paid by the seller, not by me]

    In all, I spent about $113k [with closing costs, etc.] and the house appraises for $148k, less than a year later.

    Get a realtor. I'm gussing most of you, even if you change your own oil don't lube the transmission yourself. [a car being the second most expensive purchase you'll own] And you wouldn't let someone who's never used a computer upgrade yours [third most expensive]. So why would you risk messing up the most expensive single item purchase you'll make to someone who doesn't know what they're doing? [that being yourself]. Get someone who's a liscensed realtor in your state, and let them work for you, even if you are looking for possible options on your own.
  • HomeCounSeller.com [homecounseller.com]
    Wisconsin only, pretty new site. Has FSBO and MLS Listings and allows people to place thier home up for sale. But, all sales are done off-line. Yes I am bias, I worked on it.

  • When we moved, the area we moved to did not have MLS. So, it was impossible to find anything online in the area. However, most of the stuff for sale was listed by all the realty agents in town.

    On another topic, why is it that online displays of houses often are missing pictures? The same could be said of anything sold online, but for something as important as a house I have to wonder. Compared to the commission a realtor will get, would it really cost that much to get a digital camera with decent resolution and shoot some good pictures, inside and out?
  • What advantage does a realtor have in spending time (and thus money) to put ads up on the internet? How much more money are they really going to make by selling to someone out of state/country?

    I've been looking at homes lately and over half the ones I've looked at have been homes I've found on the internet. It's not about selling to people out of state, it's about getting people in-state to look at your homes.

    Personally, I would be very concerned about buying a home over the internet

    I don't think anyone is buying a home over the internet (yeah, charge that home to my Visa), even ebay says that the bids on their real estate auctions aren't binding.

    Real estate websites like realtor.com and homebuilder.com are a lot more convenient than the local papers when it comes to finding homes that match your criteria and that's why they're used and that's why I hope they continue to exist in the future.
  • PropertyFirst.com [propertyfirst.com].

    Yes, I know this is off-topic from real estate. :)

  • Or like the signpost in the front yard with the little tag that says "sold", it serves no purpose but to advertise the agent's name and number for another potential buyer.

    Well, it also serves the purpose of stopping other realtors and prospective buyers from wandering through your yard if you've just bought a house... It should usually stay up for a week or two after you've bought the place for this very reason.
  • by AugstWest (79042) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @11:10AM (#150977)
    The net is indispensible, and largely removes the realtor from your searches.

    We used realtor.com [realtor.com] for the most part. Basically, if you just call an agent, they're not going to listen to what you're looking for, and they're going to take you to things that they have listed and want to get rid of. They're salespeople, after all. They will also want you to sign an "exclusive" agreement stating that you will not use any other agents for a period of time.

    What we would do is search realtor.com and harmonhomes.com (a local to CT site, which unfortunately was recently redesigned to the point of uselessness) and find the things that specifically fit what we were looking for. We would print out maps to them (a feature on realtor.com), and drive by to see if it was something we'd like before ever calling the agent.

    If we liked it, we'd call the agent and they'd take us out to look at it. Only once was the "exclusive agreement" brought up, and we insisted that it be a 24-hour agreement. Don't get roped into anything else, although I understand that these things are indefensible legally.

    This saved us a lot of time, kept us away from realtors as much as possible, and found us our dream home, which we just closed on last week.

    One more bit of advice -- get your mortgage through a broker, not through a bank. Mortgage brokers *only* deal with mortgages, so they're not distracted by everyday banking things, they can give you a boatload of options rather than the bank's 1 or 2 options, and they can often get you approved more easily, since they deal with a lot more mortgages than just one, so your mortgage becomes part of a "package" where millions are borrowed rather than a couple of hundred thousand.
  • by kootch (81702) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @09:42AM (#150978) Homepage
    I guess I can comment on this since I'm looking to either rent or purchase an apartment in NYC. And lemme tell you something, it ain't fun.

    There are three things you need to deal with in searching for a place online:
    1. dis-information
    2. scams
    3. horrible sites with horrible query functions

    You'll find places on the 'net that sound too good to be true... mainly because they are. After calling the # that you find in the Village Voice online, you realize that this is one of those services that although they don't charge a broker fee, requires you to pay $200 upfront for nothing.

