The internet has changed everything about how buyers find houses. The old MLS guild mentality* still exists in some places, but northern California is online in a big way. Most Sonoma County listings are on realtor.com, zillow.com, trulia.com, and a host of other syndicating sites. Craigslist is a dominating force all over the country, but particularly strong in the Bay Area where Craig started his service (and proceeded to upend the newpaper business).
Most real estate professionals have their own web sites (like this Sonoma County Real Estate site you are reading) and every national real estate brokerage has listings available. The mother lode of all these listings is in the MLS systems where each property for sale is carefully listed by the agent who obtained the listing from the seller. In the North Bay, our MLS system is called BAREIS (Bay Area Real Estate Information Service). That’s the organization that feeds the greathomes web site with public access to most of the listings. Notice the highlighting of the word “most”. Even the MLS doesn’t allow public access to every listing since agents can choose whether to share the listing online or not. Many choose not to.
The fastest and most effective method for searching Sonoma County Real Estate is to work with an agent who can establish an automated search routine for you in the MLS system. This system will send you email updates whenever a new property is listed that fits your selection criteria. You don’t have to worry about checking multiple web sites every day or stressing about missing a good property. If it gets entered into the MLS, you will see it.
My advice to new clients is to set the search pretty broadly. Given the changes in the market, owners of a house that is priced just above your comfort level might be willing to consider a price you can afford. If you’re looking for an 1,800 square foot house, think about broadening that search from 1,600 to 2,000 square feet or more. You can always ignore homes that don’t seem right to you, but having a bigger mix of properties to look at puts control in your hands.
Required search variables I ask for include:
- Maximum Price
- City or area
- Residence size
- Lot size
On top of that I might add filters for:
- Age of house
- Foreclosure status (to look for REO property)
The most useful version of the automated search includes the creation of a custom web portal for you. It’s basically your own private, automatically updated real estate site where you can save, reject, and make notes about properties you are interested in. If you would like your own Sonoma County real estate portal, just email me with your requirements based on the filters I mentioned above.
Map based searching deserves a complete look as well. Sonoma.net features map searches for all the cities in Sonoma County and I have map searches for REO properties in Sonoma County and other areas. For many people, maps are the easiest way to understand where property is located and to identify the areas where they are interested in real estate.
I would be remiss in not mentioning my iPhone powered app that covers the BAREIS service territory including Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Mendocino, and Lake counties. It’s a free iPhone App that shows you all the listings near your phone.
*MLS Guild Mentality – the traditional role of real estate agents (and other holders of special knowledge) was to keep information secret and use their access to control transactions. The old MLS listing books had warnings about retaining the books or be subject to suspension or expulsion.