Ten years ago, a search for real estate would have were only available in the office of an area 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’ll spend weeks touring each property until you found the right one. Finding market data to enable you to assess the asking price would take more time and much more driving, and you still might not be able to find all of the information you needed to get really comfortable with a good market value.

Today, most property searches start on 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 real estate web site, you can 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 get an idea of the property’s value, see what the current owner paid for the house, 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 on the net are convenient and helpful, with them properly can be 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 Sites. Even a neighborhood specific search for real estate can simply return thousands of Internet 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? Believe it or not, understanding how the business enterprise of property works offline makes it easier 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 bought 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 for sale. Usage of 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 put into an MLS. The primary reason for an MLS is to enable the member realtors to make 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 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 are not necessary to offer any specific kind of compensation to the other members. Compensation is negotiated outside the CIE.

Generally, for-sale-by-owner properties can’t be directly put into an MLS and CIE, which are usually 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 neighborhood newspaper’s real estate listings. A more efficient solution to locate for-sale-by-owner properties would be to search for a for-sale-by-owner Web site in the geographic area.

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

MLS and CIE property listing information was historically only obtainable in hard copy, and as we mentioned, only directly available to real estate agents members of an MLS or CIE. About ten years ago, this valuable property information began to trickle out to the Internet. This trickle is currently a flood!

One reason is that most of the 1 million or so REALTORS have Web sites, and most of those Sites have varying amounts of the local MLS or CIE property information displayed in it. Another reason is that there are plenty of non-real estate agent Internet 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 information sites. The flood of property information to the web definitely makes the information more accessible but additionally more confusing and subject to misunderstanding and misuse.

Real Estate Agents

Despite the flood of property information on the Internet, most properties are still 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 Internet is a global marketplace and local MLS and CIE listings are normally disseminated for display on a variety of Web sites. For instance, many visit the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS Internet site, http://www.realtor.com, also to the local property agent’s Web site. Furthermore, the listing may be displayed on the net site of an area newspaper. In essence, the web is just another form of marketing offered by today’s real estate agent, but it has a much broader reach compared to the old print advertising.

In addition to Online marketing, listing agents may also help the seller establish a price, hold open houses, keep carefully 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 a full service listing arrangement. While full service listing arrangements will be the most common type of listing arrangement, they are not the only real option anymore.

Changes in the technology behind the true 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 along with 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 instance, 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 property in the MLS but only provide limited additional services. Later on, some realtors may offer services in more of an ala carte fashion.

Because of the volume of real estate information on the web, when people hire a real estate agent today they should consider 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 realtors. On this site an agent can personalize their profile, start a blog, post photos and videos and even create a link to their web site free of charge. Once unique content is added to their profile page the various search engines notice!

Some have argued that the Internet makes REALTORS and the MLS less relevant. We believe this will be false in the long run. chester estate agents It could change the role of the agent but can make knowledgeable, qualified, and professional REALTORS more relevant than ever before. In fact, the amount of realtors has risen significantly in recent years. No wonder, the web has made local property a global business. Besides, Internet or not, the easy fact remains that the purchase of real property may be the largest single purchase a lot of people make in their life (or, for many investors, the biggest multiple purchases over a lifetime) and they want expert help. Are you aware that MLS, it remains probably the most reliable source of real estate listing and sold information available and continues to enable efficient marketing of properties. So, what is the function of all online real estate information?

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