    So you turn down that... instead finding a site that has some great pictures with great descriptions... of course it was taken 3 weeks ago because the market moves faster than they have the time to put the information on the web.

    And then there are just the really crappy sites. I've almost submitted proposals for work offering to make their sites better looking and more functional if they'll just drop the 15% broker fee (that's quite hefty since it's 15% of the total yearly rental which for a small 1 bedroom rental will equal about $3000+).

    Searching for real estate online is just like searching for anything else. You have two choices: go to the main players in the space or be prepared to follow a lot of shitty links to a lot of shitty phone service. Once in a while you'll get a gem, but often you'll get crap.

    If you're in NYC, try using www.bellmarc.com or www.corcoran.com Nice pictures, descriptions, and brokers, but their prices are higher... or, one of those gems that I found is a woman named Sophia that works at www.getapts.com (tell her I sent you)

    Just like everything else, dilligence is necessary... and sometimes you just need to get lucky.
  • I work in the tech end of the online real estate business. Our company pulls down data from foreclosure agencies (HUD, VA, FHA etc.) twice a day and after much reformatting and manipulation, reposts them on the web for all to use for free.

    We also upload our data to Homes.com [homes.com] which then is passed on to MSN Homeadvisor, Yahoo! Real Estate and others (we have people call out of the blue who saw the data on sites we've never even heard of).

    Problem is, most of the major Real Estate web companies don't update their data nearly often enough to keep up with the market. I've seen properties on MSN that have been off the market for months that have a "newly listed" icon next to them.

    --shameless plug--
    Try going over to USHUD.com [ushud.com] and check properties there. It's FREE, you do NOT have to sign up or give away major bodily organs to look at the listings.
    And heck, we even read /.
    --end shameless plug--

  • This is a decent site. http://www.fsbo.com/ It is a little thin. However, it is "For Sale By Owner" - that eliminates the Realtor.
  • Washingtonpost.com just today posted a story dealing with online real estate brokers, its a good read: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A642 40-2001Jun13.html

  • I bought a new house last summer and I used Realtor.Com [realtor.com] to do my preliminary search. Realtor.Com allowed me to search by geography, price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, etc. This allowed me to create a short list (about 10 homes) that I thought I might be interested in. I printed the information about each home and then I visited each home and ranked them in order of preference.

    Meanwhile, I still had a Buyer-Agent!!! The Buyer-Agent recommended several homes for me to go view. I actually did not choose any of her homes. The home I finally decided on was one that I found myself. However, my Buyer-Agent still walked through all of the price and improvement work negotiations (she got the seller to come down on the price and the seller did some basic maintenance to the house and some improvements), the phyical and termite inspections, and all the other sundry details of buying house.

    I would not ever dream of buying a house with out a Buyer-Agent, but the Realtor.Com was a great additional tool in the process.
  • I was recently a first-time home buyer. I totally agree with your comments.

    The MLS that the realtors use is updated much more frequently than the web sites. I imagine that it will be that way for a long time to come. Realtors pay a lot to have access to the MLS database. There are many homes you will never see (especially in the entry-level price ranges) if you only surf the web.

  • My wife and I just closed on a new house last month which I initially identified online last year. Some of the Real Estate search engines are pretty good at giving you an idea of where to start looking. Still had to go through an agent before buying the house, but at least we saved a lot of leg work.

  • Last November I bought a home using eRealty.com [erealty.com]. My first home. I live in LA County, CA (near Long Beach). I tried a traditional real estate agent a few times prior and was always discouraged. After trudging through long inital meetings and fruitless drive-arounds, I gave up. Even at these times I used on-line MLS (multiple listing services) that gave me pretty-good search features and would email the houses I thought I'd like to the AOL accounts of my agents. What a waste of time.

    Then I found eRealty through a mention at Consumer Advocate Clark Howard's web site [clarkhoward.com]. The attractive thing up front was the 1% rebate at close (I did receive a check for $2,100 -- 1% of the $210,000 sale price -- within days of close). But I also liked the service itself.

    eRealty has traditional realtors (working, at the time anyway, on salary, not commission -- a wonderful advantage for me, the buyer) who are Internet-aware (mine was, anyway; Cindy Morgan, BTW) as well as experienced realtors.

