Hunting for Real Estate


Lately, I have not been making frequent blog posts. There are good reasons, of course… and I will get to disclosing them in the near future.


Recently, I have been spending a lot of time house-hunting. Yeah, I have decided that it is about time for me to move from my condo into a stand-alone house. I have a lot of furniture and electronics purchases all queued up behind buying a house, and it is about time I release that bottleneck.


And I have been amazed at the tools available at my fingertips to make this search. I remember just three years ago how painful it was for me to locate appropriately priced condos in the areas that I wanted. I needed an agent to help locate and sort things out.


Well, with websites like http://www.johnlscott.com and http://www.windermere.com, I can finally do most of the hunting on my own and engage a buyer’s agent to help with the details and close the deal. I can easily enter in my criteria, like price range, location, features, rooms, etc… and scrolling/zooming around a map to narrow down the location… and the web app shows me the properties that match my criteria. How nifty is that!


I am especially impressed with the John L Scott site because it is so intuitively functional. I start out by punching in a price range and simply start scrolling, panning, and zooming into the area I want to focus on, and eventually I end up with a list of property matches with hyperlinks to lots of relevant information. And it works smoothly and quickly… so I have to say “score one for Microsoft technologies like ASP.Net, AJAX, and Virtual Earth”! Meanwhile, the Windermere site, which is based on ColdFusion and a MapQuest-like map called PropertyPoint… simply pales in comparison. Search criteria behavior is quirky at best, search/navigation is archaic in comparison to new standards like Virtual Earth and Google Maps, and usefulness of pricing information is not that high.


In contrast, from the John L Scott site, I have quick access to information like:



  • Recent sale prices in the area, so I can guage price/sq.ft ratio and relative desire

  • Historical public information on any property from metrokc.gov so that I have an idea of the price/profit range to help me determine position and approach for price negotiation

  • I can also passively keep tabs on listings in the area, price changes… all of which help me easily assess property worth before I even invest the time into physically touring the place to determine if I like it or not

Yeah… it is very different from my first home purchase experience where I spent days of time visiting dozens of homes before finding one I loved, had no clue on the basis of price negotiation, and then later rationalized the economics and details. That was a weird feeling for me because I never felt in control and my selection criteria was so emotional.


Well… this time, I finally have the tools to apply an analytical approach of quantifying and qualifying what I am looking for and how important each criteria is… and then narrowing down amongst those choices. It leaves the emotions out until the end, which I think is the way it should be. After all, real-estate purchase is financial in nature for most people, not emotional (don’t know about you, but I don’t buy houses because I am “bored” or for “fun”)… 🙂


Next step – how to make the financing work from an investment perspective…


//David

Comments (8)

  1. DrDaMour says:

    http://www.zillow.com – i’m still shocked how accurate it is, at least in my area.

  2. kfarmer says:

    http://www.cbbain.com — Coldwell Banker Bain uses Virtual Earth

    http://www5.metrokc.gov/parcelviewer/viewer/kingcounty/viewer.asp?size=large — King County Parcel Viewer (links to parcel history)

    http://www5.metrokc.gov/iMap/viewer.htm — King County iMap (needs to have Virtual Earth speed, but check out the layers, including floodplains!)

  3. David.Wang says:

    DrDaMour – hehe… seems like I am basically using already freely available public information to do what zillow.com is doing. 😉

    But, I do not need to run Flash or other ActiveX objects to get my information. I was mildly annoyed that zillow.com required running Flash to get a real-estate price estimate.

    Sigh, it pretty much means I will have to ignore zillow.com. Oh wait, I know someone who works there; I’ll just pipe in this feedback…

    //David

  4. David.Wang says:

    kfarmer – thanks for the tips and links.  Yup, I love metrokc.gov for all this information.

    I have always thought that the Real-Estate market would get a shot in the arm when Computer Technology catches up to it.

    Yes, I believe that Real Estate Agents are still necessary in this new world. They should NOT resist change nor insist on the same worth of all their prior services rendered useless by Computers. Instead, they just have to work a little smarter, like the rest of us, to offer valuable services that Computers cannot match:

    – Local view of the neighborhood; not everything boils down to numbers

    – Experience with the local laws, people, and trends simply not quantifiable

    – Closing Property Deals. Ultimately, deals are between people, not machines, and RE Agents are still valuable

    This is capitalism at work. 🙂

    //David

  5. kfarmer says:

    There is a caveat for sites like metrokc — in that case, the information cannot be used for commercial purposes, which means our agent more or less can’t deal with it beyond getting parcel boundaries.

    Of course, that doesn’t stop us from using it.  Actually, I modified my SharePoint site at home to generate the urls for these and other sites (given MLS and/or Parcel ID).  It’s made researching much nicer.

  6. David.Wang says:

    kfarmer – ugh, cbbain.com hardcodes its map application to be a fixed size while johnlscott.com shows the same information in a smaller space.

    Interesting… looking at the same property from different websites is coming up with some information discrepancies that shouldn’t be there. I know they do not guarantee the information is correct, but they should at least be consistent. Hmm…

    //David

  7. Real Estate says:

    Great article, very informative. Thanks and greetings!

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