Where Best to Search Properties Online?
Over 80% of home buyers start their search for a property using the Internet. And it’s wonderful. At your own pace, and on your timeframe, in the middle of the night or on a lunch break… you can preview properties, neighborhoods, school information, and so much more. So where is the best online location to search? Web sites such as realtor.com, craigslist.org, oodle.com and others offer tons of properties, but are they the right place to search?
Aggregators = Not Always Current Info
Those web sites are aggregators, meaning they pull data from regional Multiple Listing Service (MLS) databases from all over the nation or world. Pretty nice, right? The issue with aggregators is that they most often have out-of-date information. The aggregator web site is not real-time (not instantaneous) as are most regional MLS databases. This means shoppers are bound to get frustrated with the process. You find a property, start to get excited about it, and then find out later that the entire time you were dreaming about the property it was already sold or no longer on the market.
We’ve seen it often enough: a client finds a property on realtor.com, asks us for more information, and we look up the current listing in our local MLS database to find that the property is no longer available. The client wonders how can that be? I’m looking at it right here, right now, on realtor.com… and it’s for sale. If the property status (price, sold, withdrawn, etc.) has changed in the last week or two, chances are the data on the aggregator’s web site is old as they only periodically grab updates from the regional MLS databases. If you think about it, it makes sense. If they are aggregating data from hundreds or thousands of databases, how can they realistically have “up to the minute” information every hour of the day or even every day or week… for the entire world?
And most people spend a few minutes or and hour studying a property online: reviewing its features, going over the pictures once or twice, viewing the virtual tour, showing it to the significant other and checking out the neighborhood or schools nearby… only to later learn the home is not available. Arrrgh.
The good news is that for sellers, it’s great to get a for-sale property on as many web sites as possible and the aggregators are a big help for just that. We publish listings to the consumer sites mentioned above, and others too. (Unfortunately, we don’t have any control over how quickly our listing data gets updated on those aggregator web sitses.)
And for buyers, the search options are many, and options are a good thing.
Searching Local MLS Only
To search a local MLS, it is easy to find regional MLS search tools directly, from a number of resources, and know that you are seeing up-to-the-minute, correct and accurate property information.
Most regional Realtor boards offer a public search tool, directly linked to the board’s MLS database. Or better yet, look for an advanced tool, such as the search tools on our SageRealtor.com web site. (Try it now: search area listings in Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Punta Gorda and surrounding areas). Ours is a direct link to every listing in the regional SouthWest Florida MLS database. And it’s a powerful search: you’ll find advanced search criteria (pool, waterfront, view, etc.) and “shop while you sleep” by signing up for email updates based on preferences. There is also a save properties feature, to a “cart” or “wish list,” so that you can review favorites again later. So you have the convenience of advanced tools, without the frustration of old or incomplete information.
SageRealtor offers the advanced search free of charge, with NO obligation. And it’s private: no phone number is required to sign-up and we won’t contact you via any means (phone or email) unless or until you ask us to.
For those who want even more advanced features, we offer a client portal, essentially a private, personalized shopping basket that automatically updates the second something changes in the local MLS. Clients get email updates, log-on to the portal anytime and view additions, view changes, and decide which ones you want to save or reject. There is even a comment feature, so that you can make notes for each individual listing. (Contact us if you’d like us to set up a portal for you.)
So when starting a property search, it’s worth a few extra minutes looking for a local regional MLS search tool that will save you time and aggravation down the road.