By Dan Krell
Before computers became common place, brokers kept track of their listings just as libraries kept track of their collections-by card catalogues. As a matter of fact, you can see these old cards for your self at the Rockville office of Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc. (MRIS), the local multiple list service (MLS).
During that time before the MLS, brokers were not required to share information and listings with other brokers. This proprietary system allowed the broker to maintain the buyers that came to seek information on homes for sale.
Looking back, home buying was not complicated. Home buyers would go to the local real estate office and see what homes were available. Homes for sale and other information were limited to what your Realtor knew. Most likely, the only homes your Realtor showed you were homes that were listed by that real estate firm. Needless to say, the real estate industry has come a long way since then.
Since the advent of the multiple list service, technology has made a huge impact on the real estate industry. Presently, searching for the right home has never been easier. Home buyers can look for homes on the internet and get listings via email and cell phones. As a matter of fact, if you go onto the internet, you will have hundreds of Realtors (including myself) as well as Real Estate Companies offer to send you home listings.
With all of this information flying around, what’s the most reliable and accurate information available?
The most reliable and accurate information available for Realtor listed homes is through MRIS. Unfortunately, if you are not a real estate professional, you can not have a membership to peruse the database. The good news is, however, that all the other databases and online searches of Realtor listed homes are fed by the MRIS. The quality of the information depends on the website’s ability to update their information from MRIS and how it disseminated.
Several popular internet searches are HomesDataBase.com, Realtor.com, and Homes.com. All three offer searches on the internet without filling out information forms. If you choose additional information or services from these sites, you must fill out an information page giving at least a name and email address. Although you get to search on your own, the sites do promote realtors and other real estate professionals.
If you are a busy professional and do not have the time to search online, you can have listings emailed to you as homes come on the market. If you complete the homes prospector page of HomesDataBase.com, you can save your search criteria and have any new listings sent to you as they come onto market.
There are many more internet based services which include JustListed.com, Homegain.com, RealEstate.com, and many more. These websites forward your information to a local Realtor who will send you the information you seek. All these sites are useful and you can get the information you desire as long as your search criteria is specific enough. Unfortunately, if your search criteria are too specific, you will miss seeing homes that you may actually consider buying.
Alternative sites to search for local homes include the Washington Post website (WashingtonPost.com) and Craig’s List. (washingtondc.craigslist.org). Both sites publicize all homes for sale that have been advertised by for sale by owners and Realtors, however Craig’s List is a grassroots site that does not allow commercial advertisements.
Having all the technology and information available online is useful, however there are drawbacks. The main drawback is that most of the information is limited and you must contact someone for additional information.
No matter what manner of internet home searching you choose, you will be more informed than not having done the search at all.
This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice.
This column was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel 11-14-2005. Copyright 2006 Dan Krell.