Home buyers: Do you drive around looking for houses for sale?

pollopicuSeptember 5, 2010

I'm wondering if anyone else has put as much mileage on their vehicles as me and my husband have in searching for their home. Unfortunately, we haven't found our home yet. We're not very picky, we're just looking for a house that has a good lot away from other homes and sometimes that's hard to see on the internet. So many times the pictures on the internet have made a home look like it's secluded or woody, and when you go see it in person either the house is too close to another or the general area is a not ideal.

We're also looking (by car) in the areas we'd like to live in. We told our real estate agent once that we did this and she looked at us as if we were crazy. I don't think there's anything crazy about it at all when you're actively looking and you truly need to find a house as soon as possible.

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Are you still using that agent?

But I would maybe find another agent who gets you and who is willing to help - after all they drive around all day too, and could easily let you know at least if certain areas are what you want vs otherwise.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 8:33PM
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Have you tried looking on Zillow? It uses Google Earth to allow you to see houses for sale. It allows you to see the area they are in and how they sit in relationship to other houses.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 9:01PM
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When house shopping I primarily watch the MLS, and if I see a house or houses we are interested in, we usually do a drive by first before calling our realtor. We have ruled many out this way without wasting his time.

redfin.com is also a good search site.

If you are in the Washington DC area (MD, DC, VA & WV) www.franklymls.com is awesome. You can set up a search based on street name, subdivision name, zipcode etc and get email alerts when something new hits the MLS. If you find a house you like, you can add it to your "watch" list and get notifications of any status changes.

I used it to find out current renovation project.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 9:15PM
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Thank you very much for the sites :) but we're looking in the Northern NY, Mass, CT areas.
I have used Zillow many times before when we lived in NJ, but mostly when we were selling our own house. You remind me to start using it again.
I do use google maps and mapquest as well. A lot of real estate sites have the "map this" or "view areal" features which I think is great as well. However, sometimes it's good to drive around because you get a better "feeling" from being "in" the actual area that you desire to live in.
We have also done the drive by after finding places online, as to not waste the agents time. I HATE calling agents to show me homes. I rather see them on my own first, then make an app. if it's something that looks promising. There have been so many times that I have fallen in love with a house over the internet, to later find it's located next to Freddy Krueger's house or a dumpy area.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 9:55PM
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I always drove around when selling and buying. I'd copy the address of any comps which would appear in my area. Most every weekend I'd do drive-bys to see what the comps really looked like and the street they were on.

When shopping for a place, I did the same thing. I never called my Realtor until I did a drive-by.

Get a new agent!


    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 12:58AM
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I use the MLS to find homes in the area I've chosen. Then Zillow is great to see lot size and the general area. Sometimes I use Zillow in tandem with Google maps. On googe maps, if you zoom in on an area and type in "hardware stores" all the hardware stores in the area pop up. Same for restaurants or whatever.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 9:31AM
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You bet I do!! I not only look for a house, but location, location, location~~~~I do not want to even consider one that is not in an area that has well kept homes surrounding it. When I find one, then I contact my realtor.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 11:27AM
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We narrowed down neighborhoods we liked, then sought houses in those areas. It only took two or three years!

We never did find 'the house' on 'the lot', but we found a teardown in a neighborhood we loved -- and built 'the house'.

Zillow just told me today that it's valued at a tad more than we put into it in 2001. Ain't that swell? LOL (Don't particularly care as we have no plans to move soon.)

