Ten years ago, a search for real estate would have started in the office of an area real estate agent or by simply driving around town. At the agent’s office, you would spend an afternoon flipping through pages of active property listings from the neighborhood MLS (MLS). After choosing properties of interest, you’ll spend weeks touring each property and soon you found the right one. Finding market data to enable you to assess the price tag would take more time and much more driving, and you still might not be able to find all of the information you had a need to get really comfortable with a good market value.

Today, most property searches start the Internet. An instant keyword search on Google by location will likely 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 maybe even have a virtual tour. After that you can check other Web sites, including the local county assessor, to get a concept of the property’s value, see what the current owner paid for the house, check the real estate taxes, get census data, school information, and also have a look at what shops are within walking distance-all without leaving your home!

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

The Business of Real Estate

Real estate is typically bought and sold either through a licensed agent or directly by the owner. The vast majority is purchased and sold through real estate brokers. (We use “agent” and “broker” to make reference to the same professional.) This is due to their property knowledge and experience and, at 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 search for properties.

The MLS (and CIE)

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

This purposes did not include enabling the direct publishing of the MLS information to the general public; times change. Today, most MLS information is directly accessible to the general public over the Internet in lots of 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 similar to an MLS however the agents adding the listings to the database aren’t required to offer any specific kind of compensation to another members. Compensation is negotiated outside the CIE.

Typically, for-sale-by-owner properties can’t be directly added to an MLS and CIE, which are typically maintained by REALTOR associations. Having less a managed centralized database can make these properties more difficult to find. Traditionally, these properties are located by driving around or looking for ads in the neighborhood 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 used interchangeably; however, they are not similar. A REALTOR is really a licensed real estate agent who’s also an associate of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS. REALTORS must adhere to a strict code of ethics and conduct.

MLS and CIE property listing information was historically only available in hard copy, and as we mentioned, only directly open to realtors members of an MLS or CIE. About a decade ago, this specific property information began to trickle out to the Internet. This trickle is now a flood!

One reason is that the majority 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 numerous non-real estate agent Internet sites that also offer real estate 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 Internet 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 web, 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 usually disseminated for display on many different Web sites. For example, many visit the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS Internet site, http://www.realtor.com, also to the local real estate agent’s Web site. In addition, the listing may be displayed on the net site of a local newspaper. In essence, the Internet is just another type of marketing offered by today’s real estate agent, but it includes a much broader reach compared to the old print advertising.

In addition to Online marketing, listing agents also may help the seller establish a price, hold open houses, keep the seller informed of interested buyers and offers, negotiate the contract and help with closing. When an agent provides these services it is known as being truly a full service listing arrangement. While full service listing arrangements will be the most common kind of listing arrangement, they are not the only option anymore.

Changes in the technology behind the real estate business have caused many agents to improve the way they do business. In large part, that is due to the access immediately most consumers will have to property listings and other real estate information. Furthermore, the Internet along with other technologies have automated a lot of the marketing and initial searching process for property. For example, consumers can view properties online and make inquires via email. Brokers may use automated programs to send listings to consumers that match their property criteria. So, some agents now limit the services they offer and change their fees accordingly. A realtor may offer to advertise the house in the MLS but only provide limited additional services. Down the road, some realtors 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 consider the particular services offered by the agent and the depth of their experience and knowledge in the relevant property sector. estate agents chester It is no longer just about usage of property listing information. Buyers and sellers historically found agents by referrals from family and friends. The Internet now provides ways to directly find qualified agents or even to research the biography of a realtor referred to you offline. One particular site, AgentWorld.com, is quickly becoming the LinkedIn or Facebook for real estate agents. On this site an agent can personalize their profile, start a blog, post photos and videos and even create a connect to their web site for free. Once unique content is put into their profile page the search engines notice!

Some have argued that the web makes REALTORS and the MLS less relevant. We believe this will be false in the end. It may change the role of the agent but will make knowledgeable, qualified, and professional REALTORS more relevant than ever before. In fact, the amount of real estate agents has risen significantly in recent years. No wonder, the Internet has made local property a worldwide business. Besides, Internet or not, the simple fact remains that the purchase of real property may be the largest single purchase a lot of people make within their life (or, for most investors, the biggest multiple purchases over an eternity) and they want specialist help. As for the MLS, it remains probably the most reliable source of real estate listing and sold information available and continues make it possible for efficient marketing of properties. So, what’s the function of all the online real estate information?

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