    They not only provided cool search and alert tools via their web site, but the the person touch provided by my agent and, when things got rocky with the seller's agent (idiot), the regional managers kept the deal alive and made a potential disaster rather pleasant. These guys fought for me. (They even fought for the seller, who was in the process of be forclosed upon for non-payment of mortgage; they arranged a deal with her lender to keep her out of foreclosure until my financing was approved; then, they worked with my lender, DiTech.com, to secure my financing within 2 weeks of application).

    I guess this is what I appreciated: eRealty provides traditional service with modern Internet tools.

    eRealty.com - Highly Recommended [erealty.com]
    --

  • You want to be in a good neighbourhood, close to schools, shopping, and recreational facilities.

    And more importantly near the telco CO for DSL, and/or in a neighborhood with cablemodem. :)

    My suggestions:

    http://realestate.yahoo.com/ [yahoo.com]

    dslreports.com [dslreports.com]

  • I've seen a few posts here already.

    I believe this ask slashdot is not asking about buying a home on the Internet, but searching for one.

    I've looked for price estimates and styles at realtor.com. These things are very useful in narrowing down lists of possibilities. It's also good for roughly judging particular areas. For example, I know I can't buy 10 acres of land in downtown syracuse (duh :) or liverpool, but can in Clay, NY. I also can tell that Manlius houses seem to cost over $120k, but Cicero can be bought for $70k
  • I'm not sure about all of the reasons given, but I can attest that, in *reality*, real estate on the 'net did not work for me.

    We put our home up on the net and paid relatively nominal fees to several sites claiming to market our home for us. We also contracted with a local realtor who was willing to adjust the contract so that we could simultaneously attempt to sell the home ourselves without paying a commission if we succeeded (most realtor contracts stipulate that you will pay the commission if you manage to sell the house yourself during the duration of the contract). Bottom line: we did get a few contacts from the Internet and classified ads, but we ended up selling to a contact our realtor found.

    We also attempted to look for a home in our target area on the Internet, but also had a realtor. Based on my first paragraph, you should be able to guess how we found our home... ;-(

    * I do believe that, once everyone has gotten over the shock of the dot-com-failures-that-never-had-a-way-to-make-mone y-anyway, we'll see someone start doing this successfully if ebay doesn't figure out how to succeed at it first. I also believe that there is a place for realtors and that it may just serve to drive the commissions to a reasonable rate...

    Mark
  • It's very difficult to have one all encompasing real estate market.

    It has to be split into different regions and sub-regions. I'm currently working on redoing a site for St. Louis real estate.

    It's got a long way to go. We just bought out the parent company. I'd love to hear your ideas on making the best real estate site for a given area. What features are needed?

    Your best bet would be to search for real estate in a given city.
  • I'm house shopping right now in a tight housing market. I don't use realtor.com or other national web sites because the good houses are sold before they get published there. Sometimes they're sold the same day they go on the market.

    I use a local realtor's web site that publishes new property listings once a day. I then view specific properties in-person. Then I have my realtor fax me detailed spec sheets of the houses that interest me (obtained from the database all the local realtors have access to). Finally, my realtor arranges a walk-through of the houses I want to see. For some strange reason the detailed information in the realty database is not published online by any of the local realtors.

    I would love to shop for my house entirely online (except for a walk-through as the last step), but that's not possible yet in my neck of the woods.

  • Before the dotcom bubble burst, I was looking to cash in with one of those high paying jobs. While evaluating offers, I used a bunch of apartment finders to look for a place to live in the areas with those jobs. I know I got no where near the whole rental picture for any given region using these services, but I got a basic idea what was out there and what the market was charging. One thing I learned was that there no way I could afford to live in Si Valley. Yeesh! In the other areas,I was able to zero in on about a dozen places that I could live in very quickly. This was very helpful since if I had taken any of the offers, I would have had to been out there yesterday, leaving very little time to find a place to live. Still, I dunno if I would use an online realtor to shop for house. It's a much bigger commitment in terms of cash and time. With the wrong apartment, you can put up with shit for a year a lot easier than you can break away owning the wrong house. And, since a large part of the reason for buying a particular house is the neighborhood, it's make much more sense to rent for a year and get to know the place before jumping in. Oh, and one other thing with the online apartment finders, their selections tend to be skewed towards luxury units. No suprise.

  • I live in the DC area, and around here, none of the sites are a hundred percent useful. This is mainly because most good houses sell in a matter of hours, just in time for the picture to be getting on the net. In my case, though, the net did provide a great deal of help. I looked through a ton of houses on line, and found four that met my criteria. Then, my wife called the agents and asked what they had that was similar to those homes (which had, of course, long since sold). We picked the second realtor we talked to, and found a house with him the first afternoon we went out. Disclaimer - I work for a company that has done real estate internet development, so take it for what its worth.
  • my wife did a lot of leg work on the web.

    She would give the MLS numbers to the realtor who would get us into the houses.

    I would say overall "the net" helped but in other ways it hindered us.

    Choices become boggling and you are very easilt side tracked (Honey look at this; 87 acres, 2500 room, 2 billion dollars.)


    ---
  • by dmccarty (152630) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @10:17AM (#151030)
    ...but I've found Domania.com [domania.com] to be an excellent resource when it comes to finding information about pricing for homes. I can look up the prices for a house or even all the houses on a street. Their coverage is pretty good for where I live (Chicago SW suburbs), and I think they cover a lot of areas in the US, except for Texas because it's a non-disclosure state. Anyway, my wife and I have used it a lot out of curiosity, and since we expect to be buying a house within the next few years I'm sure we'll use it for real.
  • I bought a house in a real tough market last year and the Net didn't help a bit and I will tell you why. First, in most states in the US, there are two ways of selling real estate, you can either do it through a realtor who takes a comission off of your sale price or you can do a For Sale By Owner sale, which you list the property yourself.

    The nasty part about realtors is this. Unless you are in a buyer's market, those properties that you see online are usually days or weeks old. Under the Multiple Listing Service guidelines (at least in my state) Realtors can sit on a property for three days before ever listing it on MLS. This is a big drawback for people who are trying to find houses on their own. And of course, you can't get to the updated MLS service at all unless you are using a realtor--this is how realtors hook you to using them (read:monopoly). So, people who are using the listing realtor or agency as a buyer's agent are usually getting first dibs on properties you may never see (it depends on the laws of your state if this is allowed).

    Now, of course you can save yourself the realtor fees if you attempt to find a FSBO property (as a buyer, you can approach a FSBO property with a realtor, but you'll be charged half commission). I bought my house this way, actually by word of mouth. But let's face it, FSBO only really works well if it is a strong seller's market, thusly, making the costs of publicity--through the local paper, on a local FSBO website [picketfence-vt-fsbo.com], etc. well worth the frustration factor.

    All in all, I would definitely buy FSBO again (you do need a good lawyer) but I wouldn't depend on online listings unless the real estate market was moving fast.

  • I happen to live in a rural, not so populated part of the country, so you can either go MLS or go FSBO, there are no other options. Now, in my state, real estate transactions are routinely handled by lawyers (from what I understand this is not the case in others) who can do everything from writing the offer with you, negotiations and closing--thusly you don't need a realtor if you are going FSBO.

    I wouldn't be so critical about the MLS system if they had it set up that you could access it as a buyer without a realtor, but still work with the selling realtor (and they can go get their 3% or whatever). As it is here, this is a no go because dual agency is an allowed practice. So, whatever.

    Finally, well duh that I don't agree with you. It took me 9 months, two different buyer broker contracts, and two prior failed bids to finally get a home (which was worth it). Believe me, I didn't feel one ounce of guilt when I started finally thinking of a FSBO home. I was kind of mad that I didn't think of it sooner.

  • My mother is a REALTOR® in Iowa and I've worked with her quite a bit in getting a web site started.

    At least in this part of the country, a seemingly common application for maintaining an area's multiple listing service (MLS) is using Technology Concept's Ultrex [ultrex.com]. (See, for instance, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls (IA) Board of Realtors [cedarvalley-homes.com] and the Southeast Minnesota Association of REALTORS [southeastmnhomes.com]). The web sites are essentially a "web-ified" version of the MLS database. So this is probably your best bet for finding real estate on the internet.

