Real Estate Search Hell

Does anyone remember what searching for a home was like in the dark ages before the dawn of amazing internet tools like Redfin, Estately, and Zillow?

I was watching the classic real estate flick The Money Pit this weekend, and this scene in particular stood out to me. Note that The Money Pit was released in 1986, well before anyone outside of academia or government had any clue what the internet even was.

Fortunately by the time I was old enough to start thinking about buying a home, there were already a variety of halfway decent options for searching real estate online. When I watched this scene, I was amazed at how far this industry has come in the past twenty-five years.

I feel serious pity for anyone who had to experience the type of situation depicted above when making most expensive purchase of their life.

Full disclosure: The Tim is employed by Redfin.

  

About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

17 comments:

  1. 1

    Zillow?

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  2. 2
    The Tim says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 1 – Yeah, the point is that even Zillow is light years ahead of searching for homes the way the characters in that movie had to.

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  3. 3
    WestSideBilly says:

    A trip to small town American might reveal that things haven’t changed that much from the movie. When I visit home (Wisconsin, city of ~60k) most of the real estate browsing is still done via a biweekly magazine style publications or a handful of really crappy online MLS listings (no maps, search by zip isn’t helpful when entire cities are in one or two zip codes). Zillow is the best method for finding houses, which is pretty telling…

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  4. 4
    One Eyed Man says:

    RE: WestSideBilly @ 3

    But even the small town experience is light years ahead of the only 3 choices 30 yrs ago. If you wanted to find a house you could:

    1. Read the 2 line description in the Sunday paper;

    2. Go to a brokerage and go thru a book with limited information and no pictures that was updated once a week; or

    3. Drive around for hours looking for a sign that said house for sale.

    In all three cases, you eventually had to get an agent and an appointment just to see anything besides the listing agents glowing description of the cat box interior. After a few hours in the agents car, I’d buy anything just to make it stop.

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  5. 5

    Money Pit a Very Funny Movie

    The truth of the matter is though, a car sitting outside in the elements is going to rot in about 20-25 years, even if you don’t drive it.

    Houses are no different and keeping the rot from degrading their value is very expensive too.

    That’s why I’m an advocate of selling it as is….unless you do it yourself, you’ll be lucky to get 80% return on remodeling projects and 20% return [even -20%] is normal for projects that customize the original plan. Ask a realtor.

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  6. 6
    David S says:

    And the chance of getting seller price concessions so the buyer can restore the property to market value are no chance. So the house continues to sit and rot but no one wants it so it stays on the market and becomes stale inventory, adding to a perpetuating problem of no one wants it inventory.

    I am living this experience right now.

    By softwarengineer @ 5:

    Money Pit a Very Funny Movie

    The truth of the matter is though, a car sitting outside in the elements is going to rot in about 20-25 years, even if you don’t drive it.

    Houses are no different and keeping the rot from degrading their value is very expensive too.

    That’s why I’m an advocate of selling it as is….unless you do it yourself, you’ll be lucky to get 80% return on remodeling projects and 20% return [even -20%] is normal for projects that customize the original plan. Ask a realtor.

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  7. 7

    RE: David S @ 6

    Selling It As Is For a Lower Price

    IMO, many buyers see a “significantly lower price” older home and think they’re getting a deal….IMO, they likely get skunked after necessary contractor rebuild(s), but even a building inspector can’t estimate full costs, when the contractor rarely can either [until after its all torn apart].

    I suppose that’s why I’m not into sales, at a young age I found out I had a natural talent/personality to sell a whole lot of people something they didn’t need or couldn’t afford. I’m not saying all of engineering is on the top of the integrity heap career-wise, but when I do my current job and get paid, at night I can still put my head on the pillow and fall asleep right away, mostly guilt/stress free.

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  8. 8
    Scotsman says:

    The experience is still very antiquated in smaller towns and other states. I’m always looking for property in northern Idaho and NE Washington, along with western Montana. The experience is very different. One thing I’ve noticed is more closeting of listings by the listing broker, I presume with the idea that their office will then have a better chance of catching both sides of the commission. You still have to walk in the door and talk to a sales person to get access to all that is available, especially in Idaho. J.L. Scott has a presence in Idaho and that helps, but a search through them still doesn’t turn up everything that shows at the individual offices of other brokers.

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  9. 9

    RE: Scotsman @ 8 – There are rules against that here. Also, it’s a stupid thing to do if you’re trying to serve your clients’ interests.

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  10. 10
    chico says:

    Where does on go to look for REO’s? Seems they don’t all show up on any of the tradional Real Estate web sites.

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  11. 11

    RE: chico @ 10 – Any listed REO should show up on any broker’s website (e.g. Redfin, Estately, John L. Scott, Winderemere, etc.). I don’t know how many, if any of these allow you to filter the search for just REOs. They might not show up on Zillow, Trulia, etc.

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  12. 12
    The Tim says:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 11:

    I don’t know how many, if any of these allow you to filter the search for just REOs.

    On Redfin it’s easy, you just only check the “MLS-listed foreclosures” box in the “Include” section in the lower-left corner of the search drop-down.

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  13. 13
    David S says:

    Good Lord! Call the CDC! I checked only that box and it’s an epidemic. Run to the hills, run for your lives.
    RE: The Tim @ 12 -

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  14. 14
    Dirty_Renter says:

    It wasn’t all that bad, Tim.
    First of all, houses were affordable, the music was good(60s), and I had a shirt, that when washed, the dye ran all over the place and purposely ruined the shirt, all in the name of fashion. That was before the tie-dyes.

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  15. 15
    sallybuttons says:

    how was anything done prior to the overwhelmingly insipid internut? Just imagine… I think we got off our cans and outta the house and probably made more decisions based upon authenticity. Tire kicking didn’t involve so much wanking. Imagination may have been more engaged as folks were unlikely to spend so very much time or $$ on a topic of limited interest. What the hell, rent something already and get on with living.

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  16. 16
    The Tim says:

    RE: sallybuttons @ 15Somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning…

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  17. 17
    WestSideBilly says:

    By One Eyed Man @ 4:

    RE: WestSideBilly @ 3

    But even the small town experience is light years ahead of the only 3 choices 30 yrs ago. If you wanted to find a house you could:

    1. Read the 2 line description in the Sunday paper;

    2. Go to a brokerage and go thru a book with limited information and no pictures that was updated once a week; or

    3. Drive around for hours looking for a sign that said house for sale.

    In all three cases, you eventually had to get an agent and an appointment just to see anything besides the listing agents glowing description of the cat box interior. After a few hours in the agents car, I’d buy anything just to make it stop.

    In some of the really small towns, that’s still the way it is… except the Sunday paper stopped printing years ago…

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