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 1:25PM
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We drove around the neighborhood we were interested in a few times, so I don't think it's unusual! And we almost always drove by houses we were interested in on MLS to make sure the outside was at least presentable before wasting the agent's and our time - a lot of times those pictures on MLS are ridiculously inaccurate. One house looked nice and it turns out all the houses around it were filled with trashy people that were on their porches smoking weed. Uh, no. LOL.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 1:54PM
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pollopico, you dont say how you are finding the homes you are driving to see. You might find it helpful to sign up with an agent who can put you on an automated email program. The agent can set the search up with certain criteria so you're not out looking at every home in your price range. Certain search terms such as, "privacy, or wooded lot" would weed out alot of the homes you're driving by.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 4:20PM
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I search various real estate websites online, everyday. It's like a part time job for us. Not so much remax, century 21, or weichert, since their sites tend to be so overwhelming and cluttery. I tend to choose local real estate company websites, which in my experience have been a bit more accurate with more detail and clearer photos. If I find a house I like, I try everything to find the address to visit it first before wasting our agents time.

Real estate agents aren't what they use to be (no offense). It use to be that they showed you houses that truly matched your criteria, now you can't trust an agent, especially if you live out of state. They will show you the junkiest houses, in the worst neighborhoods, with no regards to your wishes or needs, and let me tell you we're not picky. All we're looking for is a fixer upper on a wooded secluded lot. We're willing to do the roof, the floors, doors, trim. All we need is at least 3 bed, 1 bth, but leave it to your agent to show you houses that are undoable. In their defense though, I understand they have to show off the houses that have been sitting for a while to demonstrate effort to the seller, however, it's not cool when your agent knows you're driving 3-4 hours to see a house and you have specifically asked them if the house is secluded and they tell you yes, only to get there and see another house in plain view.

Thank goodness we decided to rent in the area we're looking so we don't have to drive 3-4 hours anymore..

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 6:42PM
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If you have an agent that is wasting your time.... well.... get rid of them. Any agent with half a brain knows they don't make money by wasting both your time and theirs.

As for driving by, I certainly did that with our current home. We weren't driving all over the state though! We narrowed it down to a relatively small area we loved and drove the streets weekly. We ended up buying a house before it hit the MLS.

There is no way I would drive hours to look at a house before googling it first. There are overhead views available for almost everywhere in the country, so why waste your time driving?

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 10:29PM
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Your agent doesn't think you're crazy, she just doesn't want you looking on your own and maybe contacting the LA.
In reality, I'm sure she appreciates you not wasting her time, but is afraid of losing you.
I wouldn't dismiss her unless she is wasting your time, showing you houses that are clearly not a match.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 10:01AM
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She's actually a pretty good agent, I just don't want to meet with her each time we *think* we like a house.

Back when we were living out of state and I was new to home-searching I wasn't aware of google maps and zillow. I am now.. However, if one is searching for an out-of-state home, there's not many options other than to just get in the car and drive to see it. Some of the zillow or google pictures are not updated so when you arrive at the location, there might be a new construction. Plus I've also notice that google and zillow maps are not very accurate when it comes to distance. I have gone to see properties that seem generously spaced, just to find out the houses are much closer than they appear on the areal map.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 11:10AM
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I drive through the neighborhood a least 2X a week. It's a very desirable area where homes often sell w/ FSBO. We're really only looking in a one mile radius. On top of that, they are a couple of streets where we'd buy almost any house, just to live on that street. It can take a day or two before a house shows up on the MLS, so I am always looking for the sign in the yard first. I also check the MLS online several times a day and have a RE agent.
We've moved out of state several times and did take more than one 3-4 hr drive to see homes w/out our agent. We were in a hurry and figured if we liked the outside, we'd call our agent to take us in.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 9:28AM
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Also, I do have to add, if you are looking for houses in urban areas, it is especially important to drive by the house. I know in Cleveland things can change literally block by block, including home values. Which makes it doubly important to drive by before wasting yours, and the agent's, time.

For example, just a block or two away from us is much less desirable, and a block or two in the other direction is highly desirable.

In those instances, it's impossible to know without driving around/by the house.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 1:57PM
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I agree with Linda. A good agent can enter what you are looking for (Price, size, area, lot size, etc) into a database and you will get automatic emails when houses that fit you are listed on MLS.

Then you can drive by.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 6:53PM
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