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What are your Buyers’ Search Processes?

A lot of them are better at searching for homes that I am, and that’s just fine with me – I don’t want to spend my time searching the MLS, craigslist, etc. – I want to learn what tools my clients are using, and most importantly, what tools they should be using , show them the tools and work to represent them as best I can.

A lot of them are better at searching for homes that I am, and that's just fine with me - I don't want to spend my time searching the MLS, craigslist, etc. - I want to learn what tools my clients are using, and most importantly, what tools they should be using , show them the tools and work to represent them as best I can.

What do buyers know that we don't?

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Fast internet and indoor utilities

My buyers tend to value high-speed internet access as much as they do running water. A lot of them are better at searching for homes that I am, and that’s just fine with me – I don’t want to spend my time searching the MLS, craigslist, etc. – I want to learn what tools my clients are using, and most importantly, what tools they should be using, show them the tools and work to represent them as best I can.

Here’s a thought – if your buyers are anything like mine, ask them how they search for homes. You might be surprised. Here is one of my client’s responses to my request. Clearly it’s a response localized for my market, but it’s one from which anyone seeking insight to buyer’s minds and processes can glean useful information.

Client’s response:

1. Your IDX site- Browse the map for affordable homes in places I want to live. Or, check the local MLS for new listings and then look on IDX to see if there is more information there.

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2. Look up found home on City Assessment website to find:

a. Tax Assessment price b. Who owns it? Does the owner live there? This often leads to another search on the City Assessment website for the owner’s name to see how many properties the owner has. Do the owners seem to be in good financial shape or have they made a lot of bad decisions (i.e. may need to get rid of the property to stay above water)? c. Check for any inconsistencies in square ft, room numbers, etc between MLS listing and tax assessment. d. Look at picture to see how different the home looked a few years back (pics usually taken in 2002 or 2003). e. Study transfer information to see when house was last sold, what it sold for, when it may have had work done, etc.

3. Use Google Maps to see what surrounds the house. Is the street tree-y? Industrial? How far is the nearest park? How far to downtown, UVA, etc?

4. Google the street address + Charlottesville to get more information about the neighborhood. For example: Grove St. plus Charlottesville clued me into the Grove Square development (which I was unaware of because I’m new to C’ville).

5. Google the complete address of the house to see if anyone has written anything about the house. Search the address of the house on Real C’ville Bubble blog to see if people have been blogging/laughing about the home’s asking price.

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6. Lastly, physically drive or walk by the house the old-fashioned way.

The IDX provider who can best integrate these processes wins.

Written By

Dad, Husband, Charlottesville Realtor, real estate Blogger, occasional speaker - Inman Connects, NAR Conferences - based in Charlottesville, Virginia. A native Virginian, I graduated from VMI in 1998, am a third generation Realtor (since 2001) and have been "publishing" as a real estate blogger since January 2005. I've chosen to get involved in Realtor Associations on the local, state & national levels, having served on the NAR's RPR & MLS groups. Find me in Charlottesville, Crozet and Twitter.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Ken Montville - The MD Suburbs of DC

    March 4, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Wow! That’s pretty detailed. I rarely run into clients that are into that level of search and detail. However, your broader point is well taken. It’s as important to know how our clients look for homes as it is to know what they’re looking for in a home.

    I’m often surprised by clients suggesting homes they found on site A or site B in area A or area B that are totally unrelated to what I thought they said they wanted. Their parameters just got larger based on the physical search, price range, condition, etc.

  2. Paula Henry

    March 4, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    Jim – I have seen it time and again – homes sit without showings, because the buyer can see (via Google Maps) that the train runs right behind the home or the home backs a vacant lot zoned light industrial.

    So, I give them Google Maps on my IDX search.

  3. Elaine Reese

    March 5, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Google Maps has added a whole new dimension to home searches. A few weeks ago, I had a listing appt at a home that was ‘close’ to a RR. There is a high mound of earth such that the track isn’t visible from the street and it helps deafen the sound. However, when I tried to explain what the home looked liked on Google and what effect that would have on showings, she didn’t believe me and still wanted to overprice the home. I withdrew my name from consideration in the agents she was interviewing.

  4. Reliable Robert

    March 5, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Interesting insight! Now that over 90% of buyers are going to the web first, we need to be sharper than the average pencil!

  5. Thesa Chambers

    March 6, 2009 at 12:42 am

    I too try to know what my buyers are doing to find homes and help guide them – with the lack of technology in my area it is always interesting to see where people find me.

  6. Jim Duncan

    March 6, 2009 at 6:24 am

    Ken – Amen, and that’s why I tell my clients that I’d rather point them in the direction of the best search tools, as they often have more time (and are better at it) than I do.

    Paula – Agreed, and also, search has a ways to go. I’d love to see a site with overlays of everything important – demographics, school districts (so long as this is accurate), crime, etc.

    Elaine – Another reason to explain to clients the need to understand technology. And why Google scares me.

    Thesa – I’d see that lack of technology as an opportunity to build a lead over all the other agents before the tech “hits” your market.

  7. Reba Haas

    March 6, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    We also live in a very heavy tech centered area – can you say Microsoft? So, we know that we need to have the right tools or at least understand the tools that our clients are using. Our locale is also one way that we got early insight into Zillow since it is also a home based company. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re here and we have to be able to discuss what they post on their site to our clients.

    I’ve been told often that our team is quicker to use technologies than many of our peers, but having come from a tech background and now having been out of it for over 5 years, I am starting to feel like I’m just keeping steady. But, many of our clients do work in those fields so we do get some good exposure to what’s coming down the pike.

  8. Claudia Gonella

    March 8, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    Buyers in emerging markets would love to get their hands on the kind of data that’s served up by the MLS and valuation databases in more developed markets like the US. Unfortunately they often only have access to information from vendors, glossy brochures and whoever they happen to stumble into on their visit.

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