Real Estate Agents and the web – How to Trade Real Estate Today

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Ten years ago, a seek out real estate would have started 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 many 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 is probably not able to find all of the information you had a need to get really comfortable with a fair market value.

Today, most property searches start the Internet. An instant keyword explore Google by location will probably get you thousands 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 take a virtual tour. You can then check other Web sites, including the local county assessor, to obtain an idea 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 check out what shops are within walking distance-all without leaving your home!

While the resources online are convenient and helpful, with them properly can be quite a challenge because of the volume of information and the issue in verifying its accuracy. At the time of writing, a search of “Denver property” returned 2,670,000 Web sites. Even a neighborhood specific search for real estate can simply return thousands of Web 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 of property works offline makes it simpler to understand online real estate information and strategies.

The Business of PROPERTY

Real estate is typically bought and sold either by way of a licensed agent or directly by the dog 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 real estate 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 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 commonly referred to as a multiple listing service (MLS). Generally, 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 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 general public; times change. Today, most MLS information is directly accessible to the public over the Internet in many different forms.

Commercial property listings are also 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 but the agents adding the listings to the database are not necessary to offer any specific kind of compensation to the other members. Compensation is negotiated beyond your CIE.

chester estate agents In most cases, for-sale-by-owner properties cannot be directly added to an MLS and CIE, which are usually maintained by REALTOR associations. The lack of a managed centralized database could make these properties more difficult to find. Traditionally, these properties are found by driving around or searching for ads in the neighborhood newspaper’s real estate listings. A far more efficient way to locate for-sale-by-owner properties is to search for a for-sale-by-owner Web site in the geographic area.

What is a REALTOR? Sometimes the terms agent and REALTOR are used interchangeably; however, they are not the same. A REALTOR is really a licensed real estate agent who’s also a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS. REALTORS are required to adhere to a strict code of ethics and conduct.

MLS and CIE property listing information was historically only obtainable in hard copy, so when we mentioned, only directly open to real estate agents 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 most of the 1 million roughly REALTORS have Web sites, and most of those Web sites have varying amounts of the neighborhood MLS or CIE property information displayed on them. Another reason is that there are various non-real estate agent Web 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 Internet definitely makes the information more accessible but additionally more confusing and subject to misunderstanding and misuse.

Real Estate Agents

Despite the flood of real estate information on the Internet, most properties remain sold directly through real estate agents listing properties in the local MLS or CIE. However, those property listings do not stay local anymore. By its nature, the web is a global marketplace and local MLS and CIE listings are normally disseminated for display on a variety of Web sites. For instance, many go to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS Site, http://www.realtor.com, and to the local property agent’s Web site. In addition, the listing could be displayed on the net site of an area newspaper. In essence, the Internet is just another form 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 referred to as being a full service listing arrangement. While full service listing arrangements are the most common type of listing arrangement, they are not the only real option anymore.

Changes in the technology behind the real estate business have caused many agents to improve the way they conduct business. In large part, this is due to the access immediately most consumers now have to property listings along with other real estate information. In addition, the Internet along with other technologies have automated a lot of the marketing and initial searching process for real estate. 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 house criteria. So, some agents now limit the services they provide and change their fees accordingly. An agent 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 level of real estate information on the Internet, when people hire an agent today they should look at the particular services provided by the agent and the depth of their experience and knowledge in the relevant property sector. It is no longer just about usage of 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 even to research the biography of an agent referred to you offline. One particular site, AgentWorld.com, is quickly becoming the LinkedIn or Facebook for real estate agents. On this site a realtor can personalize their profile, start a blog, post photos and videos and even create a link to their web site for free. Once unique content is added to 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 long term. It could 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 in recent years. No wonder, the Internet has made local real estate a worldwide business. Besides, Internet or not, the simple fact remains that the purchase of real property is the largest single purchase a lot of people make within their life (or, for most investors, the largest multiple purchases over an eternity) 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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