Finding Homes for Sale Online and Elsewhere


By Mark Nash

Article highlights:

  • Surfing online for homes
  • Looking in newspapers and home magazines
  • Checking overlooked sources

There is no shortage of ways to find your dream home. You may stumble upon it at an open house, while surfing the Internet or through your friendly neighborhood real estate agent. In addition to these popular ways of landing a home, there are some less-obvious methods, such as buying foreclosed properties or at auction.

On the Web

More than 80 percent of home buyers begin their home search on the Internet, according to The National Association of Realtors. That’s because looking for a home online offers huge benefits: You can do it from the comfort of your home, and it is a great way to narrow down and preselect the properties you’ll want to check out in person. Best of all, thanks to today’s sleek technology, Web real estate sites allow you to view photos of a home’s interior and exterior, while 360-degree virtual tours and videos bring your prospective dream home to life on you monitor.

What better place to begin your home search than on With more than 3 million listings of homes for sale across the United States, simplifies the search process by providing buyers with listings of resale and new construction properties. also has the most-current directory of open house listings and snapshots of local real estate markets with neighborhood information on schools, child day care and more.

Real estate agents

Nearly 90 percent of homes are still sold through real estate agents. For a list of available properties, real estate agents often consult the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which is a registry of available homes in a specific area compiled by member brokers. However, some home sellers prefer to keep a low profile and choose not to publicize their properties in the MLS. An expert agent can give you the edge over other house hunters. Many agents receive early alerts before a property goes on sale, so keep in close touch with an agent who knows which homes are hitting the market!

Newspapers and magazines

Newspapers still command a large share of real estate advertising. They feature a listing of the largest number and the latest properties that you can view on open house days, along with viewing schedules and addresses. Often, you can also find the papers’ printed real estate information online., for instance, carries home listings of more than 130 newspapers! For those who prefer to start out with a more traditional home hunting option, home magazines offer a photographic shopping tour for available homes with published prices in a specific geographical area Keep in mind, though, that printed home listings become outdated quickly, and some homes might already be under contract.

Estate and probate attorneys

What if you’re eyeing a home that appears unoccupied, but you don’t know the circumstances of its current ownership? It may be a house whose owner has moved into a nursing home or has died. The home may be in the process of being liquidated through what’s called a probate court, or through the execution of a will. So, if you feel adventurous, contact an attorney who specializes in estate planning or probate proceedings. Attorneys are an excellent source for finding those special homes before they hit the market.

Driving through neighborhoods

Strolling or driving through a neighborhood you’ve always liked is a great way to discover new homes on the market on your own. You can also chat with local residents who might know a home that’s about to go on sale. I’ve even known diligent home buyers who knocked on the door of a home they’ve had their eye on and asked its owner if he would like to sell it.

Open houses

Sometimes a new home goes on market before the For Sale sign pops up on the front lawn. The first indication it’s for sale is a temporary Open House sign. Open houses can attract neighbors, as well as prospective buyers from anywhere. If you don’t live in the area, friendly people who do can give you a wealth of information about other homes in the area that may go on sale in the near future at similar open house events.

Friends, family and business associates

Word-of-mouth is a common way some homes are sold outside the real estate community. These sales are called “private sales,” and typically don’t involve real estate agents. If you have your heart set on that one special condo building near the lake, or a certain street or school district, where you have seen few or no available homes, you may need to network with those that live in your desired area to get the inside scoop on when a property does become available.

Auction and foreclosure specialists

Some for-sale properties are usually not advertised through easily accessible channels, such as a Web site or MLS. They’re houses that have gone into foreclosure and will be put up for auction, including foreclosure auctions from HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), and are brokered through specialized businesses that work only with these kind of distressed properties. Go online to research lenders, mortgage banks or brokers, or real-estate auction specialists who work exclusively with properties in foreclosure in the area of your choice.

Next article: Attending Open Houses >>

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Finding a Home

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Making the Deal

Buying a Foreclosure

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