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

Ten years ago, a seek out real estate would have were only available in the office of a local real estate agent or by simply driving around town. At the agent’s office, you would spend a day flipping through pages of active property listings from the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). After choosing properties of interest, you would spend weeks touring each property until you found the correct one. Finding market data to help you assess the asking price would take more time and a lot more driving, and you still might not be able to find all the information you had a need to get really comfortable with a fair market value.

Today, most property searches start on the Internet. A quick keyword search on Google by location will probably get you a large number of results. If you spot a house of interest on a genuine estate web site, it is possible to typically view photos online and perhaps even have a virtual tour. After that you can check other Web sites, such as the local county assessor, to obtain an idea of the property’s value, see what the current owner paid for the property, check the true estate taxes, get census data, school information, and even check out what shops are within walking distance-all without leaving your home!

While the resources online are convenient and helpful, using them properly could be a challenge because of the level of information and the difficulty in verifying its accuracy. During writing, a search of “Denver property” returned 2,670,000 Web sites. Even a neighborhood specific search for real estate can easily return thousands of Web sites. With so many resources online how does an investor effectively use them without getting bogged down or winding up with incomplete or bad information? Contrary to popular belief, understanding how the business of real estate works offline makes it easier to understand online property information and strategies.

The Business of Real Estate

Real estate is normally bought and sold either by way of a licensed agent or directly by the dog owner. The vast majority is bought and sold through real estate agents. (We use “agent” and “broker” to make reference to the same professional.) This is due to their real estate knowledge and experience and, at the very least historically, their exclusive access to a database of active properties on the market. Access to this database of property listings provided probably the most efficient way to seek out properties.

The MLS (and CIE)

The database of residential, land, and smaller income producing properties (including some commercial properties) is often referred to as a multiple listing service (MLS). In most cases, only properties listed by member realtors can be added to an MLS. The primary purpose of an MLS would be to enable the member real estate agents to create offers of compensation to other member agents should they find a buyer for a house.

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

Commercial property listings may also be displayed online but aggregated commercial property information is more elusive. Larger MLSs often operate a commercial information exchange (CIE). A CIE is comparable to an MLS but the agents adding the listings to the database aren’t required to offer any specific kind of compensation to another members. Compensation is negotiated beyond your CIE.

Usually, for-sale-by-owner properties can’t be directly put into an MLS and CIE, which are typically maintained by REALTOR associations. Having less a managed centralized database could make these properties more difficult to locate. Traditionally, these properties are located by driving around or looking for ads in the local newspaper’s real estate listings. A more efficient way to locate for-sale-by-owner properties is to search for a for-sale-by-owner Internet site in the geographic area.

What is a REALTOR? Sometimes the terms real estate agent and REALTOR are employed interchangeably; however, they are not the same. A REALTOR is really a licensed real estate agent who is also a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS. REALTORS must comply with a strict code of ethics and conduct.

MLS and CIE property listing information was historically only available in hard copy, so when we mentioned, only directly open to real estate agents members of an MLS or CIE. chester houses for sale About ten years ago, this specific property information started to trickle out to the Internet. This trickle is now a flood!

One reason is that a lot of the 1 million roughly REALTORS have Web sites, & most of those Internet sites have varying amounts of the neighborhood MLS or CIE property information displayed on them. Another reason is that there are several non-real estate agent Sites that also offer property information, including, for-sale-by-owner sites, foreclosure sites, regional and international listing sites, County assessor sites, and valuation and market websites. The flood of real estate information to the web definitely makes the information more accessible but additionally more confusing and at the mercy of misunderstanding and misuse.

Real Estate Agents

Despite the flood of real estate information on the Internet, most properties remain sold directly through realtors listing properties in the neighborhood MLS or CIE. However, those property listings do not stay local anymore. By its nature, the Internet is really a global marketplace and local MLS and CIE listings are normally disseminated for display on many different Web sites. For instance, many go to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS Internet site, http://www.realtor.com, and to the local real estate agent’s Web site. In addition, the listing may be displayed on the Web site of a local newspaper. In essence, the web is just another type of marketing offered by today’s real estate agent, but it includes a much broader reach than the old print advertising.

In addition to Internet marketing, listing agents also may help the seller set up a price, hold open houses, keep the seller informed of interested buyers and offers, negotiate the contract and help with closing. When a realtor provides all of these services it is referred to as being a full service listing arrangement. While full service listing arrangements will be the most common type of listing arrangement, they are not the only option anymore.

Changes in the technology behind the true estate business have caused many agents to change the way they conduct business. In large part, that is due to the instant access most consumers now have to property listings and other real estate information. Furthermore, the Internet and other technologies have automated a lot of the marketing and initial searching process for property. For instance, consumers can view properties online and make inquires via email. Brokers may use automated programs to send listings to people that match their property criteria. So, some agents now limit the services they provide and change their fees accordingly. An agent may offer to advertise the property in the MLS but only provide limited additional services. Down the road, some real estate agents may offer services in more of an ala carte fashion.

Because of the volume of real estate information on the Internet, when people hire an agent today they should look at the particular services offered by the agent and the depth of these experience and knowledge in the relevant property sector. It is no longer just about access to property listing information. Buyers and sellers historically found agents by referrals from friends and family. The Internet now provides methods to directly find qualified agents or to research the biography of an agent referred to you offline. One such site, AgentWorld.com, is quickly becoming the LinkedIn or Facebook for realtors. On this site an agent can personalize their profile, take up a blog, post photos and videos and also create a link to their web site free of charge. Once unique content is added to their profile page the search engines notice!

Some have argued that the Internet makes REALTORS and the MLS less relevant. We believe this is false over time. It may change the role of the agent but can make knowledgeable, qualified, and professional REALTORS more relevant than ever. In fact, the quantity of realtors has risen significantly recently. No wonder, the web has made local real estate a worldwide business. Besides, Internet or not, the easy fact remains that the purchase of real property is the largest single purchase most people make in their life (or, for most investors, the largest multiple purchases over a lifetime) and they want expert help. As for the MLS, it remains the most reliable source of real estate listing and sold information available and continues to enable efficient marketing of properties. So, what’s the function of all online real estate information?

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