    Sites like REALTOR.com [realtor.com] don't generally get updated nearly as often or as quickly.

    Keep in mind, however, that in a lot of markets, agents can sell houses a lot faster than someone can enter them in the MLS database. My wife and I recently bought our first home -- doing so before it was even "officially" listed. It was never on the web, in the paper, or even had a sign. An agent will also have search capabilities in the MLS software that the web site probably won't provide. In most situations your best bet is probably to use an agent.

  • Just use a buyers agent, they work for YOU not for the seller. I worked with our for over a year, and I didn't have to pay a thing, they actually take from the sellers agent money; which is kinda funny when you think about it. If you don't use a buyers agent the seller keeps all of the moeny.

    I'd NEVER buy a house without an agent, ours did our paper work, got showings setup, etc. we went to over 50+ houses in her car all over and it didn't cost us a thing. Saved me so much time and money covering all of the little loose ends, giving advise on appreciable houses, neighborhood history, they have to disclose to you any detracting information (highway is going in 2 years from now).

    If that's not enough, try this when we finally found a house, put money down on it and later during inspection had some bad siding in areas, she did the negotiation for us (we told her we want this, she said OK I'll try to get that or better). Negotiations failed, seller still had our ernest money; that's when our agent became a badass. The same agency was representing the seller as was representing us, seller got pissed that our agent was helping us more than his agent was helping him. He also was threatening to sue: us, contract inspector, siding company we got quotes from, others, if we didn't buy the house. We never talked to the seller, since our agent was doing everything for us, she got the constant calls from him (upto 10 in one day) for that week, she came over as soon as he started doing this to let us know in person and to say that pretty much he has no ground to stand on, and she'd take care of it; we would not have to do a thing (other than let our lawyer know what was happening). That day we pulled back our offer, she came over with the normal sheet of houses for us to look at and to start going onto the next house. The seller finally told the agency he wanted to drop them and go with another one, our agent chewed her way up to the top and got the head honchos to tell the guy that if he doesn't return our ernest money and stop threatening to sue us they just might stop running any adds or do any showings for him; and he couldn't jump ship since they were in an exclusvive contract with them for a few moths more. That pissed the seller off completely but it sure got the message across, he gave everything up. 2 weeks later we found a house and a month later we closed.
  • Actually they by law are working for you have are to properly represent you in YOUR interests; if not you have legal recourse against the agent. They by LAW are required to notify you whether or not it is legally binding, bad things about the property, they are charged with actually investing why the seller is selling (something bad), motivation of the seller, etc.

    And if you are *that* concerned with it, buyers agents can also be paid directly (hourly, or a flat fee).

    Trying to go it alone, and it's almost list saying my dad who can run MS Office can do enough proper research in a couple of months to run a multimillion dollar unix environment with hundreds of servers and do it as well as any other admin who have been doing it for years.

    If you want, an info page I found below with a quick google search. I've got my original contracts stating about actually being able to sue, etc. the agent at home if you want the legal speak.

    http://www.exclusivebuyersagents.com/dfw/duties. ht m
  • You probably have a legal recourse, by LAW they have a fiduciary responsibility to the buyer (same as executors, guardians, etc) and MUST represent you properly. If you had that bad of an experience you might just chalk it up to the individual not the industry (such as a crappy Unix admin does not mean all admins suck). A buyer's agent does NOT remove the necessity for a lawyer, that's NOT their job, their job is to coordinate the mountains of paperwork, investigate why the seller is selling, how motivated the seller is, is there anything bad about the property (they are required to look into things like a new highway being build 2 years from now); they also have access to non-listed items (that's how we got our house, it was to be listed in the next couple of days and with a motivated seller got it 80k below other similar houses listed on our street, in a less desireable location). They are not a replacement for a lawyer, just like a lawyer isn't going to know the first thing about whether a property is in a spot likely to depreciate.

    With people doing research on their own... They way I look at it is kinda like this: I need someone to come in and do a whole buch of unix admin work, all our admins are involved in other projects, we can't pull any of them off anything, we just need manpower to do this big project:

    1) get a contractor who knows his shit in

    or

    2) get Bob from accounting who can do some windows things, he can do his own research for a few months to get upto speed on doing a Sun E10k domain cluster failover and have the vendor on the phone for help

    You can get a bad contractor who's main goal is to make sure things continue to break (and he continues to get paid) just like a bad buyer's agent, but you do have legal recourses in both situations. I'd even say a buyer's agent has a whole lot more to lose, and in most cases will always work for you interests.

