That’s easy. Start doing some research on your own on the Internet, even before contacting a real estate agent. If the Internet was invented for any particular industry it has to have been for real estate.
Before the World Wide Web was born, one could typically locate houses only in the newspaper on the weekend. If you saw a house that you liked, you’d contact the agent selling the home. Then came the endless cycle of driving around in a real estate agent’s car looking at houses until—finally, finally—you found a home you wanted to buy.
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The Internet has helped agents become more productive by letting consumers do a little shopping first before they get serious enough to use an agent. An agent who advertises a house is called the ‘‘listing’’ agent, because he puts the house for sale on the multiple listing service, or MLS.
The agent will show you the home and ask if you are using another agent. If you aren’t, the agent will ask if you would like to see other homes for sale. You of course say ‘‘yes,’’ and the agent then becomes a ‘‘buyer’s’’ agent as well, helping you find a home to buy and not just listing a house for sale. You give your agent your requirements for your dream home, such as four bedrooms on a culde- sac with a swimming pool. Your agent would then scour the MLS to search for such homes. After the search, you’d both get in the agent’s car and go see the homes.
But viewing homes on the Web gives both you and your agent a head start. You only look at homes you’re interested in, and the agent’s not dragging you all over town to look at homes you’d never buy. Your agent spends more time selling or listing homes and less time driving all over the place.
You can start with www.realtor.com. At this official site of the National Association of REALTORS, you can search for homes anywhere in the country or across town using home listings from your local newspaper to your local or even national real estate brokerage.
It’s really cool. You simply log onto the site, choose where you want to live, and select your preferences, like four bedrooms in this zip code in this price range with a pool or without, and so on. Next thing you know, there are your potential dream homes right on your computer screen. Some sites even have ‘‘virtual’’ tours showing different views of the house. This way you can see what homes are selling for and what’s generally available.