Many people have asked me the best way to find homes(especially when there is low inventory). There are many ways that people use to search for homes, some are great, some are good, and some are poor. In this post I will review the best ways to search for homes, and which places to avoid.
Highest and Best choice
1. A real estate agent that works and lives in the area you are interested in. A local real estate agent should have a vast knowledge of not only homes, but different neighborhoods. They will know things like good schools, parks, crime rates, local restaurants, and local neighborhood events. This knowledge could be researched over a very long period of time, but a good agent will be able to provide this off hand. A agent that works in the area you are interested in will also have knowledge of the local market, trends, data, and may know some prominent people and resources that you would not otherwise have access to. A good real estate agent will not only send you homes that meet your exact criteria, but should also provide suggestions based upon your criteria. Finding your dream home in a market with low inventory can be challenging if you are by yourself. But if you work with a good agent who knows the area, it is much easier. When looking for a home, it is important to know that most times you are not going to find a home that is 10/10 perfect. However, if you know how and where to search it is very possible to find a home that is 9/10 and nearly perfect.
2. A real estate agent who works in the area close to where are you looking. Although they may not have the extensive knowledge about specific neighborhoods as a local agent who lives where you want to move, they are still a much better resource than a general search engine. They will still be able to provide you with a comparable market analysis of the neighborhood, be able to provide real market trends and analysis of what is happening in the general area and be able to find homes that you might not have found on your own.
3. Search engines from the different Brokerages directly (ex Windermere, John L Scott, Hometown Advisor Real Estate, Re/Max etc) These sites are designed with real estate in mind and are frequently updated. They are typically easy to search and are directly connected to the MLS(Multiple Listing Service). Plus when agents at the brokerages post a new listing, they usually go here first. On occasion you may be able to find a property here that you cannot find at other places.
New construction websites-If you are at all interested in a new construction home, it is useful and a good idea to search on the new construction websites. Sometimes the best option in a market with limited inventory is to customize and build new. I would have this option in 2nd place but I realize that there is a lot of people who do not want a new construction home.
Redfin-When it comes to real estate search engines, this takes 2nd place behind the more specific brokerage search engines. It is updated very frequently and typically has accurate information on pricing. However, this is still an aggregate website which means that it pulls all of its information from other sources rather than creating the information. Although it is a good tool, I would not count on trusting it 100%.
What not to use:
Zillow/Trulia-Although some people may not realize this, Trulia is owned by Zillow. When it comes to searching for homes, this is the last place I would recommend. The pricing is often times inaccurate, the website only refreshes every 24-48 hours and the zestimate is completely made up. Zillow themselves that their data is only accurate within about 10%. When it comes to home pricing, 10% either way is a huge margin and is unacceptable. They are also behind when it comes to keeping homes on their website that have long since changed statuses (active->sold) and keeping foreclosed homes on their website when they should be long gone.