· MLS Search
This is probably the best and most detailed way for buyers to search property listings and information. MLS is particularly useful if the buyer is not local to the region of interest. The acronym MLS stands for ‘Multiple Listing Service’. If a property is placed for sale with a listing agent (the home owner has contracted the services of a real estate agent to sell their property), the property details will be registered into the MLS system for the local area . This means a buyer searching MLS can see all properties available for sale in real time, in their region of interest. This system is very different to the European way where an individual agent holds property details exclusively and a buyer contacts each agency to view what they have for sale. The MLS system quickens the buyer’s search and results by having all homes for sale available by all agents and searchable in one place online.
· Newspaper and Magazine Advertising
Buyers tend to use this research method if they are at their location of interest. There are many regional real estate magazines published showcasing local property for sale. Any visitor will find these publications dispensed for free from magazine holders on roadsides and outside stores. Whilst it is a good idea for buyers to browse these publications to get a general feel for prices, it should be noted these publications are sometimes printed months in advance so the home information provided could be out of date. Buyers should also be aware that if directly contacting an agent in the advertisement, they would be talking to the listing agent who has a duty and contract with the seller.
· Agent For Sale Sign in Yard
If a neighborhood really interests you, any buyer should drive this area extensively at different times to see how the community changes at key intervals of the day and week. What may seem like a sleepy neighborhood on a Wednesday afternoon may be different on Friday evening. Becoming familiar with a locale you plan to purchase within is a smart thing to do. An agent’s sign in the yard is a clear indication to passing buyers of what homes are for sale in any neighborhood. Again buyers should note the agent with the sign in the yard is representing the seller. Direct contact from a buyer could result in the consequence on non-representation by a buyer’s agent for the interested party if they wished to make an offer on the property.
· For Sale By Owner Yard Signs
Unless the buyer is extremely knowledgeable of the intricacies of Florida real estate and skilled in contractual transactions and law,
it is advised to not proceed down this route. The Florida law governing real estate contracts between buyer and seller with no involvement from a real estate agent is simple – ‘Caveat Emptor’ otherwise known as ‘Let the buyer beware’. An unskilled buyer entering such a transaction directly with the seller is entering an unregulated minefield where the buyer is at the mercy of the seller in terms of disclosure and contract terms. This is not a good idea when large sums of money are at stake. The same risk of entering into this sort of arrangement applies to ‘for sale by owner’ websites and making contact with home owners advertising their property for sale via the web.
· Developer Show Homes/Model Homes
Who has driven past a beautifully presented home or new community and taken a sharp turn to casually view a dream model home? Before a buyer walks across the threshold of any such property they should ask themselves the question “Am I really interested in buying this?” If the answer is even a half-hearted maybe, the buyer should think twice before stepping through the door. The agents on duty in developer models work for the developer and their job (and loyalty!) is to sell the developer’s product. Buyers walking through the door without their buying agent effectively waive their right to buyer representation if they decide to buy, even if the buyer returns at a later date with their buyer’s agent. A key thing to bear in mind when viewing model homes if you wish to be represented fairly with someone working on your side of the transaction.
· Agent Open Houses
The real estate rule of “across the threshold” also applies to agent open houses. Weekends are popular times for listing agents to open the doors of their listings and allow passing members of the public (and potential buyers) to view the property with no appointment. When driving a neighborhood at the weekend you will see plenty of agent signs beckoning to open houses. Before a buyer visits an open house it is worth remembering the rules of engagement as per buyer rights when entering a developer model as explained above. By walking across the threshold without your buying agent, you could forego representation if you decide to make an offer for this home.
In summary; my advice to any buyer is this. By all means do your homework online reviewing regions that interest you. Use MLS to get a feel of prices and what you can get for your money. However what is not advisable if you want expert local advice that is impartial, is contacting listing agents or viewing property on your own without a buyer’s agent at your side. Once you have concluded where you want to buy, what sort of property you’re interested in and your budget, it is strongly advised to then engage the free services of a local buyer’s agent who would be contractually obligated to you, the buyer, and not the seller or developer. A professional buyer’s agent will have extensive local knowledge and be able to do a lot of detailed legwork that only agents can accomplish. This will ultimately save you time and narrow down the search of properties that are ideal for your requirements.
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