Saturday, November 29, 2008

Searching for homes online

The internet is a vast space. These days, we can find almost anything we want online if we just search hard enough.

Almost anything.

If you are in the market to buy a home, you have probably discovered the wonderful array of options available to search for houses all by yourself from the comfort of your home. Surfing around almost any real estate site or any Realtor's site (ours included) will usually give buyers or sellers a link to search for homes in the extended area. On the home page of our website, we provide two links - Featured Listings and Search IDX MLS. Featured Listings take you to the pages for the homes we have listed ourselves. That second link is the topic of this blog entry.

The MLS is a concept most people are familiar with nowadays. Standing for Multiple Listing Service, it is a compilation of all member office listings. There are some misconceptions about what the MLS is, though. It only features the listings of member offices. Membership in the MLS is not required for real estate brokerages, so there are some homes that are not featured by default. Also, sellers have the option of opting out of featuring a property on the MLS, so the information on these properties can only be obtained from the listing real estate office.

In the new age of internet marketing, there are some further limitations of the MLS that are not understood by the general public. When you are searching a database of homes or properties online, you are not searching the full MLS. You are only searching the properties of sellers that have decided to allow their homes to be submitted to an Internet Data Exchange (IDX for short). Depending on marketing strategies, not all member agents or all sellers want their properties disbursed over the internet as a whole. These properties can then be found only on the sites where the Realtor has made the choice to feature them or by working with a Realtor yourself. Your Realtor can search the full MLS to find all of the featured properties that might fit your needs.

Sellers also have the option of allowing IDX for their property, but refusing to give address or location information. This is why some homes that come up in your IDX MLS searches have photos, pricing and descriptions, not nothing about the address.

IDX MLS is a wonderful option for buyers who are starting the home buying process or sellers who want to know about the competition, but please be aware of what you are actually searching when you search an IDX MLS database. The only way for the public to fully search the MLS is to work with a qualified Realtor.

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