Real Estate Agents and the Internet - How to Buy and Sell Real Estate Today

Pensacola homes for sale
Then and today

Ten years ago, research online for real estate might have started in the office of your local real estate agent or by just driving around town. At the agent's office, you'd spend an afternoon flipping through pages of active property listings in the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). After choosing properties of interest, you would spend several weeks touring each property until you found the right one. Finding market data for you to assess the asking price would take more time and a lot more driving, and you still might not be able to find all of the information you needed to have really comfortable with an affordable market value.

Today, most property searches start taking the Internet. A quick keyword look on Google by location may get you thousands of results. If you spot a property of curiosity on a real estate site, you can typically view photos on the web and maybe even take a virtual tour. You may then check other Websites, such as the local county assessor, to get an idea of the property's value, see just what the current owner covered the property, check the real estate property taxes, get census data, school information, and in many cases check out what shops are within walking distance-all without having to leave your house!

While the resources on the net are convenient and helpful, utilizing them properly can be a challenge due to volume of information and also the difficulty in verifying its accuracy. During the time of writing, a search of "Denver real estate" returned 2,670,000 Sites. Even a neighborhood specific hunt for real estate can easily return thousands of Web sites. With so many resources online how does an investor effectively use them without getting over-involved or winding up with incomplete or bad information? Contrary to popular belief, understanding how the business of property works offline makes it much simpler to understand online real estate information and strategies.

The Business of Real Estate

Real estate is normally bought and sold either through a certified real estate agent or directly through the owner. The vast majority is dealt with through real estate brokers. (We use "agent" and "broker" to consult the same professional.) The reason is , their real estate expertise and, at least historically, their exclusive entry to a database of active virginia homes. Access to this database of property listings provided the most beneficial way to search for properties.

The MLS (and CIE)

The database of residential, land, and smaller income producing properties (including some commercial properties) is usually referred to as a multiple listing service (MLS). Generally, only properties listed by member real estate agents can be added to an MLS. The main purpose of an MLS is usually to enable the member real estate agents to make offers of compensation along with other member agents should they find a buyer for a property.

This purposes didn't include enabling the direct publishing of the MLS information for the public; times change. Today, most MLS details are directly accessible to the general public over the Internet in many different forms.

Commercial property listings will also be displayed online but aggregated commercial property info is more elusive. Larger MLSs often chance a commercial information exchange (CIE). A CIE is similar to an MLS though the agents adding the listings for the database are not necessary to offer any specific form of compensation to the other members. Compensation is negotiated outside of the CIE.

In most cases, for-sale-by-owner properties is not directly added to an MLS and CIE, that are typically maintained by REALTOR associations. Deficiency of a managed centralized database could make these properties more difficult to locate. Traditionally, these properties are found by driving around or trying to find ads in the local newspaper's real estate property listings. A more efficient way to locate for-sale-by-owner properties is usually to search for a for-sale-by-owner Web site from the geographic area.

Just what is a REALTOR? Sometimes the terms real estate agent and REALTOR are widely-used interchangeably; however, they are not the identical. A REALTOR is a licensed real estate agent who is also a part of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS. REALTORS are required to comply with a strict code of ethics and conduct.

MLS and CIE property listing information was historically only obtainable in hard copy, so that as we mentioned, only directly offered to real estate agents members of an MLS or CIE. About decade ago, this valuable property information started to trickle out to the Internet. This trickle is now a flood!

A good reason is that most of the One million or so REALTORS have Web sites, and most of those Sites have varying amounts of the local MLS or CIE property information displayed on them. Another reason is that there are many non-real estate agent Web sites that also offer real estate property information, including, for-sale-by-owner sites, foreclosure sites, regional and international listing sites, County assessor sites, and valuation and market information sites. The flood of real estate property information to the Internet definitely makes all the information more accessible and also more confusing and at the mercy of misunderstanding and misuse.

Real estate professionals

Despite the flood of property information on the Internet, most properties remain sold directly through real estate agents listing properties from your MLS or CIE. However, those property listings don't stay local anymore. By its nature, the net is a global marketplace and local MLS and CIE listings tend to be disseminated for display on many different Web sites. For example, many go to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS Web site,, also to the local real estate agent's Website. In addition, the listing might be displayed on the Web site of your local newspaper. In simple terms, the Internet is just another type of marketing offered by today's real estate professional, but it has a much broader reach compared to old print advertising.

