Access to Information is a Boon for Buyers
In the good old days, The Multiple Listing Service was a members-only subscription with each page marked confidential even if the information was outdated by the time the publication reached users. The information was guarded by gatekeepers, the real estate brokers and representatives, who doled out the data on an “as needed” basis to the true end users: the homebuyers.
Home Buying in the Digital Era
It is difficult to imagine the real estate market functioning smoothly without the digital devices, connectivity and public access to information that characterizes this sector today. The Internet caused a seismic shift in the way many businesses are conducted, but the changes in home selling and home buying processes were nothing less than revolutionary.
At first, real estate professionals resisted open access to the MLS, but tech entrepreneurs designed websites that included most of the MLS information. Some websites were crowd sourced, democratizing the process even more as home sellers, landlords and property managers could post their own information and expect to generate hits and inquiries quickly.
While not entirely a new concept, for-sale-by-owner became a thing, pushing the licensed real estate professionals further into the fringes of the market. Potential buyers used every resource at their disposal to locate, research and compare properties prior to meeting with a broker or eschewing broker services entirely.
Information, Information Everywhere
Real estate offices had no other choice but to embrace technology. In a highly competitive market, information is currency for buyers, sellers and everyone involved in it.
Access to the most current listings isn’t the only concern for homebuyers. Demographic data, history of the property and comparative information with similar properties can factor into the buying decision. These days, most of this information is available online on websites of county property appraisers, real estate companies and private data aggregators.
Using the Information at your Fingertips
Home buying is a complicated process especially for the uninitiated. You need a plan that clearly defines what you want out of the transaction. With so many resources available, consider advocating for yourself by digging up information relevant to your home search.
Financial information – Understand your own financial data. The type of property you can buy depends on your finances: how much down payment you can make, how much mortgage you qualify for and the size of your post-closing renovation budget.
Knowing the seller’s financial position can also be a bargaining chip. For instance, sellers on the verge of defaulting on their mortgage may be more receptive than others to lowball offers.
Life changes - Divorce, death and job changes could make sellers more inclined to accept discounted offers. These details may be found by checking the sellers' social media updates.
Property Information – If the property appraiser’s website is online, most property and ownership details should be available from here. Neighborhood details including property values, features and owners’ names are part of public records and would be available on industry websites.
Home buying has become a transparent process with many ways for buyers and sellers to touch base and negotiate; however, this does not eliminate the need for real estate specialists. This process is subject to stringent regulations, exacting paperwork and other legal concerns. It is in your best interest as a buyer to have a broker on your side.