Spring Real Estate 2007

Publication Date: Friday, April 27, 2007

Internet search is just one strategy
House hunters use every tool in the box

Zinta Zarins is thinking of moving to the flatlands from Portola Valley, and she's not using the Internet in her home search.

"There's too much information on the Web," she said at a recent open house in Menlo Park. "I view my time as valuable. You can't tell by a picture. What people say is so wrong -- stunning!

"I expect my Realtor to weed it out for me," she added, noting her husband was out playing golf while she checked out potential houses and neighborhoods within easy walking distance to coffee and other amenities.

"I just want to be independent," she said, noting her Portola Valley location requires a car to get anywhere. It's really stage of life rather than the house that you look for."

"A lot of people want to do the legwork themselves," said Anne King, a Keller Williams, Menlo Park, real estate agent at a recent open house. "They have the idea that if they do that they will pay a reduced commission. It's not necessarily the case. They lose out on someone who can tell about the neighborhood."

King's colleague, Lila Bina, noted that agents preview houses, saving their clients time. "I've seen 20 houses to send clients to two, but they'll be right for them. That's being ahead of the Web," she said.

At a recent series of open houses in Mountain View, Palo Alto and Menlo Park, house hunters revealed a broad range of information-seeking strategies. Some looked at newspaper ads; others identified a neighborhood and just drove around each weekend looking for open houses. Cheryl Klaimen was alerted by the Realtor who helped her purchase her home at The Crossings in Mountain View just a year ago. Now she's interested in a larger place but doesn't want to give up the Los Altos schools.

Alan Liang and Erin Sun checked out MLS listings and Craig's List as well as individual agent's sites via links from MLS or newspaper ads.

"It helps narrow the search," Liang said. "MLS lets you see clear-cut options for price."

"We like Eichler home style, so we looked at (the) Eichler Network (Web site) as well," Sun added.

Intero agent Nisha Sharma, at an open house for a three-year-old SummerHill home in Palo Alto, said she has a client who goes on REIL.com, Yahoo and MLS regularly. She sends e-mails to one client who looked by himself for a year but who now wants to work with an agent.

--Carol Blitzer