Let’s be honest, the Internet can be a very creepy place. Show of hands for someone who hasn’t Googled a current, former or prospective love interest? Nobody? That’s what we thought. The amount of information available for anyone with an Internet connection is downright scary. Some people use it for evil but there are plenty of ways to use it for good. One is to do your real estate research. There are several different sites available, some better than others, that can tell you everything you need to know about your neighborhood.
Public Records This method is a bit more challenging and you have to do some offline research as well but we promise it’s worth it. This is the most accurate way to get information. Every city in the United States keeps a record of all properties that have ever been listed for sale. You can find out how many times a certain property has been listed for sale and how long residents have owned each property for a certain amount of time. If you are serious about buying a house, we recommend this route. You will most likely have to fill out a records request and send it to the appropriate office for your city and wait for your request to be granted but you will learn things you never could have found online. Doing a quick Internet search will give you the information that you need for your area.
Zillow.com We love Zillow and anyone who has any interest in real estate value loves it too. Zillow gives you average values of homes in any area at all in the United States. They have a fairly current list of homes for sale and at what price they are listed for. Even if a home isn’t for sale this website will give you what they call a Zestimate, we see what they did there. While it’s not 100% accurate, it is pretty darn close. This is also a great resource for renters.
Homes.com Homes is similar to Zillow in that it gives you estimates for homes that aren’t for sale and shows you current homes that are for sale. One feature that Homes has that Zillow doesn’t is the option to search foreclosure homes. Many people like to go this route when looking for a new house in order to find a deal. Homes.com also has more detailed information like value history and local schools. If you are hunting down the value of your prospective new home we recommend comparing more than one site. Even if the numbers are different across the board you will get a pretty good idea of the average.
A Word of Caution Another creepy element of the online world is that you never know who you are actually dealing with. There are several third party sites that will try and sell you information that you can either get using free public records or get for free on sites like the two that we mentioned above. Don’t get caught in the trap. Think twice about giving out your credit card information just to get access to real estate websites. If you are looking at buying a house you can contact a real estate agent who works in that area and they will be able to give you just as good of information, if not better for a much lower price.