Zillow & Redfin, and all the rest of those sites are wonderful tools for buyers and sellers IF they are used the right way. Unfortunately, most people use them incorrectly and end up being an inefficient use of time.
With more and more online resources becoming available, home buyers start their search very early on, remain “dormant” in the physical search for homes for longer, and include Realtors and mortgage agents much later in the process than they should—even though they eventually work with one and pay the same amount of commission.
The Right Way:
You’ve decided to become a homeowner and buy. So you call a mortgage agent and get an idea of what you can afford and what mortgage payments might look like.
Then, you search the sites for your price range to see what’s out there. You get an idea of how far your dollar goes in different areas, the quality of homes for the price, what the neighborhoods look like, etc., and then you hit up a few open houses over the next couple weeks.
Once you become familiar with the different areas and the type of homes they have to offer, you sit down and decide what features are important to you (for example: style of property, number of bedrooms, distance from your work, big back yard, condo or house, parking situation, proximity to nightlife, etc.)
You go back to Zillow or Redfin, and make sure those homes like that are available fit your description, and not to mention, in your price range.
Now that you know what you want, you enlist the assistance of an agent (like me) to start with the “heavy lifting”.
You continue to search online in your free time and look for houses that might fit your needs. Then, you send those to your agent to check out for advice.
The Wrong Way:
Browsing online for months looking for the perfect house.
Reading the online forums on Zillow about mortgages and down payments, but not actually contacting a mortgage agent to talk about your specific situation.
You continue to browse online and only contact a Realtor and mortgage agent when it’s time to submit an offer (which is usually too late!).
The choice is yours. You can either use these sites as an EXTENSION of the existing home buying process, or you can use it as a CRUTCH and do it all by yourself.
The Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tzu, once said, “The wise man is one who knows what he does not know.”
Professionals like mortgage agents, real estate attorneys, Realtors, and transaction coordinators are here to make your life easier and less expensive by avoiding costly mistakes and wasting your time.
This is the same reason why you don’t grow your own produce or raise your own cattle. If you’re like most people, you go to the grocery store. Why? Because you don’t have the time or expertise to grow your food, water the crops, spray for weeds, not to mention own the land to grow all this food. Instead, you buy from professional farmers.
However, to continue with this analogy, you can learn where the best avocados and oranges are grown in the area. You can read about new diets, super foods, or the best way to prepare healthy meals. The secret is to use real estate websites the same way.
So log onto your favorite real estate website, check out some houses, learn the area, read a couple articles, and familiarize yourself with the process; just don’t use that website as the only tool for buying a house.