Buying a Home:
Online Real Estate Resources for Homebuyers
The Internet has become an increasingly popular resource for consumers looking to buy a home. But with so much information available online, where does a home seeker begin?
A logical first step is to determine what type of information you need. If you are unsure, here are a few examples of information routinely sought by potential homebuyers that can serve as a starting point:
- Community information such as neighborhood profiles, demographics, and employment statistics
- Articles, tools and tips for becoming better educated about the home purchase process
- Details on potential properties to explore in more detail
- Material on real estate firms and individual agents in the location of the home search
Once you have pinpointed what you are looking for, finding it online becomes easier. For instance, if you are looking for community information, you can start by searching for the web sites of the cities or municipalities where you are thinking of buying a home. In addition to governmental information, many of these sites direct you to community information. Also, an online search (Google for example) on a specific city will usually return results that include travel guide web sites that have relocation information ranging from neighborhood profiles to artistic and cultural pursuits.
Other sites that have useful information on neighborhoods include those for local newspapers and Realtor.com. By reading articles from newspapers in the areas targeted in your home search, you can get a good feel for new developments in housing and employment. And many newspapers also do a good job of highlighting growing communities, as well as the pros and cons of different areas of town such as neighborhoods for young professionals, families, etc.
Realtor.com, one of the largest real estate sites not associated with a specific brokerage, has a home buying tool called Neighborhood Tour that allows you to find detailed information on neighborhoods. You enter search criteria such as desired home price, type of home, and level of urbanization desired. Or you can search for neighborhoods comparable to the one where you currently live. This site also has a robust home search capability that covers the continental United States, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
Another great place to start when looking for information about either prospective properties or real estate professionals is at any real estate firm's web site. A quick web search will show results for real estate brokerages of all sizes and types in the local area where you are looking. You can read about the services offered by that company, and most sites will offer an option for home searches through the Multiple Listing System (MLS), which is an online database used for sharing information about homes for sale.
If you are looking for informative material, you will also find it on Realtor.com and the sites of real estate firms. And performing a web search for phrases such as "real estate 101," "real estate tools," or "real estate tips" will bring you an abundance of web resources designed to help consumers learn more about the real estate process, including home buying.
As with any other information you find online, consider the source of the real estate information you find to gauge quality and dependability. But know that, overall, the web offers a wealth of excellent real estate information that is absolutely free.
Information is for educational and informational purposes only and is not be interpreted as financial or legal advice. This does not represent a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any security. Please consult your financial advisor.