There are several reasons why you might be looking for property for sale near you. Maybe you’ve been renting, but you’re now ready to get serious about being a home owner. Maybe you’ve outgrown your current home, and you need something bigger. Maybe you’ve decided to build your dream home, and you need to find some land to build on.
Fortunately, there is so much information available on the internet in the modern age of real estate that you can quickly search for and find lots and acreage, finished homes, and new construction being offered in growing communities. Not only can you find a comprehensive list of what’s officially for sale, but if you learn to use the resources that are available to you through online resources that have been established, you can make good decisions about when to buy and what to buy that help you build wealth.
I’m going to share with you some of the best ways to find properties for sale near where you live, along with some tips on how to use those local real estate finding resources.
Using Your Local Classified Ads
The classified ads are alive and well. They’re not just for finding random used stuff. Many people who don’t like to use real estate agents, or who just want to try out the market before officially listing their homes on the MLS post ads first in local classifieds, including Craigslist and other local classifieds.
Often, local classified ads that list homes for sale are operated by local news companies or similar organizations. For instance, in Utah, KSL.com (affiliated with KSL News) has an extensive, active classified ads section of its website that is used throughout the entire state of Utah and beyond. Because of its popularity, KSL.com is a good option for people looking for property for sale in the Utah area.
If your local news outlets don’t have an active local classified ads real estate section, you can usually try the local section of Craiglist that’s closest to you. However, make sure you exercise caution when using Craigslist, as it tends to be a place where lots scammers hang out. Don’t send money to someone you haven’t met personally through Craigslist, and make sure that if you find a home you want to purchase through Craigslist, you have a professional (realtor or attorney) guide you through the process of buying the land or home.
Zillow is the most popular of the new real estate information portals. Zillow pulls data from property buy/sell transactions and other activities pertaining to properties within a municipal jurisdiction, most often county records. They also pull information from homes listed on various MLS’s (real estate multiple listing services) that pertain to each particular geographical region in the US.
Zestimate Home Value Predictions
Zillow’s estimate of home values is the well known Zestimate, which estimates the values of properties that are currently for sale as well as those that are not on the market. Zestimate accuracy predictions vary from state to state and municipality to municipality. Generally, predictions for properties in more rural areas are much less accurate than those that are in urban areas, simply because there are many more relevant data points available for completing the picture. Also, variations in Zestimate accuracy exist from area to area because of the variations in what data is publicly available.
Finding Homes Currently for Sale on Zillow
Most properties that are actively for sale in the US are published on Zillow. Zillow gets its active listings from local MLS data originated by brokers and agents, and syndicated to the Zillow from the MLS data feed. Typically, information published on Zillow (including pictures, features, and property descriptions) is the same as or similar to what’s available on the listing brokerage’s website and in the MLS listings where the property has been published for sale.
The advantage of looking at these listings on Zillow is that they can easily be compared to other listings and viewed in context of several of the other tools provided in the Zillow real estate portal, including homes currently for sale, homes potentially available for sale (such as foreclosures and homes considering offers through Zillow’s “Make Me Move” feature), recently sold properties, and rentals available, which are another alternative to buying a home. Zillow also has an intuitive search interface that allows people to find properties near them according to property type, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, HOA costs (when applicable), lot size, and lots of other features of properties that are pertinent when looking for a home.
Zillow also has a handy map search function that gives a property searcher the option to narrow a search to specific cities or neighborhoods.
For many people, a search for local properties for sale (and for not-so-local properties as well) starts and ends with Zillow.
One quick note about active properties listed for sale on Zillow. Zillow makes some of its money by referring property hunters to real estate agents who act as buyers agents. When you visit a for sale listing published on Zillow, you’ll often see several agents listed (see the screenshot below). These agents are most often not the listing agents. They are real estate agents looking for buyers, and they have paid to have their ads associated with Zillow listings. Recently Zillow has made it more straight forward to see who actually is the agent listing the property for sale by adding “Listing Agent” next to the agent’s name, picture, and contact information. If you don’t feel like you need a buyer to represent you and want to save the buyer agent commission, you should simply contact the listing agent directly.
Trulia is owned by Zillow, and functions very similar to Zillow. Trulia has a simpler to navigate site design, but also has crime map data associated with areas you might be considering for purchase.
