Spring is finally here, at least in Minnesota, and with spring comes many things like warmer temps, longer days and home buyers. That’s right, if you didn’t already know it, spring is generally a good season for real estate. This Spring might be an especially good time to start looking for your first home because of home prices which have been dropping since 2006 and low mortgages rates which are almost certain to start rising in the near future as a result of changes at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
So what does a first time home buyer need to get started? Having been a first time home buyer myself and working with first time home buyers for a number of years, I’ve developed the following list of websites/tools to make your first time home buyer experience a little more efficient, effective and a lot more enjoyable. Read on!
1. Homes for Sale
If you haven’t already started looking for homes for sale online, good luck! While this is something that should be super easy, especially with Google, you may be surprised at how many times you have to change your search phrase or go back to the second or third page of the search results to find a good local real estate listings site.
First Time Home buyers generally start their search with something like, “Miami homes for sale” with an expectation of finding a site that specializes in homes for sale in Miami. Trouble is frequently you see a site in the first spot that has nothing to do with local Miami real estate and many of these sites do not show you a comprehensive list of homes for sale in the area you are looking.
MLS Maps was designed because we know that when people want to search for homes in a particular city, they want fast, free access to the most comprehensive data base of local homes for sale, which would be the MLS or Multiple Listing Service. The MLS is a local directory of almost every home for sale that Realtors populate and manage as part of their business.
Additionally we discovered years ago that not all local mls listings sites were equal. In fact, you now have the ability to search for mls listings and homes for sale on a local map. Let’s face it, the three most important considerations when buying real estate are; location, location, and location.
The good news is map based property search is available in many cities around the country and MLS Maps is your passport to local mls listing sites that offer you a way to designate an area on a map where you want to live and simply see all the homes for sale in that area. Another great feature is that many of these sites allow you to save the area on the map and receive an email alert whenever a new home comes up for sale in that area.
MLS Maps is fast, clean and ad free and connects you to millions of homes for sale, how many more do you really need to see? From the US map starting point, you are only 3 clicks away from seeing the mother lode of mls listings, real estate and homes for sale in the city where you want to buy your first home.
2. Find a Realtor
So after you have found a few homes you like on a local mls listing site, you need to find a good Realtor to work with so you can get into these homes and take a closer look. If you like the local site you used to find a few homes, you may want to reach out to the Realtor whose site you were using. If they appear to be internet savvy, that’s a good sign in today’s real estate market.
If you are a first time home buyer and don’t already know a Realtor, you’re probably wondering how to find a list of local Realtors with their contact info and links to their website, which incidentally may lead you to a local site which displays the mls listings and homes for sale.
Again, when you use Google to search for a real estate agent with a query like “Denver real estate agent” you may or may not get what you were looking for, a comprehensive list of local Realtors with a way to connect with them and see what others think about them.
Agentopolis is a directory of real estate agents with over 1 million agents listed. On this site you can search for an agent by state, city, broker name, first name, last name or even by first and last initials if you heard an agents name but don’t know how to spell it.
This is one of the most comprehensive and easy to use real estate agent directories on the Internet and if you see a Realtor you know, you can “like” them. Check out Agentopolis when you need to find a Realtor or if you’re looking for someone you know who is a Realtor.
3. Community & School information
Having moved a number of times in the past 15 years, I can tell you there is a lot more to choosing a home than just picking one that looks nice, especially if you plan to live there longer than 5 years. And even more important, if you have now or are planning to have kids later, is the school district you are moving into. Even if you are planning to send your kids to private school, the people who are looking to buy your home when you’re ready to move might not be and if they have kids, school district can be a big factor.
The other things to consider are city parks and outdoor space as well as community events. Some cities really do a good job of providing their citizens with a great schedule of fun family activities throughout the year while other cities seem like they are run by 90 year old people who don’t get out much.
If community and schools are important to you, than you need a good site to give you fast, easy access to all the county and city web sites in the US as well as school info. You only need to look as far as point one above to find a great site for community info.
MLS Maps has a National Directory of city and county websites so you can quickly find the info you need to help you decide between two different local cities or counties. MLS Maps also gives you a direct link to school info for every city. Simply go to the property search page for the city you are interested in and click on “school information” to see a list of public and private schools nearby.
So there you have it, three tools that will help any first time home buyer find and successfully purchase the right home for them.