Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Successful Browsing For Housing

Browsing for housing online isn't just about fat bandwidth and interactive content. says using a studied approach to home shopping online is more important.

by Broderick Perkins
© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

Deadline Newsroom - It's no secret in the world of residential real estate that well-informed home buyers who are also quick on their feet get the best pole position.

And there's nothing like browsing for housing online to bring knowledge and speed to the home-buying contest.

"More informed buyers, improve the transaction process," says Douglas de Jager, co-founder of, the latest home listing portal on the block.

"There is so much more information made available to us online, when you go to the actual home, it's just a validation process for what you've seen online," he added.

But transforming digital digs into a real home of your dreams isn't just about bandwidth and content. offers these little-reported tips to help you get the most out of your online home shopping experience.

Leverage the broker. Capitalize on the fact that brokers and real estate agents are the "matchmakers" in the residential real estate world. They use local expertise to connect buyers and sellers. Research, browse and focus your search online with tools they provide. They generally are tools that put you quickly in contact with all of the information and resources the listing agent or broker has to offer. Broker blogs, market reports, how-tos and other information can give you the foundation for an informed online home search.

Search in real-time. First come, first served takes on new meaning with property listings and other information electronically "fed" to you via RSS (really simple syndication) feeds, email alerts and Web updates. When fresh inventory is tough to find, alerts will keep you abreast of the newest listings and eliminate the need to manually check the Web again and again for updates. When you are on the go, you can tune into alerts via your Blackberry, iPhone or other device and stay up even as you drive from open house to open house.

"It's the difference between push and pull. You pull in information rather than going out a looking for the specific information you need to come to you," said de Jager.

Zero-in. With so many listings on the market, quickly navigating them all is a chore. Use online tools that allow you to refine your property search. If you are looking for a house on a particular street, search the street. If you need a pet friendly condo, ask. Whether you know exactly what you want or are just starting to figure it out, be specific with search terms like "new roof," "three-car garage," "established landscaping," "new kitchen appliances," etc. to find the property with the features you need.

"With so much inventory, rather than 20 to 30 pages of results, you can refine your search and get down to precisely those things you want," de Jager said.

Search "fresh." Avoid Web sites that don't update frequently and are far removed from the original online broker listing. If you don't, you'll miss out on listing changes and updates like new pricing information, new photos, open house dates and the like. Web sites that don't link to the original listing, lock you away from updates. Nothing is more frustrating than to find online what you consider your dream home only to soon discover that the listing was sold, removed from the market or otherwise changed beyond your requirements.

"It's much the same way when you put a listing in a monthly magazine. Don't expect that it's just come on the market. If there is no link between the advertisement and the original listing there could be a serious disconnect," de Jager said.

He also said local multiple listing services (MLS) that offer public access are among the best places to search on line because they use standard formatting and strict guidelines about adding and removing listings in a timely manner.

Screen home movies. Most MLS systems, however, can't hold a candle to professionally produced virtual staging jobs completed with interactive video tours.

"If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million," de Jager says.

Videos can give a much better sense of the proportions and the feel of a property. They can also play the starring role -- as a sort of 24-hour open house -- on a Web site or blog dedicated to the listing.

"A good video can often be as good as an open house visit," de Jager said.

And, if you buy a home with its own Web site, you can ask the seller to gift the Web site or blog to you!

"Videos have really taken off with the big brokers and high-end niche brokers. When you can find them they are valuable," de Jager added.

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Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist of 30 years, is publisher and executive editor of San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service, and the new Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's new backshop. In both cases, it's where all the news really hits home.

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