Ready to begin searching for your new home? The task is daunting, but modern technology has brought listings all over the country to your fingertips. There are so many different home search sites to find your new home; how do you know which one is serving you best? Let’s take a closer look at how these sites gather their listings, and what factors rank some above others.
What is an MLS Listing in Real Estate?
When looking for a home to buy, you’re going to come across the term MLS. No, we’re not talking about major league soccer. In real estate, MLS stands for multiple listings service – basically, it’s a collection of local listings from an area. The challenge is MLS databases get their information from real estate brokers that enter into a mutual agreement with other brokers, and so the database only consists of information accessible to the specific group of brokers.
This means if there are hypothetically 20 listings in an area but only brokers representing 13 of those listings have created an MLS database and agreed to share information, home buyers would have to go to individual builder websites to get information on the other seven listings.
So how do you get information on all 20 listings at once? Home search sites. These are websites such as NewHomeSource.com that compile information from various MLS databases to simplify the home search process by delivering all relevant information into one place.
What is the Best Real Estate Website?
The next challenge: Determining which home search site is “best.” This can depends a lot on the specific site, as well as what you’re looking to do within real estate – that is, buy, rent, or sell. Let’s break down a few of the factors to look for when using a site to find homes for sale.
If you’ve ever searched anything on any website ever, chances are, filters have made your life easier. Filters allow you to get specific with your searches, so if you’re looking at a home search site and only want to see homes within a specific city or area, you can specify that. Be sure the home search site you use has filters most relevant to you.
Looking to relocate for stronger public schools? See if you can filter by school district (we’ve got a handy guide to understanding how schools perform to help you narrow your search). Want to be closer to work? Map the distance from neighborhoods to your place of employment.
If you’re taken with a site that doesn’t have all of the features you need, you can use a combination of websites in addition to the home search site, such as Google Maps and Great Schools; however, it tends to be easier if all the information is in one location.
How Often is the Site Updated?
This is important because listings change regularly, and in a hot market, this might be every few minutes. A home search website only updated once per week isn’t going to be very useful to you, as their information is likely outdated. Instead, go with a site updated at least once per day, if not more often; remember, timing is everything when it comes to purchasing a new home.
It’s all well and good if a site lists properties for sale, but if it only contains the barebones information of address and price, it doesn’t do much good for comparison. A good site lists thorough information on the property, such as square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and elevation and upgrade options. This way you’re able to quickly review and compare various listings without having to visit each builder or home.
Information isn’t just about words on the page, though; it’s also about the pictures available. When you pull up a property you’re interested in, are the pictures blurry and out of focus? Or is the same generic stock photo used for every single listing? If so, you’re not getting the most information from the site.
Use a home search website that displays clear, high quality photos of each individual property. Perhaps you’re looking at new homes not yet built – the renderings, or digital mockups of what the property will look like when complete, should be available for your perusal. High quality photos indicate the seller is invested in showing their property in the best light, which is a good sign they’ll be all the more helpful if you reach out to them for more information.
Moving into a new home isn’t just about the four walls you’ll be living in; it’s about the community as well. Home search sites should include information on the surrounding community, such as details on schools, local shopping and eateries, and amenities available to residents. These are important factors to consider for any home shopper, and this knowledge will help to narrow down final decisions.
Finally, effective home search sites will also provide resources for you to begin the next steps in the process. Namely, they should include information about mortgage rates and offers that break down monthly payments for the property in which you’re interested. This doesn’t mean you’re required to use one of the preferred lenders they list, as those on the webpage are likely receiving compensation from the home search site (look for something called an “advertiser disclosure”). Instead, use the lenders they list as a starting point to orient yourself as you begin securing financing for your home.
There are plenty of home search sites available to help you find your new home; it really comes down to what your needs are and, past that, a friendly user experience. Have other questions about the new home searching, buying, and building process? Head over to NewHomeSource’s Learn Center for more information articles, and follow us on social media!
Mia Zozobrado joined Builders Digital Experience (BDX) in 2019 as a content writer. A graduate of Southwestern University with a degree in English, Mia is passionate about the written word and making connections. Outside of work, Mia also serves on the Board of Directors for the Writers’ League of Texas.