    If you are that concerned about it, you can have buyer's agent also work without commision, either by a flat fee or hourly charge and you pay them directly; they know a hell of a lot more than you or I do (at least ones who have done it for more than a few months)

    Check out www.exclusivebuyersagents.com/dfw/duties.htm

  • by cvd6262 (180823) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @09:27AM (#151053)
    Are we going to be stuck with using real estate agents forever? Sure, you can buy a car from an owner, you can buy a house from an owner. But that doesn't mean it's always the best way to purchase the property.

    The net has allowed people to sell and buy homes sans realtor, but much of the money being put into the Net in this market, as in all markets, is coming from the people who have the money in the brick-n-mortor side of the market.

    I could go list my home on eBay with maps, photos, etc. and sell it that way, or I could list it in Yahoo! classifieds, but that won't rid the world of realtors. Nor should it.

    I use the Net to find the property I like, and then get me in touch with the agent or seller. Buying land online is much differenty from buying a car or CD online. In these cases, you can go down to your local dealer/retailer and test out the merchandise, while with a home, you really must see it in person, and it won't come to you.

  • Most real estate sales want to get you in the door, to do a face to face where you can get smoozed. They also have this thing about not giving information to their competition. And so it is going to be difficult to find something comprehensive.

    sort of like Arpa Net when it was started. No university wanted to share their servers. (but they did government mandate. everyone had to be part of the network)

    Here people focus more on the liabilities of putting stuff up on the net, vs the benefits.

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

  • Furniture.com, perhaps?

    What advantage does a realtor have in spending time (and thus money) to put ads up on the internet? How much more money are they really going to make by selling to someone out of state/country?

    Personally, I would be very concerned about buying a home over the internet, thus I'm not too surprised to find out that there aren't many people advertising the fact they're selling.

    Local newspapers and periodicals have worked for many many years, why would one try to move it to the internet, when it's obvious most advertising-run ventures are barely (if at all) profitable? Subsidizing a website that's losing money just so you can "be on the 'net" is bad business.

    People need to think about things logically from a business point of view, not the computer guy/gal view of "everything should be free and on the 'net." Business goals are often different from individual computer user goals.

    And I'm not saying my statements or right or logical, just saying to think about these things from someone else's point of view.
  • Many (but by no means most) real estate agencies and agents use their own Web sites to advertise themselves. The bigger and more technological ones post pictures and information for their properties. However, they'd rather use their own site and structure instead of a central repository.

    Keep in mind that you can't sell real estate like other stuff you'd find at Amazon.com or eBay. It's one-of-a-kind every time, usually changes hands from one individual to another, and can't be shipped across the country. Real estate is, and will always be, a local endeavor. Because of this, it's hard to justify the expense of a World-Wide Web site. A few do. But no one, to my knowledge, sells real estate exclusively online for just those reasons, and so you'll never have as much success hunting online as you will with a personal agent.

    Your best bet, if you must do this electronically, is to hit the online Yellow Pages [yahoo.com] and do a search for "real estate agent" in the location of your choice. A handful will have Web sites, but practically speaking, you'll have to settle down with some phone numbers and do it the old-fashioned way.

  • I am closing on the 29th on a house I found on Realator.com.

    There is no "definitive" real estate site, as far as I can tell. Your best bet is to visit as many as you can, devote some time to it, & figure out what's best for you.

    Just like the reset of life, there is NEVER an easy, all around, all encompassing answer. No matter what microsoft would like us to think.

  • by update() (217397)
    I'm frequently suprprised by how freely people here hold forth on what "we all" do or believe. Most recently, I questioned [slashdot.org] an article statement that "We all wish him well." regarding the fellow who fled to Canada to avoid misdemeanor charges resulting from his probably-shouldn't-be-considered-illegal threats against Scientology and almost immediately got knocked down from +2 to -1. (Aside: I've departed from the approved views on Linux, Microsoft, KDE, Napster, Apple and a host of other hot-button topics and never gotten tagged like that. I hadn't imagined Scientology was the one topic on which a range of opinion absolutely couldn't be tolerated.)

