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How To Use The Internet to Buy or Sell a Home

Written by: Kristy Welsh

Last Updated: August 10, 2017

Using the internet to buy and sell a home has become commonplace for the average American. You can now view homes for sale, list your house for sale, and see what homes are selling for in your neighborhood all in the comfort of your home office.

No longer must you randomly select some smooth talking real estate salesperson just to get an overview of what your dream home may cost, or to educate you on what it might take to sell your existing home. Thanks to the technology available via the internet, the market has changed. The percentage of home buyers using the internet for their search has gone from 20 percent (in 1995) to over 84 percent now. Using these tools, consumers are now the masters of their own fate, and this is a great thing for all of us.

Not all real estate professionals would agree, but potential customers are much more empowered, and educated, regarding the state of the market, available properties within their budget, and what their competition is out there. At the tips of their fingers are a number of web sites which will provide them with nearly the same listings of properties that are available to real estate agents on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or other similar property listing services. Potential buyers are now able to choose the information they view, how and when they view it, and be able to do so without interference from anyone.

With consumers having all this information power available to them day or night, at no charge you'd think realtors would be concerned there is no place left for their services. But really, it's the opposite. By the time a buyer, or seller, does decide they need a realtor, they've done a good amount of the work. They know what they want, and we have less groundwork to cover. Or, in other cases, a consumer who might have otherwise required a significant amount of time and research only to decide this is not the right time for them to make a move, has reached this conclusion without representation. 

Websites Used to Search For Properties

So what are all these websites consumers can utilize to do their searches or market their properties by owner? Here is a list of some of the sites that we've found that seem to be popular, and offer the type of information and services potential homebuyers and sellers are seeking.

  • Realtor.com  Realtor.com is the official site sanctioned by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Besides doing a detailed home search in the MLS database, you can also use their "What is Your Home Worth" tool. Realtor.com is not the MLS, but a stand alone website for Real Estate Agents to expose their MLS listings to the public. Of course, you'll get an automated report which is sponsored by a realtor so you may end up with a follow-up email or phone call. But hey, the data is free, and you might even decide the realtor is worth consideration.
  • Zillow.com  Zillow is one of the best known web sites for home searches, behind realtor.com. Zillow is a free online real estate site where you can search for homes for sale, find home prices, see home values, view recently sold homes, and check mortgage rates. They also offer a tool called the "Zestimate" which is Zillow's proprietary computation of the estimated market value of your home. This may be useful as a starting point in determining a home's value, but should always be supported by either an appraisal, or a comparative market analysis by a real estate professional. If you are selling your home by owner, you can post an ad here for free.
  • Trulia.com  Trulia markets itself as as independent, unbiased real estate advertising real estate search engine that helps consumers find homes for sale and provides real estate information at the local level to help you make better decisions in the process. It does not currently offer advertising services to sellers without real estate representation.
  • Realestate.yahoo.com  Consumers can do pretty much the same things on this site as the those above. The value estimate for your home is provided by Zillow, and you can input any combination of search criteria desired. Real estate agents or home owners marketing their properties by owner can submit a single listing one at a time for $49.95.
  • HomeFinder.com  This site offers similar search capabilities and home valuation tools as the rest of the web sites. Online advertising is available to consumers wanting to sell by owner, packages range (prices are contingent on locations) from approximately $130 for a 30-day ad to $250 for a 120-day package.
  • ForSaleByOwner.com  Forsalebyowner.com offers internet marketing services, real estate guidance and information, downloadable legal forms, as well as live customer support, to help customers independently sell their own homes. For sellers, the company offers a wide range of advertising and real estate resources, modestly priced from $89 to $899. Prospective homebuyers can browse the ForSaleByOwner.com database of properties at no charge.

For buyers only, there are a number of web sites you can go to view foreclosed properties directly from HUD, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, etc.

  • Hud.gov  A HUD (U.S.Housing and Urban Development) home is a 1 to 4 unit residential property acquired by HUD as a result of a foreclosure action on an FHA-insured mortgage. HUD has become the property owner on these homes and offers them for sale through an online bidding process. You will need to utilize a real estate agent to bid on these properties.
  • HomePath.com  These properties have been acquired by Fannie Mae through foreclosure, deed in lieu of foreclosure, or forfeiture. Fannie Mae's "HomePath" database includes only properties that are owned by Fannie Mae, and includes wide selection of single-family homes, condominiums, and town houses. Fannie Mae requires that you work with a real estate sales professional (of your choice) to submit an offer to the real estate agent who has listed the property.
  • HomeSteps.com  HomeSteps markets properties that have been acquired by Freddie Mac through foreclosure. Obtaining these properties is similar to HUD and FNMA.

Technology has fueled this cultural shift, facilitated by consumers' desires to move away from old-fashioned high pressure sales and from traditional advertising. Today's buyers want to have the power to decide what they look for, who they talk to (or don't talk to), and who they do business with. And with the market fraught with foreclosure properties, now more than ever there are deals to be had and you have to act quickly. Sounds reasonable to us!