Tips For Home Buyers Searching On the Web

The National Association of Realtors says 90% of home buyers start their search for a home on the web. There are so many choices for how to do that, I thought I’d address some things that will make the process a little less daunting. As a Realtor with 18 years of experience in selling real estate in Colorado Springs, I’ve done a few home searches myself. Starting with some pretty lousy software we’ve gotten to the point where the software available is doing more of what we really need it to. But software isn’t the only problem. Even with the best software, knowing how to approach the process isn’t always easy. Here are a few steps that will help get you going in the right direction.

  1. Know your price range. This is an easy step that is often overlooked. Getting pre-qualified (or pre-approved even better) by a reputable local lender will help you to know for sure what price range you can buy in. Price range determines a lot in terms of the choices you have available. Please visit our Mortgage Center for lender referrals.
  2. Start With A ‘Wide Net’. Don’t try to over tighten your search parameters too quickly. Every city in the country is different in terms of the types of homes that are offered, and too often people try and take the house they have where they are, and simply replace it where they are going. Colorado Springs for example uses basement square footage in our MLS information, because the dry climate and soil conditions make basement spaces very usable here, and 95% of all of our homes have them. Some areas of the country do not, and that difference alone can change the search parameters for you. Things like stucco siding and tile roofs, while very common in some areas of the country, are not so common here, and making that part of your search can unduly restrict the homes you see.
  3. Know Your Needs From Your Wants. There some things you HAVE to have. There are others that would be nice, but not really deal breakers. Make a good list of those things, and try and keep them separate, and realistic. The more budget constrained you are, the more flexible you should try to be between the needs and the wants.
  4. Get Some Local Knowledge. While it may sound like it defeats the purpose of doing your own searches, the fact is that getting some local expertise from a qualified Realtor can save you a LOT of aggravation. My web site www.LivingColoradoSprings.com is designed to share some of that local knowledge, but a real interview with an agent can help clarify things a lot, and help both of you to work toward the same goal. Things like school districts, micro climates, traffic patterns, etc all require some local knowledge. Personally, I also offer a ‘guided tour’ using webinar software, to give my clients a good overview of the area, some ideas on driving times to their key focus points (such as work, school, churches, etc, and other insights based on the individual client interests.
  5. Focus On A Single, Or At Least Very Few, Web Sites. There are a million (not literally, but close!) sites for searching for property. They all are searching the same basic data base. I’m partial to the ones we provide, namely the Home Search facility of our LivingColoradoSprings.com web site (which allows searching by school district!) and the RE/MAX home search facility. Realtor.com is also quite good, and also offers an amazing smart phone app (Iphone and Android) that can use your phone’s GPS to show you homes for sale near your exact physical location. Once you’ve got a your search honed in a bit, in Colorado Springs we can also set up a Client Web site that is powered directly by our MLS. This can be specific down to a city block or a specific wall dimension. One of the DISADVANTAGES of public web sites is that they are not able to filter down as tightly, and once you really know what you want, you may find that a little frustrating, as some of the homes you see may actually be under contract or have other issues. We can filter much better on our MLS system.
  6. Ask For Help. Using the web to get an idea of what is for sale is a great way to get started, but you really don’t need to go it alone. Connecting with a Realtor (preferably one like myself who will act on your behalf as a Buyers Agent) to help you in the process is the best way to make sure you are informed and you don’t have to spin your wheels looking at homes you either can’t or wouldn’t want to buy. We’re eager to provide guidance that will make your overall experience more enjoyable!
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