That’s easy. Start doing some research on your own on the Internet, even before contacting a real estate agent. If the Internet was invented for any particular industry it has to have been for real estate. Before the World Wide Web was born, one could typically locate houses only in the newspaper on the weekend. If you saw a house that you liked, you’d contact the agent selling the home. Then came the endless cycle of driving around in a real estate agent’s car looking at houses until—finally, finally—you found a home you wanted to buy.


The Internet has helped agents become more productive by letting consumers do a little shopping first before they get serious enough to use an agent. An agent who advertises a house is called the “listing” agent, because he puts the house for sale on the multiple listing service, or MLS.

The agent will show you the home and ask if you are using another agent. If you aren’t, the agent will ask if you would like to see other homes for sale. You of course say “yes,” and the agent then becomes a “buyer’s” agent as well, helping you find a home to buy and not just listing a house for sale. You give your agent your requirements for your dream home, such as four bedrooms on a cul-de-sac with a swimming pool. Your agent would then scour the MLS to search for such homes. After the search, you’d both get in the agent’s car and go see the homes.

Today, however, there seems to be no end to the ways you can search for homes. Too many, it seems, and it can be a bit overwhelming. But what all of these sites have in common is they access the very same database—the local multiple listing service.

For instance, Redfin, Zillow, and Trulia are all portals where prospective homebuyers can visit online to search for homes. Most people now find interesting homes on their own before even contacting an agent. This way, the agent’s not dragging you all over town to look at homes you’d never buy. Your agent spends more time selling or listing homes and less time driving all over the place.

You can start with, or get their app for your mobile phone. At this official site of the National Association of Realtors, you can search for homes anywhere in the country or across town. It also has access to every single agent-sponsored multiple listing service database in the country. It is easy to log onto the site, select your desired location, preferences, like four bedrooms in this zip code in this price range with a pool or without, and so on. Many properties offer “virtual” tours showing video of different views of the house. All of the pricing info is there as well so you can see what homes are selling for and what’s generally available.

But don’t get too much further into the process without the help of a real estate agent. In fact, don’t even make contact with any sellers without an agent at your side.

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