    But can I least express spketicism about this one?
    digThisXL asks: "We've all used the Internet to search for real estate at one time or another.

    I mean, I'm not taking offense at it but I have to smile at the assurance with which that staement was made...

    Unsettling MOTD at my ISP.

  • by FastT (229526) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @09:34AM (#151077) Homepage Journal
    ...and i'll be honest with you, the real estate sellers on the web have NOTHING in the way of true online resources. Realty websites do nothing except serve as an advertisement for the realtors who will ultimately get your business anyway.
    Did you try ZipRealty.com [ziprealty.com]? Unlike other online services, they give you direct access to the MLS listings with MLS number. Granted, this isn't everything, but it is more than I've seen from any other realty site. They also send daily email listing updates, and give 1% rebates on houses brokered through them, which is usually enough to cover closing costs. So far, I've been very pleased with their listings.
  • I don't think it is about buying over the net, so much as pre-selection over the net. Instead of puring over a news paper you can set a price range, a city (maybe even neighborhood), style, size whatever and get a list, then check them out. Also very good if you are going to relocate to a new city and want to narrow your choices down to make use of your visits to the city.
  • Actually, as a soon to be realtor, I can tell you that bundling of services like you describe is a fast growing trend. Current laws are not up to date on the realities of the situation, but the consensus is that they will be changing to facilitate consolidation of services while leaving the buyers and sellers free to unbundle and shop around. Expect lower prices and greater convenience, but don't expect less middlemen.
  • by RareHeintz (244414) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @09:50AM (#151090) Homepage Journal
    The problem with many such services - and it is shared by similarly-structured job search services - is that the useless middlemen the system is trying to bypass are constantly trying to hijack it. So many of the ads are actually spam - they're false listings, or (now and then) real listings provided by a realtor through whom you must go to view the property. Basically, they don't care how much they have to lie in order to keep you from performing an unhindered private transaction with a property owner.

    On the upside, there are a fair number of genuine listings - you just have to be willing to wade through the spam, and not give into the temptation to respond to the realtors who are trying to deceive you into paying their fees.

    OK,
    - B
    --

  • I found my first house in 1996 on Yahoo Real Estate listings. I fouund my second house in 1998 on Yahoo Real Estate listings. Now, Slashdot realized that there is something called real estate... Yahoo!?
  • by onepoint (301486) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @09:56AM (#151102) Homepage Journal
    The "net" has helped me alot with research. I use a very simple but profitable system for buying 2 and 3 families. My rules ( i hope it helps you guys ) are as follows.

    1) find the work population center that people must travel to. I live in northern NJ so I use New York City.

    2) using bus and rail scheduals I locate towns that have no more than 43 minutes of travel time to the main hubs on NYC ( Hoboken, Port Athority building and Grand Central station ). My list had over 321 zip codes

    3) sort the list by average prices of 2 and 3 family homes take the bottom half of the list. (cheap homes)

    3) take all the towns and sort by crime trend of 8 years. The sort should be from best to worst.

    4) take the top 60. and now rank by average tax of homes. ( Most MLS have databases of these numbers.) take the 40 lowest tax areas.

    5) rank the list by eduacation. the only data I have for this is the SAT scores that are published every year for each town. the data is for free.

    6) take the top 10.

    That's it, I then start seaching for handy man specials. and check out the towns. If I like the area, & the commute is true to bus schedual I start to hunt.

  • I agree, as I tried for several months searching thru realtor.com for a house or condo. Lots of cookie cutter houses on there, and not much use for finding any 'gems.' Even my local newspaper doesn't do a very good job of putting their classified listings online (I live in Columbus, OH - dispatch.com [dispatch.com] is the local newspaper).

    To find the real 'gems' in housing you really need to drive around the neighborhoods and scope them out for yourself, or go through a realtor to scope them for you if you're short on time. The real benefits to real estate that can be found online are the demographics and county listings on government websites. Where I live, our Franklin County Auditor [209.190.72.70] has a website that you can use to look up the last selling price of a house, year sold, etc. that you would normally have to go to a county courthouse to find out. That has been pretty useful to me, but the actual locating, buying, and selling needs to be either done by yourself, or thru a realtor still.