Along with Internet marketing, listing agents also may help the seller establish a price, hold open houses, maintain the seller informed of interested buyers and offers, negotiate the contract that assist with closing. When a representative provides all of these services it really is referred to as being a complete listing arrangement. While full service listing arrangements include the most common type of listing arrangement, they may not be the only option anymore.

Alterations in the technology behind agreement business have caused many agents to alter the way they do business. In large part, this is due to the instant access most consumers have to property listings along with other real estate information. Moreover, the Internet and other technologies have automated a lot of the marketing and initial searching process are the real deal estate. For example, consumers can observe properties online and make inquires via email. Brokers may use automated programs to deliver listings to individuals who match their property criteria. So, some agents are now limiting the services they offer modify their fees accordingly. A real estate agent may offer to advertise the home in the MLS however only provide limited additional services. In the future, some real estate agents may offer services in more of your ala carte fashion.

Because of the volume of real estate info on the Internet, when people employ a real estate agent today they should look at the particular services available from the agent and also the depth of their experience and knowledge in the relevant property sector. Go for longer just about usage of property listing information. Sellers and buyers historically found agents by referrals from friends and family. The Internet now provides ways to directly find qualified agents in order to research the biography associated with an agent referred to you offline. One particular site,, is quickly becoming the LinkedIn or Facebook the real deal estate agents. On this site a real estate agent can personalize their profile, begin a blog, post photos and videos and even create a url to their web site totally free. Once unique content is combined with their profile page search engines like google notice!

Some have argued how the Internet makes REALTORS along with the MLS less relevant. We feel this will be false in the long run. It may change the role from the agent but will make knowledgeable, qualified, and professional REALTORS more relevant than ever before. In fact, the number of real estate professionals has risen significantly in recent years. No wonder, the Internet has created local real estate a global business. Besides, Internet or not, the simple fact remains the purchase of real property is the largest single purchase most of the people make in their life (or, for several investors, the largest multiple purchases over the lifetime) and they want expert help. Alternatives MLS, it continues to be most reliable source of real estate listing and sold information available and will continue to enable efficient marketing of properties. So, what's the function of all the online real-estate information?

Online property information is a great research tool for sellers and buyers and a marketing tool for sellers. When used properly, buyers can help to save time by quickly researching properties and, ultimately, make better investment decisions. Sellers can efficiently check out market and make informed decisions about hiring an agent and marketing their properties online. The next task is to know where to look online for some of the best resources.
Internet Strategies

Inside the sections that follow, we provide strategies and easy methods to use the Internet to locate virginia homes and research information strongly related your decision to purchase the property. There are many real estate Web sites from which to choose and although we do not mean to endorse any particular Internet site, we have found the ones listed here to be good resources generally or to be so well received that they need mention. One method to test a Web site's accuracy would be to search for information about a home you already own.

Finding Real Estate for Sale

Despite the acquireable access to real estate listings, many feel that MLS databases always offer the most complete and accurate way to obtain real estate information. Most MLSs now distribute content to other Web sites (primarily run by real estate agents). An excellent kick off point for MLS originated content is the national NAR Web site,, also is the most popular web site for searching real estate listings. Virtually all local and regional MLSs come with an agreement with to produce much of their active listing inventory.

Some local and regional MLS systems furthermore have a publicly accessible Website. However, to get complete information you may most likely still need to find a qualified local REALTOR. Many local realtors will also provide their clients (via email) new listings which are input into the MLS that match their predefined criteria. This can be very helpful to a busy buyer.

Additionally, there are many Web sites that display both real estate professional listed and for-sale-by-owner properties. A few of the more popular Web sites include and Web sites offer other services too. As an example, is best recognized for its instantaneous property valuation function and for providing historical information. Another method to obtain properties for sale is the state, regional, and native Web sites associated with brokerage companies; for example, or Search engines like and classified advertising sites like also have a large number of active real estate listings.

One key difference between these sites is how much information you can access anonymously. For example, at it is possible to shop anonymously up to a point but then you will need to click through on the agent's Web site for more information. Many new real estate property search engines allow you to sift through listings without having to complete a form. The best technique is to browse many of the sites listed above to discover geographic areas or selling prices that are interesting. When you are serious about a property, then that's the time to find a qualified REALTOR of your choosing to conduct a total search in the local MLS.

It also never hurts to find the old-fashioned way by driving through the neighborhoods that appeal to your interest. There is no substitute for physically, not virtually, walking the block if you are making a serious financial commitment. In this sense, real estate property is still a very local business and standing in front with the property can lead to an extremely different decision than viewing an online page printout.

