What you need to know when House Hunting Online

Aug 1, 2019 | Info for Buyers

by Tammie Gibbs
On the surface, the internet could well be the best thing to ever happen to the Real Estate Market.  Can you even imagine how people use to buy homes? A house was listed, an advertisement placed in the newspaper and people drove around looking for signs…. In today’s fast paced world many of us can’t imagine the rudimentary way the business use to work.  But, despite all of the good that technology has brought to the market it has also complicated things in a number of ways.
Expectation: Today’s buyers are bombarded by Real Estate Listing Site after site, many of which are repopulated information or “syndicated” information from their very own local real estate agents. That information on many of the BIG sites is really a watered down version in most cases of a listing that originated from the local MLS.  Local real estate agents, like myself have little control on how they display our information which can definitely be frustrating after all buyers expect accuracy when they are shopping. Our only solution would be NOT to allow our listings to syndicate to all of these sites, but then that would present another problem. As a listing agent in Vidalia, Ga. providing my seller’s with the broadest of exposures is vital and buyers have flocked to these sites and made it necessary for the local agents to utilize these portals. It’s convenient and I certainly understand convenience so I wanted to do a blog post that would help you get the most out of your Online Home search after all if you know what to expect then you won’t be as disappointed.
Searching the internet is a part of what I do for my clients and customers. While you may feel like you stay on the computer all the time the reality is that you really don’t and the perfect home can be illusive. As a REALTOR, part of my job is to aid in the home search. Every morning I look at my “hot file” which is a list of clients and customers that I’m working with and what they are looking for.  I start on the local MLS and then work my way through various other portals looking for just the right properties to fit the needs of those I’m working with.   Most of the time I will do this several times throughout the day. In a tighter market with low inventories it’s more important than ever for me to stay on top of this.
When we begin working together I ask a series of questions that help me match you with the right properties.
So… If I’m looking for your new home why do you even need to know anything about searching the internet for homes? A successful home search is one where all of us are looking and lets be honest, it’s fun to look at houses on the internet. I want my customers and clients to enjoy the entire process of finding and buying their new home.
So…here are a few pointers that will help you have a more successful and fun Online Home Search. 
-It’s important to know what a real estate portal is and isn’t.. 
    *It isn’t the final authority on anything. It’s a repository for data and the more data that most of these sites attempt to provide the more confusing it becomes for buyers.  Zillow provides buyers with so much information that it can be difficult to discern what is and isn’t available.  Here are some things to watch for: 
OFF MARKET: MANY OF THESE PORTALS PROVIDE INFORMATION FROM THE TAX RECORDS and therefore these listings are not for sale. Usually this heading is located in the upper left corner of the listing.
 PENDING: If you see the word PENDING (On Realtor.com or another portal) that means that the home is already under contract and someone is waiting for inspections, title work and financing approval. In some situations the seller’s may consider a “back up” offer in the event that the first contract falls through, but the seller cannot legally sell to you until the other contract has been terminated. 
PRE-FORECLOSURE: Preforeclosures are one of the hardest things for me to deal with as a REALTOR because it’s very hard to explain that there are any number of reasons that a house may appear on one of these lists and never be available for sale. For a more detailed explanation please call me and I’ll be happy to try to explain the ins and outs of Foreclosures and Pre-foreclosures.
 FORECLOSURES: This means that a corporate entity has taken the property back because the mortgage or loan went into default.  These properties are not the easiest things to buy and it can sometimes be frustrating to buyers to try to understand the process. 
-Foreclosures are not necessarily a better buy. Often they come with a whole host of issues that make finding financing difficult.   
-Sometimes it takes a Foreclosure a long time to reach the market and sometimes it never does. The time it takes for a Foreclosure to become listed could be even years after it’s been foreclosed and is mostly determined by the company that owns the property and their current foreclosure inventory.  In most cases these companies will not deal with individual buyers and that’s where I come in. I have helped many buyers navigate the often choppy waters of purchasing a foreclosure.  Buying one is definitely not for everyone.
Should you Buy a Foreclosure List? I know you’ve seen the teaser ads that want you to subscribe in order to get the most recent list of foreclosures in your area. All you have to do is sign up and pay them money.  I cannot tell you whether you should do this or not.  What I can tell you is that in most cases those homes will eventually be listed with an agent. Not all are, but most.  When that happens they will be listed in the MLS. Having a good agent that knows about foreclosures, and one that has become familiar with your particular situation and needs is a less costly way to go.  In all the years that I have been a REALTOR, I’ve met a lot of people who have paid to see what’s behind the door so to speak and found a lot of outdated information.  It’s simply a decision you will have to make.
So what should you do? 
If you’re in the Vidalia, Ga area I’d love to work with you.   Let’s chat and see if we’d be a good fit, but if you’re outside of my area Find a REALTOR….  You don’t work with a Realtor to do online home searches or show you houses, a REALTOR is a professional that will help you thru the process of making an offer and work with you to make sure that all of the many moving pieces of the home buying process from the inspections to the loan are handled with a little stress as possible.  
I often joke with my clients and customers that showing the houses is just the fun part, it’s like a bonus…. I guess you might equate it to a lawyer if he went on adventures with you prior to doing actual law stuff.  There is a little more to my job than what some people realize. Because of that some buyers put themselves at a disadvantage when purchasing. 
Did you know that in most cases the Buyer isn’t directly charged for any commission to the real estate agents? Instead, most commission is paid by the seller which means I work with most buyers and it doesn’t cost them anything.  But, by working with an agent those buyers can avoid costly mistakes.
So… after you select a Realtor you’ll want to sit down and decide what type of home you’re looking for so that you can know the parameters to use when searching. It’s difficult for anyone to help you if you don’t even know what you’re looking for. (And it’s fun figuring it out).
To make sure that you are searching the most accurate listing records choose a reliable online data source. Did you know that you can search the entire MLS database that REALTORS use from MY Website?  You can just click on the link below.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t browse the big sites, but what you can do is cross reference any particular listing that you like against the MLS to help verify the information. If that doesn’t work and you still have questions just pick up the phone and call me I’ll be happy  do that work for you.  
I can help you with most any listed property whether it’s listed with me or Lovins Realty or not.  In fact in  many cases I can also help with properties that are being sold “for sale by owner”.   There is a trick you need to know before you contact a “for sale by owner” .  As a first time buyer buying a for sale by owner property can be a challenge, before you contact the owner give me a call and let me help you.  I’ll be happy to discuss your situation and the best next step.
I hope that this article helps you get the most out of your home search and that it will make yours a fun search. I’d love to chat with you about house hunting. Give me a call.
Tammie Gibbs is an Associate Broker at Lovins Realty  and a published author. She has been a REALTOR since 2006.  She loves helping people buy and sell real estate in her hometown, the Vidalia Georgia area.  Tammie is a member of the National Association of Realtors, The Georgia Association of Realtors and has been the President of the local Altamaha Basin Board of Realtors twice.  Over the years not only has she been successful selling real estate, but she has also mentored several new agents, sharing with them from her experience in an effort to elevate the future professionalism of the Real Estate Business in her area. She enjoys using her extensive experience in marketing and real estate to offer her clients and customers the best of both worlds, an agent with an eye for creative marketing and the experience that only comes from being a top and multi-million dollar producing agent.  One of her favorite sayings is that “There is no substitute for experience.”  She is always looking for her next client or customer and looking forward to what she can do to help them navigate their way to fulfilling their real estate goals.  Tammie can be reached via direct phone at 912-293-2899 or at the office 912-537-8885.