For home buyers today, the game has changed. No longer do you just check the local classifieds and drive around neighborhoods keeping an eye out for for-sale signs. Most of the home shopping has now moved online. That also means that for you, a home buyer in Tampa Bay, there’s a lot more property information available right at your fingertips. The difficult part lies in knowing which ones of the many real estate websites are really worth using. So here are 5 websites every homebuyer in Tampa Bay needs to know.
Zillow may be the largest and most well known of all these websites, and it does indeed have some outstanding features for a home buyer inTampa Bay. Maybe the best thing about Zillow is its “Zestimate” feature, their own proprietary algorithm for estimating what a home is worth. Actual home selling prices may differ according to condition and work that needs to be done, but Zillow’s Zestimate will give a good starting point for figuring value and price. In addition, Zillow’s value estimate factors in prices of comparable homes more heavily than other sites like Redfin that rely primarily on square footage. Still, nothing beats the valuation expertise of your real estate agent. (Find out more about how your agent can help you determine fair market value. Just call 1-800-OUT-FAST.)
Redfin may very well be the best website for actual house hunting. It is fast, accurate, and user-friendly, taking information from the MLS and organizing it in an easy-to-use and easily readable format.
Here’s how it works. You can, for example, when viewing map-based listings, set boundaries as to where you are willing and not willing to live. Then you can input other parameters like the style of home, the number of rooms, square footage, how long on the market, and the like. Redfin will then serve up results based on your criteria.
Redfin will also give you a price estimate (often higher than Zillow’s Zestimate), as well as school ratings and tax information. In addition, because Redfin is an actual real estate company, a homebuyer in Tampa Bay can use any of their rated agents.
Even if you don’t have school-aged children, you should still pay attention to the quality of the local schools as a home buyer in Tampa Bay. Typically, good schools indicate a quality neighborhood – one with, for example, low crime rates and potential for property appreciation. GreatSchools.org is a great place to get the school information and ratings you need. (That’s where Zillow and Redfin get their school information.) But it’s always best, especially if you do have kids in school, to visit the schools in person to really get a feel for what they are like. Still, GreatSchools.org is an excellent starting point in your school investigation.
Very seldom does a home buyer in Tampa Bay think to check on cable and Internet availability and costs before buying a home. But you should because buying in an area with a sole overpriced provider can cost you a substantial amount of money over the many years you’ll live in the home. It’s important, then, that you have multiple providers to choose from to find the price and service offerings that fit your needs.
Several sites will give you this information, but BroadbandNow.com is one of the best. It is fairly accurate and provides details on speed, available plans, and pricing. If you can get the service you need and save money each month, then it’s certainly worth doing a little investigating.
5. Google Maps
As a home buyer in Tampa Bay, you will, no doubt, want to find out about the neighborhood, and the websites we mentioned (along with many others) provide some basic neighborhood information. GoogleMaps, though, is an even better tool for figuring out commute times from your prospective new home. According to one reviewer, the “browser version even lets you preview a route for certain times of the day, so you can see that a 40-minute drive at night turns into a 1+ hour drive during rush hour.” You can also use the satellite view and Street View to see exactly what the neighborhood looks like. And street view allows you to zoom with the 3D effect, which affords an even better sense of the scale of the neighborhood.
And Use an Agent Too!
These are the 5 websites every home buyer in Tampa Bay needs to know, and you should definitely avail yourself of them. But don’t rely on these sites alone. A good local agent can be both an ally and an asset to help you as a home buyer in Tampa Bay find exactly what you’re looking for and within your price range. In fact, your agent can assist you in many more ways than just finding likely homes and filling out papers.