Researching Real Estate Online

'Let your fingers do the walking' has taken on a whole new meaning when it comes to researching real estate in the 21st century. The Internet is becoming an increasing important source of information and a time saving tool for homebuyers. It empowers them to gather information about housing issues and current market conditions as well as allowing them to preview numerous listings at the click of a mouse and survey current mortgage rates.

Home shoppers benefit in particular by being able to research homes before meeting with a real estate agent. Typical questions such as: Are there good schools nearby? How far is it to downtown or to work? Is the home construction suitable to its geographical area? Researching areas of concern can provide a sense of control over what is for many people the largest purchase of their lives. Also by weeding out homes that don't meet basic criteria, they can save themselves and the agent a great deal of time. The Internet makes research faster and more convenient than ever.

The following are some ways to maximize the research potential of the Internet when you search for a home.

In general…

  • Among the many purposes of the Internet from entertainment to education, it is a dynamic advertising and marketing tool. Remember that the truthfulness and quality of the information you find on the Internet can vary. Always consider the source. It's wise to check out more than one source in order to cross check information.
  • Some websites require personal details before a consumer can proceed and view certain information. If you are not comfortable with this don't feel obligated to divulge any personal information.

Conducting research…

  • The Canadian Home Builders Association website (http://www.chbabc.org/) serves those in the home building industry however it also provides valuable information to consumers regarding home design. In addition, the website lists topics in their technical library from masonry to finishes to energy efficiency which the public can access in person at their Burnaby, British Columbia location.

  • The Internet is an excellent way to find out about a new neighbourhood. There are three common online avenues to information about communities: type in e.g. www.nameofthecity.org (or .com), search for the town city hall or chamber of commerce.

  • Many online listings include an address with a postal code. If you aren't familiar with the address you can use the postal code to get an idea of the home location. In your browser type www.yahoo.ca and click on maps. When you enter the postal code, Yahoo will provide you with a detailed map of the location.

  • If you are interested in finding out about local services such as landscapers, architects, recreation facilities, etc., visit www.yellowpages.ca or www.superpages.com and type in your criteria. Along with the telephone number and addresses, some businesses will even include a website link and a map.

  • To find a property appraiser in your area check out the Appraisal Institute of Canada's website. An appraisal can provide an accurate assessment of market value when a home is bought or sold, a new home is being constructed, when a mortgage is required etc.

  • With a dizzying array of mortgage products on the market, online research can provide details about obtaining a mortgage as well as current rates. Many lenders include online mortgage calculators, worksheets to help you figure out how much you can afford, details of promotions as well as online applications.

If you're in the market for a new home you've likely already visited or plan to visit online listings on www.mls.ca. These listings generally provide details on the square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, age, location, and other aspects of the home along with a photo. You will also find the name of the listing agent.

Technology is not replacing customer service; an online listing doesn't mean an online sale without a human element. In fact, Internet shoppers are more likely to use real estate agents than non-Internet shoppers. Eighty-seven percent of web home shoppers use a real estate agent or broker, while 76 percent of traditional buyers work with an agent, according to an American study conducted by the National Real Estate Board in 2000. The Internet is a channel for delivering property information; as a consumer you need not sacrifice any of the services you'd expect from a profession real estate agent.

Sales agents help potential buyers determine their specific home requirements, provide qualified information about the local market, prepare an offer, provide information on home inspection and more.

Happy (and knowledgeable) house hunting!

The trademarks MLS®, Multiple Listing Service® and the associated logos identify professional services rendered by REALTOR® members of CREA to effect the purchase, sale and lease of real estate as part of a cooperative selling system. The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA.