Welcome to the series of posts helping introverts with buying a home, selling a home or investing in real estate.  I tend to be an introvert more than an extrovert so I thought it would be appropriate to give some advice on how they can succeed as introverts in real estate..    My last post was on Three Outstanding Ways Introverts Can Locate the Right Real Estate Agent.   For all the posts, go here

After you have selected your Real Estate agent, you will get to start an exciting step.  You will be looking for homes!  Most buyers will begin their search online, and a good agent will set you up with a MLS portal so you can track properties in real time.  Of course, most people will simply sit down to search on google.  The large real estate search portals, like Zillow, Realtor.com,Trulia, etc, will be used a majority of time by you.   The MLS portal will have real time data while the portals will be lagging slightly in the latest status of a property.  You will want to be sure to check the MLS portal to see if a property you find on another site is still available, especially if you really like a house.  It is a big disappointment to learn a house you fell in love with online is no longer available.  You will learn quickly that even though the portal interfaces are easier to use, you will always use the MLS portal to check on the latest status.  

When looking for a home online, there are certain things to keep in mind.  These tricks will help you to better evaluate the properties you find and hopefully save from traveling to many properties in person.   When you are done looking, please be sure to contact me so I can get that MLS portal set up for you. 

1.  Photos can be misleading – One of the best ways to get a sense of a property is by looking at the photos.  However, you need to be cautious about online photos.  Listing agents will use every trick in the book to modify their pictures to present their properties in the best possible light.    In order to understand how these photos are made, it useful to know how the photographer uses his craft to make a home look much better than in realty.   For example, many photographers will use a wide angle lens to make the room look as large as possible.  You can also use virtual staging today to help make a vacant house look better.  This is a trick where the photographer places furniture in a vacant room virtually through a computer.  In reality, there is no furniture in the room, only in the pictures.   BoxBrownie.com is a great example of a vendor that utilizes virtual staging for listing agents. It even changes the sky, like from cloudy to sunny,  for external shots!    Sometimes, listing agents will even have photographers change a photo to eliminate a fault.  For example, a crack in the window might be deleted in the picture.  When you are looking at photos online then, just be aware of the magic that photographers can do to make the listing photos look better than reality. Once you have seen enough of the listing photos, you get pretty good at picking out photos that have been changed.    

Bonus:  3D tours are nice!  If you ever come across a listing with a 3D tour option, take it!   Most of the tours do a fantastic job of showing you the floor plan and the flow of the house.  Most photographers will use a Matterport camera to create the  tour.   You can check out some example tours on the vendor’s website.   

2.  Online Price estimates are not always right – One neat feature many buyers find helpful are the estimates on the value of the home.  This particular feature came to the limelight when Zillow launched 10 plus years ago.   It is called Zestimate and it divides the real estate industry in half about its usefulness.   Zestimate calculates the value daily based on “millions of data points” from around the web.   Most real estate agents will tell you that it is usually off by several thousands of dollars.   Other sites, like realtor.com and Redfin, also provide their own estimates on the value of the property.  You can even find several sites online (including my own) that will give you an automated list of properties that have sold in close proximity to a specific address.  Some will even generate a range of possible value like Zillow.   To use these numbers, it is best to consider them a good place to start on analyzing value.   You still need the help of a real estate agent to craft a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to give you a good finalized range on the price of a home.   We still need that human touch to rule out inappropriate data.   I would be happy to provide a CMA to any who need it.  Let’s chat!  

Bonus:  Tax Assessed Prices are not the market value!  Yes, you read that correctly.  The assessed tax value of your home will always be lower than market value.  Why?   Realtor.com has a great explanation of the difference.   Remember, assessed values are usually just a percentage of the market value.  The formula used to calculate the value is called assessment rate.   Each appraisal district uses a different one to figure how much to tax you.   You can never rely on assessed value to know the true value of a home.   

3.  School Districts Matter – Better school districts bring higher prices.  When looking at properties online, you want to figure out what criteria you will be using to judge a property.   Most buyers will look beyond the walls of the home to the surrounding community.  Buyers will want to live in areas that are safe, well-kept and will retain their value from year to year.   One characteristic you can utilize to analyze a community quickly is the property’s school district.   Many real estate investors use this one characteristic to determine where they will invest their funds.   Investors have come to realize that good school districts are a top-notch indicator of how well a community is doing overall.  If the school district has high ratings and well-respected, the property values will remain stable.  A good school district in their minds equals a good community.  Many of the portal sites, like Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, etc, all have schools on their listings along with their ratings.   If you want to approach it by looking for the school district first, you can check out sites like greatschools.org to find the best of the best.  Once you know where you look, you can then search for properties in those school districts.  it is a great way to narrow down your search areas.   

Bonus:  Crime and Neighborhood data is also important.   Many people want further qualifying data for judging a community, and will look to neighborhood crime and demographics.   Check out city-data.com for this type of information.   

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