In the Information Age, thorough and efficient research is king. Individuals can do a lot of the Internet leg work and come into deals with more knowledge then ever before. That's even more true for those you want to buy an investment property or make money buying real estate.
The game has changed and advantage goes to the individual who does their homework. We are now able to double check facts online and get tons of data on our own. This gives you more power to negotiate when you’re ready to make an offer.
New metrics show that 80% of home or property buyers used the Internet to find the property, and this statistic is coming from the Rational Association for Realtors—they can't be too happy about that. With new sites offering detailed information about homes, neighborhoods, and schools, sellers are working directly with buyers, saving a ton of money, and buyers are saving money too. A few examples:
Trulia.com offers heat maps gauging the demand for properties by city and neighborhood. Other sites, like Zillow.com have a make me move price. Then there's Apartments.com, which gives apartment hunters the option to locate rentals on their cell phone with GPS.
Good Real Estate Related Websites
If you want to find and compare the prices of homes you can scan sites like Terabitz.com, Sperling.com, Owners.com, Redfin.com, the two previously mentioned: Zillow.com, Trulia.com, and others--these sites also give you background information on the cities and states properties are located in.
The real estate space on the Internet is growing, and this only helps both investors and buyers, offering more transparency for all parties.
Then there are sites like Rent Slicer, which will give you an idea of the rental rates in a city or region. Here’s a quote from August, the man behind Rent Slicer: "I didn't want to play a guessing game with the rent. I wanted to know what comparable units were renting for, and then I'd set my rent accordingly. However, there were no internet tools that could help me. So, I made one."
Good Old MLS
Also, check sites for listings: MLS Listings, Craigslist For Sale, and Craigslist Rentals. Google, which seems like it’s always ahead of the game, is another site that lets you search for homes or properties for sale. Here's a link for homes in San Diego.
Take a look at crime statistics, weather, and local news. Try www.weather.com and type in the zip code for the area you’re interested in. You can also look up a city or area in www.Wikipedia.org, and the entry will often give you a good overview as well as several links that you can further explore.
Find a local blog that gives you insight to what's going on in an area. Here's a list of blogs by state: 500 real estate blogs to watch.
Use Google Maps and Yahoo! Maps to take a look at an area from a bird’s eye view. Google even has a street level view for some localities. With these sites you can come up with your own take on what areas are stable, growing or hot. Don't listen to all the media hype--they have to hype their news to sell it and get people to read, listen and/or watch.
Real Estate Market Reports and Trends
It’s important to know what the real estate markets are like in certain areas of a state before investing. But it’s equally important to understand the market trends so you can anticipate the direction of the market in the future. Luckily, this type of information is readily available online.
For the following site, simply copy the link and then type in any state of your choosing after the final forward slash:
An example for Virginia would be: http://www.househuntnews.com/MCR/Virginia/
Here’s a good site for Texas:
Cost of Living Calculators
Now that you’re familiar with the real estate market and its trends for a certain area, you’ll need to know the cost of living as well. If you’re going to live in the investment property, it’s useful to know what your projected cost of living will be. This information is also critical if you want to rent your property to someone else but are not familiar with the area and don’t know how much rent to charge per month.
The dreaded T word—it’s one of those few things in life that’s certain. To learn detailed information about the taxes involved, the IRS is a good place to start:
Other Useful Real Estate Sites
With HotPads' innovative map-based search, we are striving to give people the best communication platform for sharing information about available housing. We encourage everybody to post info about available apartments, rental houses, sublets, and roommate opportunities. If you've got a place, there's someone out there who wants it.
Zumper - Make your move. Find houses and apartments for rent.
Real Estate ABC - Home values and sales comparisons.
Housing Maps - Integration of Craigslist.com and Google Maps, allows you to view rentals and homes for sales in a wide range of cities.
Pop Smart - Independent real estate search engine. We crawl and index millions of homes for sale and other properties, then organize and display them on a slick Google Map interface.