The growth of the internet and technology has made things easier and faster. Information on homes for sale can be found on sites such as Zillow and Realtor.com and individual REALTOR websites. Past and current analytical tools are easily accessible. The home buying and selling process in the last 10 to 15 years has gone drastic changes. Especially first-time home buyers are starting to ask, “Do I even need a real estate agent?”.

Younger consumers have become savvy buyers as they were able to optimize the efficiency of the internet. They can do the initial discovery of homes for sale, and get a general idea of what is available and compare that with historical data. Yet most home buyers and sellers still seek the help of an agent since the sequence of the dozens of steps to take from looking at homes to writing up a contract offer and confidently going to closing can be daunting.

Kathleen Chiras, the CEO of Skyfor’s Buyer Agent Search program, and her team performed a national survey of almost 400 real estate agents in their national network. The goal of this survey was to share with home buyers and sellers the best tools and sites consumers can use to start their home search or selling process. Here are the results:

Best Tools and Sites Consumers Can Use

  • #1 Real estate agent’s “personal” website – The most accurate and up-to-date information available in the market can be found here. Most real estate agents have their own website and apps where consumers can do a lot of things like communicate through the site/app. Almost instant communication is possible with the buyer or seller agent through texting. Agents will set up a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) email feel that is custom designed with their clients exact preferences within specific geographic areas. Consumers receive a customized list of properties that match the consumer’s criteria and specific needs. Consumers can also receive immediate updates for new listings listed on the market that meet their criteria. Consumers can best utilize the tools available to them by choosing a top agent who will carefully listen to their needs and set up an MLS listing search. Large national portals of homes for sale have been found to be inaccurate and limited.
  • Zillow – This site has a lot of features that can help home buyers and sellers find and view nice photos of properties. Some of the information about the home for sale is available here, and consumers can even compare the asking price to Zillow’s estimate. Zillow’s “zestimate” however, is based on neighborhood averages and can be off by as much as 20-30% compared with an appraisal or the experienced agent’s specific comparative market analysis. To narrow down the results, consumers can filter their search by foreclosure, new construction, for sale by owner, and other characteristics based on their preference. Mortgage and affordability calculators are also available here. Some data in Zillow might be outdated and not fully accurate, but it allows consumers to start their home search to get a general idea of properties for sale in a particular neighborhood, and the trends in a market.
  • Trulia –This site offers basic information about real estate such as property size, cost, rentals, and mortgage payments. This site can also be beneficial if consumers want to have an idea of how a home or location can fit their lifestyle. It has a feature where consumers can explore the area more by checking out the amenities of the area such as nearby restaurants, groceries, shopping centers, etc.
  • Realtor.com –This website offers statistics about neighborhoods, listings for sale, (which consumers can customize based on their preference) apartment listings, and local mortgage rates.
  • Social media sites – In this age of digitization, people have discovered the electronic resource their networks of friends and family. The use of smart phones has widely increased. This has led to the advent of numerous social networking platforms and apps. Some of the largest and most used networking sites that consumers can also use in their home search are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

The national survey overwhelmingly discovered that real estate agents’ personal websites with direct access into the MLS, followed by a customized MLS delivery system of preferred properties as they come into the maket email is the number one tool to use because the information is the most accurate and up to date. The first email received will have all of the homes currently for sale, and that will be followed by a daily update of new properties and changes of status (such as Under Contract, or Pending). This private portal with numerous search criteria specific to consumer’s needs, along with other internet tools recommended by an agent make them an invaluable resource to home buyers and sellers. And the beauty of this is that since agents typically get paid at closing out of the sale price of the home, there are no up front out of pocket costs for those wishing to buy or sell a property.

Finding the best real estate agent

Benefits of hiring buyer agents

While the best sites and tools are already available online, consumers still need the best and top real estate agents to fully represent them in a real estate transaction. Great agents have a reputation for being highly skilled negotiators. Through the internet, looking for the right agent to work with is just one click away.

Buyer Agent Search, a trusted agent finder program, is easily accessible by going to the inquiry page on this site. The service is led by Chiras, who answers real estate-related questions and provides interview questions for the selection of buyer agents. The service typically recommends two or three agents to interview for a certain area and provides a 10-item list of interview questions. Their goal is to empower consumers to be in charge of the process and to pick the right agent for them.

This service has a wide network of top agents located in all 50 states, and in most cities of the United States. Their headquarters office is open 7 days a week and available to call anytime to discuss the best strategies for the selection of a highly qualified buyer or seller agent with a proven track record.

Kathleen Chiras is the associations manager and web manager for the Colorado Exlusive Buyer Agents Association.