Free online home search tools have completely changed the way that Americans search for a place to call home. In the not so distant past, you would have to contact a local real estate agent in the area where you wanted to buy and wait for them to send you a list of homes for sale.
Top real estate brokerages know that providing great customer these days means incorporating the latest home search technology in addition to everything else expected from a real estate professional. That’s why more and more brokerages provide their website visitors with the freedom and power to search the MLS from the comfort of their own home without having to contact an agent first.
Today people are much more tech savvy then was the case just 5 or 6 years ago. The average American prefers to research whatever product they’re looking for online without having to speak to a sales rep first, searching for a home is no different.
MLS home search tools allow the user to look for homes based on a wide range of criteria such as price, number of bedrooms, square footage, school zones, etc. with just a few clicks of their mouse.
Most real estate websites will even allow home shoppers to register so that they will receive an email alert whenever a new listing comes on to the market that matches their criteria.
The home search tool has become so popular that buyers will usually start communicating with an agent by providing them with a list of homes they would like to see instead of the other way around.
Trulia and Zillow vs. Local Real Estate Professionals
Nationwide companies like Trulia and Zillow provide MLS access throughout the entire country. However, many home shoppers prefer to use home search tools through a local real estate professional’s website. The best approach is to use multiple sites for finding homes as some websites are more user friendly than others in addition to providing valuable information that others may not.
Another advantage to using some of the larger companies like Zillow and Trulia is that they also have “for sale by owner” listings where as the MLS will only have homes listed by real estate agents. Buyers should be aware that sites like Trulia and Zillow tend to lag behind local MLS integrated sites when new listings are submitted.
Independent brokerage websites that are tied to their local MLS are updated every 10 minutes whereas Trulia and Zillow can sometimes take several hours to update new listings.
Does this mean the end of real estate agents?
Despite all the online resources available directly to the consumer these days, real estate agents can breathe easy knowing that they still play an essential role in the buying and selling of homes.
Although potential buyers can search for homes in their desired area, the homes they find are all listed with real estate agents, with the exception of a few FSBO’s [for sale by owner]. So in order to see the home they will have to either contact the listing agent of the home they wish to see or enlist the help of a buyer’s agent.
If a potential buyer goes to see a home without the representation of a buyer’s agent and then wishes to submit a contract on that home, then they’ve just hired the listing agent to represent them as well.
Although agents representing both seller and buyer are legally obligated to look out for the best interest of both parties, it’s highly advisable to research and hire your own buyers agent to represent you.
Hiring a buyers agent
Once you’ve compiled a list of a few homes that meet your criteria, it’s time to enlist the help of a good buyer’s agent.
It’s important to know that agents which show up next to the listings of sites like Trulia and Zillow are paying to have their ad displayed and are most likely not the best fit for you.
The best way to determine which agent is a good fit for you is to start with some online research. Type in terms like “buyers agents” or “buy a home” into the search bar.
The first page of the search results will provide you a list of the top agents in the area. You should interview 2 or 3 agents before choosing the one you feel would best meet your needs.
Once you’ve hired a buyer’s agent, establishing an open line of communication is key. In addition to showing you the homes that you found through your own search efforts, your agent should actively be looking for homes that meet your criteria.
The more details you provide, the better chance they will have at finding the perfect home for you. Working together with your agent on the home search will give you the best chance at finding the right home sooner than later.
A good buyers agent can make finding your home an easier, less stressful and even a pleasurable experience. Happy home shopping!