Home Buying in 95125>Question Details

CJ Brasiel, Real Estate Pro in San Jose, CA

Buyers: How do you like to search for homes?

Asked by CJ Brasiel, San Jose, CA Thu Jan 3, 2008

There are a lot of different ways to search online. Some sites have you enter the information (# of bedrooms, zip code, price range,etc.) and others let you surf the listings via a map format like searchonmaps.com. Do you have a preference? What are the advantages or disadvantages of different systems you have used? Thanks in advance!

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For me map feature is critical. After that, the more features I can sort, the better.
I have seen some broker sites that let you search within a neighborhood and I absolutely love that feature. The same site describes the neighborhood & lets you search that area.

There is one feature that I would really like that I never see: the ability to sort by TYPE of waterfront. For example, you may be searching for canal front and have to wade thru a LOT of lake front. And you generally have to go to listing details ie click into listing info, to discover that it is lake front, not canal front.

Speed counts. Slow response times will negate the advantage of extra sort features.

Since searching by map is impt to me, I frequently toggle back and forth btwn a site like Zillow and Realtor.com. If realtor.com inludes a brokers web site, then I will go there to get more info on a property that interests me. It amazes me that many listings on Realtor.com include a brokers name and number with no web reference.
Thanks for the question.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 3, 2008
I like a way to search by school district / map search / house age and house value

Right now I have use a combination of redfin + zillow + greatschools.net + ziprealty

Trulia's search sucks
3 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 7, 2008
My personal favorites:

Virtual tours or at least a potpourri of pictures.

Map feature with zipcodes and google sky.

You may love the house but you won't like that Kmart buried in the back.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 10, 2008
in the Chicago area, I've used bestfloorplans.com, and they are readable online, but I recognize they're not available everywhere, and they're not cheap.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 10, 2008
Alan May, Real Estate Pro in Evanston, IL
I like to search in mlslistings.com, and I like the map sites if I know the area I want to look in.
But I also have my realtor keep an eye out for properties that are not on the MLS yet. I think there a lot of sales out there that happen before or soon after listing and I don't want to miss any opportunities.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 10, 2008
I really liked Elvis' idea of floorplans on line. The problem that I have is that they are usually not readable on line. Similar issue with surveys. I would like to see floorplans on line and as a Seller, I would like to offer them on line. Just don't know how to do it and have them be readable. There must be a way because if you go to sites that sell house plans, they are readable. Go to Realtor.com, and you cannot read the surveys.
I honestly don't pay attention to room dimensions. I look at total SF but rarely focus on individual rooms. A floor plan would help me to focus. Also, the only way to get the "flow" of the house is a floor plan. That would be nice.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sat Jan 5, 2008
Thanks to all that answered. Really good feedback. The floor plan idea is a challenging one. Elvis, do you have a method of creating one for on-line advertisement? Just curious. Giving dimensions are possible but an actual drawing, I'm not sure.

I agree with Andrew that good photos are important. One thing I recommend sellers do when interviewing agents is to ask for links to recent listings to view the photos or virtual tours to see the quality.

Thanks again.

1 vote Thank Flag Link Sat Jan 5, 2008
In Houston, there's a great site called har.com. (I'm not plugging or attempting to advertise this site, it's just really good). I can filter in dozens of ways. Often I'll pick a specific town and put in my dream qualifications - one story, three car garage, 4 bedroom, just to see what will come up. On a different day, I'll try a different part of town. It's one of my favorite things to do.

One of the features that I like about it is that it lists the dimesnions of all of the rooms. That's great because when the description says "huge living room!" I can look and see that the dimensions are 12X12.

Other online features that I like:
the map feature
search by zipcode
search by neighborhood
virtual tours
search by open house
search by square footage
list of maintenance fees
school district
details about the house such as whether it is electric or gas, what kind of exterior it has
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 4, 2008
Elvis - floorplans are huge to me, would love to have them for every home I consider (but may be a disadvantage to the seller because I will easily dismiss a home based a poor floorplan.)

One thing that's difficult to find is a way to search by community / neighborhood - that would be a nice feature to say "show me all the homes in XYZ community".
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 4, 2008
Good question. I find myself consistently disappointed by the on-line home shopping experience. Maybe my expectations are too high, but there is surprisingly small correspondence between what appears appealing on the web and what I actually end up liking. Web searches are very useful, though. They just are limited.

What I have done in the past is start out with some early scoping studies -- I filter based on minimum number of bedrooms/bathrooms, neighborhood, and price range (+- 20% around ideal cost, say). Then, I reduce based on other criteria -- e.g. lot size, condition, rooms too small, undersirable block, etc (assuming this information is available). Both map and straight list view are useful for this -- if I had to choose one, it would be map, but most sites allow both.

My biggest complaint is the quality of the pictures -- I depend on these tremendously to get a feel for the house and for whatever reason most look like they were taken by an amateur at dusk with no flash and little attempt to even declutter. They also usually give little feeling of the lot size, house spacing, surrounding homes, etc. Every now and then I see a good virtual tour but more often then not I don't even try to draw any conclusions until I see the candidate house live. When I have my short list I do some drive-bye's, reduce the list further, visit open houses if I'm lucky. At that point I try to find a neighborhood-specific agent and take it from there. Usually the agent has some ideas that I didn't notice on the web, and steers me away from some that had looked appealing, educates me on the neighborhood, lets me know what is overpriced in their view and what is a good deal, etc. At this point I'm usually ready to make an offer. If not, I really appreciate the automatic email updates on price changes, new properties, etc.

What annoys me more than anything is missing information -- room sizes, address, days on market, lot size, year of construction, etc. I really like to know this for all properties.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 3, 2008
Always start on-line. I almost always use realtor.com to start. I typically search on towns and number of bedrooms. Like Ginger R, I toggle between realtor.com, zillow, and realtor websites until I find something that looks really interesting. I will then usually call to see if there is an open house coming up. I really try not to make appointments unless I'm ready for a second look because I don't like the high pressure or the feeling that I am not 'signed on" with any particular realtor.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 3, 2008
I start with the zip code narrow it down on the maps and then use street view to look at neighboring hoses. This saves me a lot of time when viewing investment properties.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 31, 2009
Elvis: Yes, good point. I do benefit from floorplans also ...
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 4, 2008
Not to hijack this topic, but while searching, do you find "floorplans" helpful, or are you satisfied when you find a decent virtual tour?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 4, 2008
Alan May, Real Estate Pro in Evanston, IL
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