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Buy a home through your home computer

If you're thinking about buying or selling a
home, a good place to start your search is on
your home computer.

A recent study by the California Association
of Realtors (C.A.R.) finds that Internet
homebuyers are twice as satisfied with the home
buying experience than traditional buyers.

The C.A.R., which conducted the landmark study
entitled "Internet vs. Traditional Buyers" in
fourth quarter 2000, found that Internet home
buyers typically find their Realtors online,
while traditional buyers usually find a Realtor
through happenstance - the Realtor 'farms'
their neighborhood or they call to get
information on a "For Sale" sign.

According to the study, traditional homebuyers
looked at 15.1 homes with a Realtor before
making a purchase, while Internet home buyers
looked at only 7.9 homes with a Realtor prior
to buying.

The reason, says Gary Thomas, C.A.R. president,
is that Internet buyers spend more time doing
their "homework" on the Internet. Internet
buyers spent 6.3 weeks researching the real
estate market vs. traditional buyers who spent
just 2.2 weeks prior to contacting a Realtor.

"By the time Internet buyers contact a Realtor,
they have a good understanding of what they
want -they know where they want to live.
They've investigated neighborhoods and they
know how much they can afford and what their
mortgage options are," Thomas said. The C.A.R.
study found that, overall, Internet homebuyers
are "completely satisfied" with the home buying
process (96%) vs. traditional home buyers (44%).

Internet homebuyers are also more "completely
satisfied" with their Realtors (73%) than
traditional buyers (34%).
Internet buyers typically purchased a more
expensive home ($403,752) than did traditional
buyers ($321,950). And, not surprisingly,
Internet buyers achieved a higher level of
education than traditional buyers.
Internet buyers contacted an average 4.6 Web
sites (excluding mortgage Web sites) as part
of their home-buying process.

The most popular real estate portals are
Realtor.com and HomeAdvisor.com. These sites
provide valuable information on the home buying
and selling process, along with all the homes
listed on the national Multiple Listing Service
(MLS). Internet buyers can view homes in any
community they wish online, 24 hours a day.
They can remain anonymous and not feel
pressured by a real estate agent. But if they
want a home's address, that's another matter.
That's the main drawback to the national sites:
addresses of homes in San Diego (or elsewhere)
are not provided. The Internet homebuyer will
have to contact a real estate agent to obtain them.

One real estate portal that does provide
addresses of all San Diego County homes on the
MLS is www.HouseRebate.com. In addition, the
site provides information on the home buying
and selling process as well as discounts to
homebuyers and sellers in the form of cash rebates.

Homebuyers can also find additional listings
that aren't on the MLS by perusing large
national sites such as Century21.com,
ColdwellBanker.com and Prudential.com. These
sites show their own listings including
addresses, but not other broker's addresses.
Through the power of the Internet, the
knowledge base has switched to the consumer,
and with that knowledge comes power: the power
to demand discounts on real estate commissions.
Previously, this knowledge base was only
available to licensed Realtors. Now, homebuyers
can expect to be rewarded for their online time
spent researching potential properties.
At the HouseRebate.com site, for example,
buyers simply register and then they can view
addresses of every home, condominium and
residential income property in the San Diego
area on their computer screen. They'll see all
the specs previously available only to licensed
Realtors, along with photos and asking prices.
Homebuyers can specify the city, Zip code,
price range, number of bedrooms and baths, size
of garage, square footage of house and square
footage of lot. They can also check off as many
options as they would like such as pool, den,
bonus room or storage. After the buyer submits
a request, they can view a list of homes online
with complete information, including
photographs, that meet their criteria. They'll
also receive daily automatic e-mail
notification of new listings that meet their
criteria. They can drive by and inspect from
the street any property without the pesky
presence of a Realtor. Homebuyers will probably
get a call from one of the site's Realtors, but
they can easily tell them, "don't call us,
we'll call you" when and if they're ready.
And, regardless of what online site they use,
homebuyers can choose any real estate firm to
continue their transaction, including
traditional brick-and-mortar firms.

A big advantage of online discount brokerage
firms is that buyers can now obtain rebates up
to 1.5% of the purchase price of their home.
Traditional Realtors generally do not offer
rebates to the buyers. For sellers, discount
brokerage firms offer to list homes for up to
4.5% vs. the traditional 6% commission. With
the average home price in San Diego County now
over $400,000, such discounts are worth
considering. The 1.5% savings amounts to
$6,000 for a $400,000 home and $9,000 for a
$600,000 home.

Another San Diego-based real estate site
provides an opportunity for "FSBO" (For Sale by
Owner) sellers to list their property on the
MLS. www.EfreeMLS.com will list any property
on the MLS for a flat fee of $299 vs. 3%, which
is one-half of the traditional Realtor fee.
EfreeMLS rebates the $299 to the seller if they
then buy a property through their service.
For homeowners not looking to buy or sell, but
who just want a good reading on the value of
their home, the HouseRebate.com site is an
excellent resource for sales comps: just enter
your Zip code and the last 100 sales for that
Zip appear.

Online real estate portals also offer lots of
educational links for homebuyers, including
information on community schools, a glossary of
real estate terminology in layman's terms, and
tips on preparing your home for sale. Many have
links to mortgage lenders, moving companies,
and furniture stores.

And, armed with this information, you can walk
into a brick-and-mortar real estate firm and
ask about discounts, as well. Coldwell Banker
is even getting into the discount brokerage
business with Blue Edge Realty. Currently the
company is testing the model on the East Coast
and it is not currently available in San Diego
County.

About the Author

Kris Grant is a free-lance writer based in
Coronado, California. Telephone (619) 437-8987
Cell Phone (619) 252-5525
email: KrisCorona@aol.com

Written by: Kris Grant

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