Finding Your Home

The best and most up-to-date source of listings for condos, single family homes and income property is your local Multiple Listing Service (MLS).   This is what us agents use to find listings for our clients.  In the greater Los Angeles area, there are different MLS’s servicing different areas but agents have access to them all.  You can access the west side MLS directly at www.themls.com but you won’t have access to the complete details on the property like an agent does.  I can set you up on an automatic search which will send anything that meets your criteria directly from the MLS to your email when hits the market or when there is a price reduction etc.

Pocket listings – many people are watching the real estate shows on Bravo and HGTV.  They often refer to pocket listings which is a term we use for a property that is for sale but isn’t listed in the MLS.  Sometimes owners are testing a price and the market and sometimes they want to avoid tons of people tromping through their home.  At times I have pocket listings too but be aware that many so called pocket listings aren’t great deals.  Very often they are priced way too high.  I can assure you that those TV shows are created to entertain people and don’t reflect reality.  Many of them are fabricated and they have to use so called “pocket listings” because real sellers don’t want the negative publicity they often get on those shows.   In short much of what you see on television is B.S.   Bottom line is don’t put too much energy trying to find pocket listings.

The large national web sites like Zillow, Trulia, Realtor, Redfin are also popular and many of them have some pretty cool apps for smart phones that will, for example, pull up all the listings in a neighborhood you are driving in.   Be aware that these sites obtain most of their data through agreements they have with the various local MLS’s and they get that info after it hits the MLS.  If you want the most up-to-date information, you should be set up on an automated search like I mentioned above. Find something online that looks interesting?  If you’re not that familiar with the neighborhood/street visit www.google.com click on the map feature in the toolbar.  The street view lets you virtually walk down the street while sitting at your computer.  I use that tool all the time.   You can also virtually fly overhead with the bird’s eye view which is a great way to know if there are big apartment buildings, commercial properties, parking lots, busy streets etc nearby – don’t waste your time driving in LA traffic looking at properties with issues that won’t appeal to you.

If you’re driving around in a neighborhood and you see a home for sale google the address – you’ll find plenty of information on the price, square footage etc.

Once you’ve had the opportunity to see the property in person and you’re interested enough to write an offer, there are a few things that a smart Buyer should do (with the help of their agent).  Check the public records to see if the advertised square footage, bedroom and bath count matches what the public record says.  If not, the listing agent should explain why there is a difference. Check what the zoning is – LAR1 indicates single family – LAR2 or LAR3 indicates multi-family – you can find zoning descriptions online as well.  This is significant if you wish to avoid potentially buying next to a property that could be torn down and replaced by a large multi-family building or condo.  Your agent should also review the recent sales activity in the area and averages for price per square foot, market time etc. – the more you know and understand about the neighborhood the better position you are in.

A smart agent will also check to see what kind of loans there are against the property.  This is valuable information (especially in this market) because you’ll know how much room the Seller potentially has to negotiate on price.   If they have a lot of equity that doesn’t mean they will be negotiable but if they have almost no equity you know they can’t negotiate much.   There are 3 types of sales – 1) standard which means the Seller has enough equity to sell the house and pay all the various closing costs (such as commission, title and escrow fees etc.); 2).  short sale means the Seller owes so much on their property compared to its current value that they wouldn’t have enough money to pay off their loans and the various closing costs.  In order to sell the property, the Seller must get written approval from the bank (or banks if they have more than 1 loan).  The bank basically agrees to write off the portion that the Seller can’t cover from the proceeds of the sale.   Short sales can take a long time to complete because you first have to get the bank’s approval which can take months and once you have approval, the sale proceeds much like any other.  Seller’s will short sell because it doesn’t impact their credit as much as 3) a Bank Repo where the bank has repossessed the property which is a matter of public record.  Bank repo’s can at times be a good deal but that isn’t always the case – some repos are in terrible condition and need a ton of work.  Banks don’t have the emotional attachments to the property so the sale is all business – dollars and cents.

You can easily check crime statistics for the neighborhood at www.crimemapping.com   Check out demographic information by address at http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml    You can also easily verify the public schools by the address at http://search.lausd.k12.ca.us/cgi-bin/fccgi.exe?w3exec=schfinder0 and how they score at www.greatschools.org

If you find something you’re excited about – don’t dilly-dally – the good ones that are priced well tend to sell fast.

Contact Kevin at (310) 200-4916 or email kevindbacher@gmail.com


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