Let's face it, when beginning a search for a new home, most people skip the real estate agent. And why not? First, it allows for relaxed and contemplative thought about WHERE to live, HOW MUCH to spend, WHO the neighbors may be, etc. Second, with all the Internet real estate search tools out there, people believe they won't even need a Realtor's help.
Before I explain why a Realtor® is still a critical step in any real estate transaction, let me go over the benefits of several of today's most popular Internet tools:
- Realtor.com (and the apps for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7): For a consumer site, this has the best and most current information, but it sometimes lacks in slick graphics, maps, etc.
When I search for one of my recently under contract listings, it appears as if it was never on the market. Not good! It is accurate that it is not currently for sale, but it should indicate that was recently on market and what the list prce was.
- Trulia.com (and the apps for iPhone and Android): Trulia excels with maps and info. There are many ways to approach you search and find results. It is fairly updated, but can also have incorrect data.
Yes, this is my listing and at the time I grabbed this screenshot, it had been under contract for more than 7 days...still looks available on their website. Not good.
- Zillow.com (and the apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7): Very graphical interactions. Decent information. Their estimates of market value are usually a joke, especially in South Florida.
When searching for my under contract listing, Zillow didn't show it as being on market yet. They also show two houses across the street where there is only one on that lot. And don't get me started on their Zestimate.
- REMAX.com and AdvanceRealtyMiami.com (my office's website): These are nice sites and they got my listing's information correct, but you'd expect that, right? For obvious reasons, these sites favor RE/MAX listings.
So, we learned a few things. First, each site had different information about my listing and only one of them (http://www.advancerealtymiami.com/) was completely correct. Second, every website out there for consumers is out there to make money and is therefore biased in some way (including RE/MAX's websites which will obviously favor the RE/MAX listings above others). Finally, and most importantly, if you rely on any one of these sites for your search, you have a lot of MISINFORMATION mixed in with good information. This makes it hard for even the most savvy buyers to make good choices.
Despite what I wrote above, I still advocate customers starting a home search using one or several Internet tools. Why not? It's an amazing head start. Buyers now have unprecedented power to see and search homes in ways they never had before. Forget the newspaper, get out in your car and load up one of the mobile Internet apps to see real-time data stream in as you drive by the homes. Wow, that's empowering! Even if you simply sit at a computer at home or work, you can see satellite images and even Google Street View of most homes, along with good sales data.
So, you can START your home search and get a lot of doubts cleared from your mind before getting serious, but when you are focused and truly ready to buy...
This is where working with a Realtor® comes in!
With you mind set and lots of manual search labor complete, it's time to contact a Realtor® to kick the search into high gear. Of course, I suggest you call me because here is what I can offer you:
- Direct access to the MLS. This means the most accurate information about the market possible.
- Search automation. You give me your criteria and I create a personal search website that sends you listings within minutes of them going on the market (Dirty little secret... ALL other websites pull data from the MLS and it typically takes from 5-10 days for them to do so. Guess which properties are already gone by then...the GOOD ONES!). You'll never have to search the Internet again! The best listings are sent to you automatically by email.
- Expert advice along the way and a second set of eyes tuned to your specifications.
- Insight about the way to view property listings, approach for a showing, angle for the negotiation, prepare for the work required to close a deal and, along the way, save you money and heart ache.
Sound good? I'll expect your call.