Step 4: Browse and Select Properties

Now that your agent is sending you properties filtered through your search criteria, it's time for you and the agent to work together and decide which of these is worth looking at in person. If there are features present or absent in a property that make it a no-go that can be seen from the online listing, identifying that early saves time, gas, and a bit of run-around for the agents and whoever is living in the property (owners or tenants) since they leave during showings.

There are a number of good options to use for browsing properties. Although many people use sites like Zillow or Redfin since they started using them before working with an agent, I would recommend using the MLS (multiple listing service) platform through your agent for a few reasons which I'll unpack below. It's not critical though- as long as you notify your agent once a property is of interest, they should be able to find it through the MLS regardless of the platform you are using (assuming it's up to date... which brings me to my first point).

As mentioned in the last post, sites like Zillow, Redfin, Trulia, etc. pull their information for listings from the MLS database that is the standard source for real estate agents. While these sites usually have the same information and it is usually up to date, at times it is not as current as the MLS data. Additionally, the MLS data includes more information that your agent is able to view. For example, an agent with a hot property might include a note that offers have been received and they will only accept new offers until 4pm the next day. This would not show up on the other websites. The MLS is simply the most current because it is the source for other websites.

Another very helpful advantage of the MLS platform for browsing properties- it is set up for for streamlined communication with your agent. It may not be as attractive as a site like Redfin, but you can indicate interest on properties as you browse and make comments which your agent can see. It also works the other way- as an agent makes comments pointing out unnoticed disadvantages of the property or suggesting available times to see it in person, it saves a lot of back and forth between email and the browsing platform for both sides.

Finally, browsing on the MLS platform is safe way to view all the properties on the market without a million companies asking for your contact information. Since you need an agent to provide you the access to browse through it, other agents cannot solicit your business. Other sites like Redfin, since it is after all owned and managed by Redfin, are really using the existing data on the MLS to help you connect with their agents as you browse. There is nothing wrong with that, but it sometimes gives people the impression that the agent populated on the side of the screen next to the property has some sort of connection to the property. In reality, he or she may have never even seen the listing before. Many other smaller platforms through individual agent or brokerage websites do this as well- it's a way for agents to connect with buyer clients who do not yet have an agent. It becomes tiring if you work across various platforms, and this is why using the MLS is ideal once you're working with an agent.

Besides you browsing for properties and communicating your interest, your agent will likely come across properties he or she thinks would be a good fit and send those your way. Again, this is most easily done through the MLS platform rather than copying and pasting a bunch of website links through email. Agents may also find properties that are not yet on the market through agent networks or what are called "pocket listings"- listings communicated privately to agents because they are not ready to go on the market due to unfinished photography, staging, or even a decision on listing price.

Once you've identified places with your agent that you like, you're ready to have the agent schedule some showings and go on some tours!


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