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The Best Real Estate Websites to Search for a Home Online (Plus, Tips to Drastically Improve Search Results!)

The Best Real Estate Websites to Search for a Home Online (Plus, Tips to Drastically Improve Search Results!)

3 min read
Whitney Hutten

Whitney is a real estate investor and personal finance trainer whose vision is to launch 10,000 families on the path ...

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Thanks to big data being a big business, it doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or an experienced real estate investor. You can discover some of the best real estate investments from the comfort of your own house with just a few clicks of a mouse.

But if you have ever searched on Zillow or Redfin for properties, you know the alert and marketing emails you get can be so overwhelming that you don’t feel like you are making any traction in your search.

So, how can you actually make the internet work for you?

Tips for Your Online House Search

Learning how to set up your searches properly is a critical first step for making real estate websites work for you, rather than against you.

With that, you have to do some initial legwork to define your ideal criteria. I call it stacking the “investing cards” in your favor. You can have the best deal in the world, but if it’s in a horrible location, then all bets are off.

Related: 7 Ways to Discover if a Neighborhood Is Up and Coming

Before you set up your online searches, here are some initial questions to tackle.

  1. Are you looking in a larger market that has strong fundamentals?
    • Jobs are growing
    • Incomes are growing
    • Jobs are diversified amongst employers
    • Housing is affordable
    • Rents are affordable (if you are holding)
    • Property taxes are reasonable
    • Vacancy is steady or trending down
  2. Are you looking somewhere people want to live?
    • Close to jobs
    • Close to good schools
    • Close to good amenities
    • Away from highways, waterways, train lines, powerlines, etc.
    • Away from environmental hazards
  3. Is the deal you want actually available in this market?
    • Your ideal asset (single-family or multifamily)
    • Your ideal price point
    • The ideal square footage
    • Number of bedrooms
    • Number of bathrooms

investment-thinking

Look in the Right Places

Now that you know you have chosen a rock-solid market and firmed up some initial investing criteria, here are 20-plus places to generate leads for your deal funnel, many of which you can get set up in under an hour.

Retail Websites

Retail websites are naturally the primary options to set up online searches that will deliver listings directly to your inbox. If you are looking for below-market deals, this can be a bit more challenging. In this case, add search terms like ‘’needs TLC,’’ “investor special,” “as-is,” “fixer-upper,” and “sweat equity.” And be prepared to negotiate!

With most of these websites, you can set up filters for your deal criteria, such as type of investment, zip code, beds, baths, price range, square footage, garages, etc. Time is precious, so put the work on the search engine as much as you can.

Related: Attention: PLEASE Stop Searching for Real Estate on Zillow and Trulia

Off-Market Listings

Off-market options are another amazing way to fill your deal funnel. Most of these options are relationship-based lead sources, so take care to create mutually beneficial situations. As with setting up your retail web searches, time is your most valuable resource, so narrow down your deal criteria: type of investment, zip code, beds, baths, price range, square footage, garages, etc.

close up view of upper level windows and roofs on four row homes

Creative Strategies

Then there are the more creative, hands-on, time-intensive strategies to fill your deal funnel. As you scale your business, it will be easier to outsource the strategies below to an app, virtual assistant, or team.

Manage Deal Flow

Setting up online searches is great, but now you have to manage the deal flow. This is where having a deal flow system in place to handle these leads comes into play.

  1. Set up your online search leads to go to a special folder in your inbox—keep them out of your main email inbox.
  2. Set aside time every day to review your leads, and keep that date with yourself. If you are in a super hot market, you may consider setting aside two or three 20-minute time blocks each day: early morning, lunchtime, and evening.
  3. Analyze your leads. The better job you do at setting up your search criteria, the better you will get at analysis. Also, look closely at deals where bedrooms or square footage might be mislabeled. With my current deal, the agent didn’t include 200 square feet on the main home (and forgot to add in the ADU entirely!).
  4. Make offers—and lots of them. Your job is to find the price the seller is willing to sell for, and listen to them to structure a strong deal.
  5. Have a good lead generation system to track your metrics so you know which sources to lean into and which sources to prune.

Conclusion

Whether you’re starting or scaling your real estate investing business, setting up a strong online search strategy will help you get your feet wet and quite possibly help you land your first (or 100th) deal.

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What’s your favorite website for finding a good deal?

Share your best sources in the comments.