Buying a Home the High-Tech Way

First Time Home Buyers
Jim Kimmons

More than 80 percent of all homes sold are listing in local MLS systems online. This article is to help you to use technology and tech-savvy real estate professionals to find your perfect home.  

Instead, learn here how to use the right online search tools and how to find the right real estate professional who understands and uses technology with the idea of helping you in your home search rather than just getting a home sold and a commission.

That's how they're paid, so there's nothing wrong with it, but there are agents who are more interested in superior customer service and seamless transactions than just the payday at the end.

Using IDX Search

First, let's cover the reasons to use a real estate website search function that is part of an IDX. That's Internet Data Exchange. This is an agreement between broker members of a local MLS, Multiple Listing Service, allowing each member to display the listings of all members on their website search pages. So, you don't have to go to multiple local sites to see everything that is listed for sale.

Why is this better than sites like Realtor.com, Zillow.com and Trulia.com? There is nothing wrong with those sites, but Zillow and Trulia do not have all of the local MLS listings. Realtor.com does have many of them, but not all, and there is a lot of advertising paid for by real estate agents to guide you in their direction.

Again, nothing wrong with that, but you are losing some flexibility in choosing who you want.  Also, the local IDX sites are updated at least once each day, so you're seeing homes that are really for sale and new listings as they're added.

Getting Custom Email Alert Reports

Today's computerized MLS systems allow real estate agents to create customized searches for you that will email you every new listing immediately when they're entered into the system.

You can also get reports when homes are sold. The agent only sets them up once, and it takes only a few minutes. You want to work with an agent who offers these reports, usually they'll have forms on their websites.

If an agent resists doing this or tells you they aren't necessary, find someone else who will set them up. The only person who is completely interested in ONLY your needs is you. Even the best agents must work with multiple clients at the same time to make a decent income. Telling you they'll catch every new listing that seems like one for you is at best a promise, but they may miss some when they're busy.

Ask for Statistical Reports

Again, any agent should be able to produce these for you. One that's quite helpful is a report of list prices versus actual sold prices. This gives you the discount to list for sales. Everybody bargains in normal markets, so homes sell for some amount below listed price. Getting a report for targeted neighborhoods will tell you the average percentage below list at which homes are actually going under contract.

Another report that may help is a DOM, Days on Market, report. Knowing the average days homes were on the market before sale gives you some information that could help in negotiations.

If the average is 180 days and you're interested in a home that's been on the market 250+ days, there may be some room for a more aggressive lower first offer. You're the boss, so don't let an agent tell you it's not going to work. They may be right, but you'll never know until you try. However, when the average DOM is 180 and a home has only been on the market for 30 days, don't expect a lot of motivation to discount on the part of the seller.

Get a CMA, Comparative Market Analysis

This is a report done primarily for sellers by real estate agents. Its purpose is to determine what similar homes (comparables) are selling for in the current market. This helps the agent and seller to decide on the listing price.  

Markets are constantly moving, homes selling, coming off the market, and new listings coming on the market.

The CMA done for the seller could be out of date, and prices may be higher or lower now. Also, the selection of the comparable homes used in the calculation is up to the agent. Sometimes they by mistake or intentionally, they may choose homes that encourage a higher listing price.

By getting your own current CMA from your buyer agent, you get an estimate of the suggested market value of the home you're considering. If it's lower, use it to justify a lower offer. Don't let an agent tell you that you don't need a CMA.

Using today's technology can help you to find the right real estate professional and efficiently work with them to find the perfect home and get your best deal.