Hunting for Real Estate

Lately, I have not been making frequent blog posts. There are good reasons, of course... and I will get to disclosing them in the near future.

Recently, I have been spending a lot of time house-hunting. Yeah, I have decided that it is about time for me to move from my condo into a stand-alone house. I have a lot of furniture and electronics purchases all queued up behind buying a house, and it is about time I release that bottleneck.

And I have been amazed at the tools available at my fingertips to make this search. I remember just three years ago how painful it was for me to locate appropriately priced condos in the areas that I wanted. I needed an agent to help locate and sort things out.

Well, with websites like and, I can finally do most of the hunting on my own and engage a buyer's agent to help with the details and close the deal. I can easily enter in my criteria, like price range, location, features, rooms, etc... and scrolling/zooming around a map to narrow down the location... and the web app shows me the properties that match my criteria. How nifty is that!

I am especially impressed with the John L Scott site because it is so intuitively functional. I start out by punching in a price range and simply start scrolling, panning, and zooming into the area I want to focus on, and eventually I end up with a list of property matches with hyperlinks to lots of relevant information. And it works smoothly and quickly... so I have to say "score one for Microsoft technologies like ASP.Net, AJAX, and Virtual Earth"! Meanwhile, the Windermere site, which is based on ColdFusion and a MapQuest-like map called PropertyPoint... simply pales in comparison. Search criteria behavior is quirky at best, search/navigation is archaic in comparison to new standards like Virtual Earth and Google Maps, and usefulness of pricing information is not that high.

In contrast, from the John L Scott site, I have quick access to information like:

  • Recent sale prices in the area, so I can guage price/sq.ft ratio and relative desire
  • Historical public information on any property from so that I have an idea of the price/profit range to help me determine position and approach for price negotiation
  • I can also passively keep tabs on listings in the area, price changes... all of which help me easily assess property worth before I even invest the time into physically touring the place to determine if I like it or not

Yeah... it is very different from my first home purchase experience where I spent days of time visiting dozens of homes before finding one I loved, had no clue on the basis of price negotiation, and then later rationalized the economics and details. That was a weird feeling for me because I never felt in control and my selection criteria was so emotional.

Well... this time, I finally have the tools to apply an analytical approach of quantifying and qualifying what I am looking for and how important each criteria is... and then narrowing down amongst those choices. It leaves the emotions out until the end, which I think is the way it should be. After all, real-estate purchase is financial in nature for most people, not emotional (don't know about you, but I don't buy houses because I am "bored" or for "fun")... :-)

Next step - how to make the financing work from an investment perspective...