RedFin is a competitor to Zillow and Trulia. Besides listing properties for sale in your area or in other areas you might be interested in, you can use RedFin to get an estimate of a home’s value. RedFin uses a different valuing system from Zillow to estimate home values. In their estimates of home value prediction accuracy RedFin separates active for-sale listings from those properties that are off the market.
Zillow recently (June 2019) announced that they’ve updated their Zestimate calculations, making them more accurate, causing them to overtake RedFin in accuracy, if they’re estimates of their accuracy (seems redundant and self-fulfilling, doesn’t it?) are correct.
At any rate, using RedFin versus Zillow or Trulia often seems like just a matter of preference. It’s a good idea as you look for properties available for sale near you that you compare estimates from RedFin versus Zillow to get a more complete picture.
Your Local MLS
When a real estate agent signs a listing agreement with a home owner, the next step is to list the home on the multiple listing service (MLS) with which the listing agent’s broker is associated. Usually this is pretty much determined by the region where the agent and brokerage work. Sometimes there is some overlap.
To access local MLS listings, you can simply search Google for “MLS listings near me” or something similar. ListHub publishes a list of over 600 MLS systems throughout the country. Often with MLS listing services, a searchable database of homes for sale is available through a website associated with that MLS. For instance, in Utah, the Wasatch Front Regional MLS publishes property listings under UtahRealEstate.com.
Local Real Estate Agencies
Having lived in Utah for more than a couple decades, I used to think that pretty much every property listed with a real estate agent was accessible through the local MLS listings database, UtahRealEstate.com as mentioned above. However, having moved to Tennessee and shopping for a property to buy, I’m finding out things are different. My wife and I have come across lots of properties that have signs posted by agents, but when we try to find those homes or lots on the MLS for middle Tennessee, they don’t show up. I’m not sure the exact reason, but apparently many real estate agents don’t list their properties in the MLS.
With that said, if you’re interested in making sure you have all your options available to you when shopping for a property in your area, it’s a good idea to find out who the major real estate agencies are in that area, and check their websites for listings. It’s possible that there are some they list for sale that you won’t find in the local MLS listings
Foreclosed Homes and Other Distressed Properties
Foreclosed homes and other types of distressed properties often go into a different pool altogether. Auction.com (the largest of the property auction brokers) is a resource I’ve used to find homes that are going to be sold at auction soon. I’ve also cross-checked what I find at Auction.com with Zillow and other information available to the public before I move forward with the process of trying to purchase a distressed property that’s not listed for sale through the “normal” means.
Local County Records
It can be tricky finding properties (land or homes) available in exactly the spot where you want to live. If you’re innovative and like to think out of the box a bit, you can find properties that very well may end up as good deals by checking with people who aren’t even thinking about selling their property.
The best way that I know to find out about who owns what to get started checking on potential properties that are off the market, but with the right offer could be sold to you, is to check with your local county property records office.
Sunday Drive Looking for Properties
My wife and I have this hobby of driving around looking at properties available for sale. Especially if you have months before you need to move into the home or buy the lot you’re looking for, this isn’t a bad hobby. Before the 2008 housing market crash, we looked at homes in a 25 mile radius of where we lived, and we saw them moving up in price at a pace that was obviously not sustainable based on what we observed in the other economic data we studied (namely, median incomes for people in our area and throughout the country). Through our regular house price checks and tours, we got the feeling we should just wait.
We’re glad we did.
We bought a home in 2010 at about half the price of what it originally sold at, and we lived there for 9 years before selling the same home for $300,000 more than we bought it for.
Finding Property For Sale Near You
If you’re looking for property for sale near you, there is no shortage of resources available to help you find what you want and make a good decision. Besides using the tools I’ve mentioned above, I also suggest you pay attention to other factors that affect the economy as a whole (interest rates set by the Federal Reserve, employment data, housing prices indices, etc.) to make sure that buying any kind of property is done with good timing.
In fact, during our move to Tennessee, we felt like we needed to learn more about the area, including feeling out the logistics for sports programs and music teachers in the area to meet our families needs. During my research, I learned that there are many housing experts and economists who are predicting (for lots of logical reasons, including an overall overheated real estate market in the US) a correction near the middle to end of 2020. Our plan is to wait for that correction to happen, then go find the best property to suit us, expecting that we’ll able to negotiate a price that makes us feel comfortable.
Good luck with your own property search!