Buying your retirement home might be a lot easier than any house you ever purchased before, thanks to an ever-expanding list of internet tools. Not only do new websites keep cropping up in familiar areas, but they are arriving with new services as well. This article will provide a quick roundup of the online services that can make purchasing your active adult or 55+ community a lot easier.
Type in “mortgages” into your search bar and you will find companies eager to offer you a mortgage. Given the recent publicity about mortgage predators, you should tread carefully. Get more than one opinion, shop locally, and get the opinion of your legal adviser before you act.
Credit rating services
There are a number of places on the internet where you can find out your credit rating, a number that is very important when you go mortgage shopping (the lower your rating, the more your mortgage might cost. If it is not high enough you might not qualify). You can a free report from annualcreditreport.com, a combined service of the 3 major credit reporters.
The days are over when homeowners went to these sites to see how much their home values have increased. But these websites can be very useful for both buyers and sellers in getting a sense of current values. Zillow.com, city-data.com, realestate.yahoo.com/ are just some of them. The most reliable data is available for the largest cities – and that data is available from the National Association of Realtors and Case-Shiller.
Appraisals and Inspections
There are a number of online places to search for appraisals and inspections of real estate you might be interested in buying. One that offers a free checklist is Housemasters
Real Estate Agents
A talented local real estate agent is always going to be the best tool for finding a home in any community – there local knowledge is very valuable. There are a number of online directories that can help; if you search on the internet for “real estate agents” you will find them. One of the most reputable sources is from the National Association of Realtors. Their directory is available at http://www.realtor.org/rofindrealtor.nsf/pages/FS_FREALTOR?OpenDocument
Perhaps the newest service available for homebuyers is the online auction. The grandaddy of all auction sites in ebay. They have a full inventory of homes, lots, commercial property, time shares, and vacation homes. The recent explosion of foreclosed and distressed properties is producing a mini-explosion of new online auction sites. Realtybid had 16 properties available in North Carolina on a recent visit, including 2 nice looking properties in Rocky Mountain. One 3BR/ 2BA sold for $79,000 and another had a top bid of $50,000 on the last day of bidding. The site had 116 properties listed in Florida, of which 25 were still in the bidding process. Prices look low!
Another start up that looks very interesting is bidonthecity.com, a site that specializes in New York City real estate. This site only had 6 properties for sale (their auctions begin every so many days). The nicest of those was a 6 story brownstone off of Park Avenue with an initial bid of $15 million! An online auction that appears to be a joint venture with the LA Times is Zetabid.com, which lists upcoming auctions in parts of Florida and California.
Another source of online auctions is the IRS, which is always auctioning off property collected from tax defaulters. For their current list of properties (some of which sound very appealing), go to the IRS website.
As with all auctions, it is buyer beware. On the Internet, that goes double. Our recommendation is that if you have the appetite for an online real estate auction, you should do all your due diligence including site visits, inspections, etc. Otherwise, that 17 acres you just bought for a song might not be build-able!
Emails and Text Messages
The New York Times had a recent article in late April detailing how text and email messages are transforming real estate transactions. They allow much more instantaneous communications, but caution should be exercised. Review carefully what you write before you send it! You want to be accurate and you also want to be professional – striking the wrong tone could end up losing a deal.