I have a system for looking through listings on the MLS. All my clients and prospects are in my database with a search matching their criteria. I can limit by distance from a point (such as 2 miles from Fenway Park), and for limits on living area, number of rooms, presence of gas utility hook-ups, garages, and such. I can’t limit the search to rule out places on busy streets, or those that are ugly or those that are falling apart.
First, I look at the location by street. Then I look at the street map view, then I look at the satellite view. Then I look at the pictures. Then the room dimensions, if available. Then floor plans.
Unless I am looking a different client... Then I look at the kitchen picture first, the bedroom dimensions second, the lot picture third, then the location on both maps.
Or, if I am looking for yet another client, I rule the property in or out based on the street location. Then I look at bedroom configuration first, presence of insulated windows second, location on the maps third, interior pictures fourth, then room dimensions.
In all cases, I read the little paragraph last.
Since my goal is to search the way my clients would search, it takes a bit of mind reading. I get better at it the more we work together.
This is the time of year when many people start “Windows shopping” for houses. In some ways, it is not a good time, because it is winter leftover time. However, it is a good time to get the kinks out of the search criteria.
My overall method is simple. I keep the criteria broad at first, then whittle it down until my clients are seeing increasingly probable matches with fewest duds. The art of it is in identifying the three or four top features for rule-in or rule-out.
Common rule-ins and rule-outs that work for everyone: Set bottom and top limit on the interior size, the exterior size, the number of rooms, bedrooms, and bathrooms.
Then it gets particular: Location requirements can be regional, by town or specifically within a distance of a regularly used location (train or subway stop, town center, school, work, best friend, day care center.) Some use school districts for this.
After a while, people rule out house styles that don’t work for them.
What kinds of rule-outs don’t work? Anything that can be changed (without breaking the bank) should not be a rule-out item. An example of this is ruling out anything without a gas hook-up. Some places have gas on the street, making a gas hook-up possible. The gas line can be the last item checked, not the first. A diligent agent can screen for gas line availability once you screen the house for your other criteria.
Often missed rule-out items that can save you time. Wood floors. If you require wood flooring, as opposed to carpet, this should be in your criteria somewhere. Adding hardwood, bamboo or tile is an expensive upgrade.
You will waste time if you do not pay attention to flooring while browsing through the MLS.
What should be in a good MLS search? What should not be there? Which interface do you like best? Why? What are your top 3 or 4 hit-list items?
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