IHB: Set Up a Property Search

To facilitate your home search, go to http://www.idealhomebrokers.com/ and set up a property search; this is a good idea for both buyers and sellers. As a buyer, you want to spend some time watching the market and see the location and the quality of properties that meet your search criteria. As a seller, you should also watch the market for properties because these are your competitors vying for the same buyers. Spending some time watching the market will help you understand the pricing dynamics in your neighborhood.

On the home page, you will see a box similar to the one presented above. This is your portal to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). You can create custom property searches based on a variety of criteria, and with registration, you can save searches, and even have the results emailed to you or sent to an RSS feed.

At the top of the map, you see two tabs: one for the map view and one for a property detail view. Once you have selected a property in the map view, the program will automatically switch to detailed view and provide additional property data. To switch back to the map, click on the map tab.

The map itself can be navigated by dragging the map around with your mouse, and by zooming in to see specific neighborhoods and zooming out to see entire cities or regions.

There is also a link to register with the service to get listing updates, save searches and perform other tasks. Registration is very easy and requires little personal information.

Enter your name and email address and choose a password. That is it. There is no more information required than what you entered when you signed up for this email program.

In the upper right corner, there are 3 links, a quick-jump navigation box, a menu to change the underlying display, and a pop up with detail on the neighborhood being viewed.

Once you have set up an account, you will want to click the “login” link to access your saved searches and other tools. The “help” link brings up a box with pertinent help information. The “Chat with the Team” link will call up a box allowing you to chat with a representative of Diverse Solutions the provider of the mapping system. This chat function will not link you to a member of the IHB.

If you want to quickly zoom to a particular city, zip code or MLS listing, you can directly put this information in the “jump” box and press “enter.” The system will automatically take you to this location without having to navigate the map.

You can view the map as terrain, an air photo, or a hybrid between the two. It is very similar to how Google Maps or other mapping applications present their data.

Once you are zoomed in to a specific area, you can click on the “map statistics” link on the side of the map, and various statistics about the area will be displayed.

The default settings will show you every property for sale in the mapped area. You will want to narrow your search to view only properties you are interested in.

On the left side of the map is a series of boxes and sliders that allow you to input your search criteria. You can either manually enter information into the boxes, or you can use your mouse to adjust the sliders beneath the boxes, and the software will automatically put numbers in the boxes for you.

Whenever you are searching for properties in a market, it is wise to broaden your parameters to see properties just outside your range of consideration. Oftentimes what happens is that you see a fantastic property outside of your normal parameters that catches your attention. This may reveal the parameters you thought were important may not reflect your true needs and desires. If you set your parameters too tight, you might have your ideal home filtered from your view.

The first data point is the location where you wish to search. The MLS allows you to search by city, community, tract name or zip code. As you type the software fills in potential locations that match your query. The database is extensive.

The next data point is the price range for your search. The IHB learning center has information on how to properly estimate the amount you should pay for a home based on your savings and income. For purposes of watching the market, you may wish to extend these ranges a little below and a little above your intended price range to get a better understanding of how location and quality impact pricing for properties that are in your price range.

The next data point is the number of bedrooms and baths you require. Note that this is what you require, not necessarily what you desire. For example, if you want a 4 bedroom, but you only really need a 3, you should set this at 3 bedrooms to see the full range of available housing opportunities. If you set it at 4 bedrooms, you will not see the available 3 bedroom properties, and you may miss the right property for you.

The next data point is the size of the home. My advice is to leave this as wide a range as possible. Telling yourself you must have a 3,000 SF home because you have too much furniture is like having the tail wag the dog. Bigger is not always better.

The range of lot sizes is next, and I also recommend you leave this as broad a range as possible. Also, lot size can be misleading. A house with an alley may have a large lot but not have a useful back yard.

In my opinion, the “days listed” data point is rather meaningless. If a house has been on the market for a long time, it is likely overpriced, but to filter out these properties can be counterproductive, particularly if the seller suddenly and dramatically lowers the asking price.

I also recommend leaving the range for year built as wide as possible. You may find a home that is either newer or older than what you were looking for is actually better suited to your needs. Many older homes have been tastefully updated and present as well as new homes.

Another search tag is to show only those properties that have a certain percentage price drop recently. This is a good filter to have, particularly on an email update. It is common for homeowners to give up holding out for a high asking price and dramatically reduce their price. This is generally a sign of a motivated seller ready to negotiation a sale in earnest.

There are also a series of check boxes to expand or limit your searches to include many different property types. This can be useful if you have very specific features you are looking for. Also, you can set up different searches to show both the for-sale market and the rental market for a given set of search parameters. That information can be very useful for establishing comparative rents and determining fundamental valuations.

You can also filter your search results to only display properties within a specific school district. This is a very important feature among many buyers. It it important to note that school district boundaries do not necessarily follow city boundaries. For example, areas within Irvine are serviced by the Santa Ana and Tustin school districts as well as the Irvine school district.

The Walk Score is a subjective measure of how easy it is to live a lifestyle without an automobile. Many downtown urban areas earn high walkability scores because the conveniences of modern living are readily accessible on foot. Most suburban areas score poorly for walkability. With the reliance modern society has for automobiles, holding out for a high walkability score will filter most properties.

As a sign of the times, there is a filter where you can see only short sales and preforeclosures or properties owned by lending institutions.

You can also opt to see listings on Zillow. There is value in this, if you are looking for properties offered for sale by their owners.

The final checkbox tells the software to only search in the mapped area. There are times when the area you are interested in does not have a specific geographic designation. You can use this checkbox when you have zoomed in to a specific area or neighborhood and you only want to see properties in that location.

The lower left button will reset all the parameters to their default values. Don’t press this button by mistake or you will lose all the settings you input.

The lower right button tells the software to run the search and return your properties on the map display.

The search tool on the home page of Ideal Home Brokers is very powerful. You can see all properties that meet your criteria and find your ideal home.

Thank you again for allowing us the opportunity to present ourselves to you in this manner. We look forward to working with you.


Larry Roberts

When you are ready to buy or sell a home, we are here to serve you.