Internet Savvy Buyers

The internet has changed the way we live. From electronic shopping to scrapbooking, the internet has become the go-to source for researching just about anything. It’s completely changed the way people buy their airline tickets and turned the negotiation tables around on the car dealership show floor. There’s literally an entire world of information at your finger tips and people are taking full advantage of that. This is no different in the housing realm.

There is a wealth of information out there and anyone who chooses to look for it will find it. If you’re a regular reader on this site, you’re probably also a regular reader on many other housing blogs. In addition to blogs, you have a host of free services like Redfin, Trulia and Zillow that gives the general population information that used to be much more difficult to obtain. Even if you’re a renter, you can benefit from watching the market through Craigslist rentals. I alluded to this in my post about the future of real estate agents, but the growth of the internet has really put the ball in your hands.

Are there people who still rely solely on their realtor for information and services? Of course. But as more and more people become aware of the vast sea of internet content, the landscape will change. Actually, it’s already well underway and the fact that you’re reading this post is testament to that. Knowledge is power. If the average American saw the charts you’ve seen and read the articles you’ve read, they’d be much less confused about the housing situation and would probably laugh at those NAR press releases that keep calling the bottom.

When people ask me about housing news, I point them to Patrick.When people ask me about finance and economics, I point them to Calculated Risk.When people tell me they’re mad about the proposed bailout, I point them to STHB.

There are a ton of other great housing-related websites out there. What are some of your favorites?

Six Secrets of Internet Home Buying

16 thoughts on “Internet Savvy Buyers”

  1. SavedbyGrace:

    Thanks for this great summary of links to RE info highway. My wife and I have been living in NYC sub for nearly 20 years. We are thinking of moving to S. Cal when we retire. I have been doing homework towards that end. I really appreciate what I learn from this blog and others.

    I came across this lising in Pasadena. I wonder if those of you who know the area can comment on it?


  2. How do you find out how big the current owner’s mortgage loan is? and whether the owner has a HELOC?

  3. Hi George,

    Pasadena is a great place to live, but you need to be very careful about location. Do not buy or rent anything on zip code 91103. It’s a very bad area of Pasadena, which includes a lot of gang activity, shootings, housing projects, liquor stores, bad schools, loud music from neighboors’ houses, among others. The Police are the area every day, including their helicopter that flies over my house all day and night long. It is very annoying. However, I prefer the Police than “other things”. The City of Pasadena is not an unincorporated area, but Northwest Pasadena looks even worse than that. The City does not care much about that area. The listing you mentioned is on a busy street with heavy traffic and right in the middle of all those problems I mentioned. I know very well about that area because I live there. I purchased my house about 5 years ago and I am hoping I can find something for a fair price in a better area. So far, nothing came up. Prices are still too high. Like I said, Pasadena is a beautiful city, but try zip codes 91107, 91106, 91101 (mostly apartments and condos). Avoid 91103 and 91104. I hope things will get “worse” with the housing market and we will benefit from that. If you can wait, Arcadia is a great choice, but pay attention to the zip codes, 91007 is the best. Caution with 91006.

    I hope I was able to help you.


  4. I agree that certain parts of Pasadena should be avoided and 91103 is definitely one of them. Certain parts of 91104 is not as bad, but not that great either. I’m not familiar with all the zip codes, but try looking at the center or southern portion of Pasadena. If you’ll be in retirement and could care less about schools, you might want to check out Sierra Madre as well.

    However, I disagree with your comment about 91006. The portion south of Foothill and east of say…4th Ave is close to Monrovia not that great, but imho still way better than much of Pasadena. And don’t forget, the two areas north of Foothill in 91006 include the Upper Rancho Santa Anita Oaks and Highland estates. Those are actually the best neighborhoods in Arcadia. Top of the list in 91007 would be Peacock Village.

    This reminds me, I need to get back on track with my community profiles. I haven’t done one in a while…

  5. The loan info is available through public county records. Some paid services (like netronline and homeinfomax) gather the information for easy access but they usually charge a monthly or per-access fee. We have purchased access to such a service.