  • The Canadian Multiple Listing Service [www.mls.ca] is fairly comprehensive - I've used it to price check houses southern Manitoba.

    Lately (in the past 6 months) I've notice an 'explosion' of ComFree [comfree.ca] houses being advertised via lawn signs. ComFree seems to offer a pretty slick service, including VR tours. The housing market in Winnipeg has taken off in the last year or so, and as a result the need for a high pressure real estate agent has dropped. It will be interesting to see how well ComFree does when the housing market cools off.

  • by why-is-it (318134) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @09:13AM (#151113) Homepage Journal
    Location! Location! Location!

    You want to be in a good neighbourhood, close to schools, shopping, and recreational facilities.

    I don't know how you are going to determine if a given property has any of these things purly by surfing. Sooner or later, prospective purchasers are going to have to go to the area and find out for themselves what it is like.

    The pictures and short description of the house will not give you enough information about whether you want to buy it or not.

    Besides, when you are spending that much coin, you want to see it for yourself.

    People won't buy cars on-line, why would they buy houses that way. Part of the purchasing experience
    is going to the place and checking it out - live and in person.
  • All MLS listings on Realtor.Com [realtor.com] are two weeks old before being posted on the web.
  • i just spent the past three months helping my mother find her new home...two and a half months were spent using web realtors and such...and i'll be honest with you, the real estate sellers on the web have NOTHING in the way of true online resources. Realty websites do nothing except serve as an advertisement for the realtors who will ultimately get your business anyway.

    Oh, and after two months on the 'net, we were able to locate and close on a house in less than three weeks with a local real estate agent. Guess some things just weren't meant for e-business.

  • Realtor.com is updated by many, many smaller MLS systems. These MLS systems usually post the updated information nightly (at least, that's how often realtor.com _wants_ you to update the information via an XML based file that you FTP to their site everynight).

    In order to post listings to realtor.com, the board of realtors in that city must agree to a set of MLS rules (one of those rules are generally that listings must be posted within 72 (or less) hours to the MLS system), then their location realtor association approves the rules, then NAR approves them. Once they have been approved, then the real estate board must find an MLS system that will work with realtor.com -- generally not too hard to find.

    In my experience, MultiList Central (http://www.multilistcentral.com [multilistcentral.com]) has been the best company to work with. Again, that's just my opinion.
  • As first-time homebuyers, the web was GREAT for our search last year. We were able to do a great deal of research:
    • price comparisons
    • area comparisons
    • housing stock/type comparisons
    • information about amenities in each area we were considering

    This allowed us to decide that we didn't want to live in several areas, and helped us find a more affordable area in (believe it or not) the Bay Area. It also meant that by the time we went in to actually narrow down our search for a house and a realtor, we knew pretty much everything about the area's housing stock and were well-armed against the few charlatans we encountered.

    The site we found most valuable for the area was mlslistings.com. [mlslistings.com] (Santa Cruz mountains, though it covers most of the Bay Area.) As someone else noted, the MLS number is helpful. Since buying the house, we've been worried about losing value, and have continued to visit this site, to find (to our reassurance but doubtless not to current homebuyers) that the prices in the area are at least steady and perhaps trending upwards.

    That having been said, beyond whether it's got the square footage you want, the right number of bedrooms, a garage, and that detached servant's quarters, you won't learn about the reality of being in a particular house from a website with a single 100x75 pixel photo. But you can do your own price and feature comparisons, ignore irrelevant properties (if you've got kids, you probably don't want a one-bedroom) and figure out what's out there. This also saves you a lot of time driving around to houses you aren't interested in.

    The most important piece of advice I can give is DO THE RESEARCH. Homebuying is probably the most drawn-out, complicated, time-consuming, and above all, frustrating real-world thing most of us will ever voluntarily undertake. Know the tax consequences, the time and effort it will take, and budget for a lot of unforeseen expenses.

    Oh, and, don't get laid off like me...mortgages are a killer if you don't have a lot of money in the bank. Anybody want to rent a peaceful, sunny, recently-renovated 4-bedroom on a ridgeline right outside the valley?

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