Valuing Real-estate

As we mentioned, one of the most popular real estate tools is's instant property valuation. Just type in an address and in so you get a property value. It also charts the price good and the bad, and shows the final date sold (including price) and also the property taxes. There are other sites that provide similar tools for example and Unfortunately, many people use these estimated values alone to justify sales prices, offers and counteroffers. However, they're only rough estimates based on a formula that incorporates the area county sales information. These estimates can swing wildly on the short period of time and do not may actually always track actual market changes, that happen to be normally more gradual. Additionally, these estimates don't automatically take into account property remodels or renovations or any other property specific or local changes. This is not to say these sites are certainly not useful. In fact, they are great starting points and will provide a good ball-park value in many cases.

When it comes to getting a more accurate value for a particular property, there are more strategies that are more trustworthy. An example may be to go directly to your county's Website. More often than not the county assessor's area of the Web site provides sales and tax information for those properties in the county. If you wish to research a particular property or compare sales prices of comparable properties, the neighborhood assessor's sites are really helpful. Once you visit a county's Web site you are getting information straight from the source. Most counties today publish property information on their Web sites. Many times you may cannot only see the price a prior owner paid, but the assessed value, property taxes, and maps. Some county assessors are now adding a market and property valuation tools too.

In the importance of valuation to investing, we have been also going to call to mind the two most important (non-Internet) valuation methods: agents and appraisers. Working with a local REALTOR is surely an accurate and efficient method of getting value information to get a property. While one of the first purposes of the MLS is usually to market the active property listings of the company's members, the system also collects sales information for all those listings. REALTOR members can pull this sales information and provide comparable market analyses (sometimes called CMAs) that provide an excellent snapshot of the particular property's value for that market in a particular area.

Finally, essentially the most accurate way to value a property is by having a certified appraiser provide an appraisal. An appraiser will typically review both sold information from the MLS system along with county information after which analyze the information to make a valuation for the property determined by one or more approved types of valuation. These methods of valuation may include a comparison of similar properties adjusted for differences involving the properties, determine the fee to replace the property, or, with an income producing property, determine a value based on the income generated from the property.

The Neighborhood

There are many ways the Internet can help you get the scoop on the particular neighborhood. As an example, census data are available at You can also check out the neighborhood scoop at sites like or review local blogs. A blog is a Web site where individuals discuss topics by posting and answering messages. Start by considering and for the directory of blogs. carries a "Heat Map" that shows how cold and hot each neighborhood is based on prices, sales, or popularity one of many sites users.


When it comes to selling residential property or rental properties that cater to families, the quality of the spot school district makes a huge difference. There are many Sites devoted to school information. Look at or Most local school districts have their own Web site. These sites contain a variety of details about the public schools and the school district, including its district demographics, test scores, and parent reviews.

Choosing the best Real Estate Agent

A recent addition to the Internet boom in actual estate information is Web sites that let real estate agents market their expertise and local knowledge by displaying their professional profiles and socially networking with blogs. Searching to find an agent using a particular expertise, geographic division of specialization, or an agent offering specific services. The web site lets users quickly and easily find an agent with the proper expertise using keyword searches and as well as simple agent profiles. also enables agents to create personalized blogs, pics and vids to help consumers locate the best agent for their needs. Plus, many agent profiles include a direct link to the agent's web site where you will likely obtain the local MLS listings.

Maps along with other Tools

The Internet has created mapping and locating properties much simpler. To get an aerial view or satellite picture of a property or neighborhood, check out or or visit to view how walk-able a particular rentals are. These sites can give you a perception of the neighborhood characteristics as well as the types of entertainment, restaurants, and other facilities that are within walking distance of the property. supplies a view at an angle so you can see the sides of houses and Maps.Google even gives you a 360 degree street-level view for many neighborhoods. If you have not tried one of them satellite map Web sites, you really should if only for amusement.

Final Thoughts on Internet Strategies

The net is a very effective research and advertising tool for real estate investors however is not a replacement for a knowledgeable experienced real estate professional. The Internet can save you time and cash by enabling easy and quick property research and marketing options. Sites like also assist you efficiently look for a REALTOR who fits your buying or selling needs.

Always remember, when it comes to Internet strategies for real estate property: More knowledge is much better. You need to use the Internet to create your knowledge base with a target property or to find a real estate agent with expertise you will need. However, the big caution the following is that the Internet must not replace human judgment and perspective, expert consultancy or physical due diligence-keys to successful investing.