    As for a HELOC or other details of the loan, I don’t know if the public records reveal that information. But you can usually figure out something is going on when the loan amount increases but there has been no sales transaction.

    If we ever do come across a way to get the loan information for free (aside from visiting the Records office), I’ll let you know.

  6. george8,

    91103 includes Linda Vista, which is one of Pasadena’s best and most beautiful areas (west side of the arroyo). Also, 91105, San Rafael, is a great area. Parts of 91104 are great, others are sketchy. Parts of 91107 are great, others are sketchy. etc etc.

    This is exactly why one cannot rely solely on the internet for housing info. Those listing pics look great, but that part of the neighborhood (N Fair Oaks) is not a place I would want to live, either.

    Bottom line, continue to read the blogs, explore homes on the internet, but also find a reputable Realtor who knows the ins and outs of the neighborhoods in your chosen city.

  7. so hypothetical situ…

    so lets say that you had to buy a house, within the next year per se, and it had to be in Arcadia. You had 100k for the down payment, and income of 100k a year.

    Where would you buy, and how would you buy.

    Meaning would you just wait, or would you go shopping and just make offers on houses you liked at say 30 to 40% off the asking price, would you only look at REO… would you….

  8. It is amazing how obtuse some realtors(r) are about data mining.

    I had a real good time with one who sent me a new listing. In 5 minutes on the net, I found that the house to the right was underwater and foreclosed at $225K below list and the one on the left was a fresh knife catcher at $315k above list.

    Sent the Realtor the info and low and behold the listing disappeared.

    missedthebubble: stick the 100k in a swiss franc CD, save save save save. The game only just started. As the sage of omaha said. The impatient give their money to the patient.

  9. Miriam, SavedbyGrace, & sgv:

    Thanks for your info and advice. Since this is a long process, I’m sure I’ll get more help from you and others in the future.



  10. I live in 91101 (downtown Pasadena), 3 blocks south of Paseo Colorado. I’ve loved living here the past 10 years, walking distance to dozens of Zagat top-rated restaurants, bars, the metro Gold line, and entertainment. I wouldn’t jog through Northwest Pasadena even in the daytime–except for maybe the Linda Vista (nice area by the Rose Bowl). I personally limit my Redfin searches to 91101, 91106, and 91105. I love the San Rafael area of 91105 the most, and will try to find something there in the 1-2 million range in 3-4 years once the market bottoms during this cycle. I simple rule of thumb for those of you that aren’t familiar with Pasadena to know the pockets of exceptions is to stick to the areas south and east of the 210 FWY. As in other cities such as Palo Alto, CA, it’s a freeway that divides the city into desirable vs. non-desirable areas.

  11. will give you free access to mortgage data, but not HELOC as far as I can tell.

  12. Mark, is also an excellent site. I can’t I forgot to mention it!

    I didn’t know PS provided mortgage data. Do I need to sign up for an account (free version) to access it? We’ll give it a run in the coming weeks.

  13. In this hypthetical situation, is the potential buyer planning on staying in the hypothetical house for let’s say a decade? Does the buyer currently have perfect credit? And does the buyer have hypothetical children in need of schooling?

  14. I signed up for a free account, but it’s not even required for mortgage info, though other info does require you to signup. You’re limited to 6 searches per day, but that’s all a casual “snooper” really needs.

  15. to George:

    I agree with Miriam. I live in Arcadia, which is 91007 area. It is a nice area with lots of trees. You can walk on the street at night. Of course, it’s not crime free area, but compare to nearby cities with price/safety/school district, Arcadia is the best buy.

    You can refer to Arcadia’s school website:

    Zip code 91007 has more than half of white people, while 91006 has more than half of Asians (mainly Chinese). In my opinion, 91007 is the best, but 91006 is also good as long as you don’t mind seeing Asians all over the place. However, east of 2nd Street and east of 5th Street is not a good choice. East side of Arcadia is adjacent to Monrovia, and South-East side of Arcadia is adjacent to El Monte, it’s not worth with the price of what it is.

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