Lake Tahoe real estate: Many ways to research property information | SierraSun.com

Lake Tahoe real estate: Many ways to research property information

Don Kanare and Sabrina Belleci
Incline Village Real Estate

With approximately 90% of all buyers doing at least part of their search on the Internet when looking for a property, it seems like there is an endless supply websites trying to act as the gateway to real estate information for the consumer.

While Realtor.com is the preeminent portal for licensed agents and brokers and garners millions of unique visitors every month, other websites have tried to position themselves between agents and consumers in an effort to capture a slice of the real estate pie.

Whether these are value added services or simply gatekeepers extracting revenue from buyers, sellers and agents depends on the nature of the site. The revenue stream for many real estate websites is derived from selling memberships and advertising. This is especially true of websites such as Zillow, Trulia and their related brethren.

Never trust the property valuation estimates that you find on Zillow, Trulia, HouseValues or any other website. Each of these companies uses its own proprietary algorithm, but they all suffer from significant flaws. The algorithms are based on information from public records such as county assessor tax information and then interpolated using a number of factors such as average price per square foot within a particular ZIP code, median sale price, etc.

Unfortunately, these algorithms do not take into account critical factors such as the type of view, floor plan, interior quality, remodeling, driveway slope, sun exposure, lot size, and a host of other criteria that will dramatically impact the fair market value of any particular property.

A knowledgeable local agent can help you with performing an accurate market analysis and estimate of fair market value.

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You can also search the county tax records and find a wealth of information without having to go through a cumbersome registration process (or worse, pay a monthly membership fee). Be careful, the county tax records are not always up to date and recent transactions may not show up for a month or two.

Many real estate agents have a search function on their website that allows you to use a public consumer version of the MLS and look for properties. You can specify some parameters such as price, number of bedrooms, subdivision, etc. and then do a search.

The information returned is generally pretty accurate because it is pulled from current MLS data. But you won't find withdrawn or expired listings or the many pocket listings that are held by agents and brokers.

Another way to get a slightly different perspective on a property is to use the Google maps search. Not only is this helpful for locating a property and scoping out the surrounding neighborhood, you can calculate distances to places you frequently shop or where you work.

Checking out the satellite view and seeing the topography can help you determine if the property is in the location that you want or next to that avalanche zone you've been dreading.

There are many different places to find information on the same property when searching the Internet. We recommend doing all the research you wish and then working with your agent, home inspectors, licensed contractors, architects and other professionals to verify the specifications, features and attributes of any property you are interested in viewing or purchasing.

Don Kanare and Sabrina Belleci are the owners of RE/MAX North Lake. Read their blog and find weekly stats on their website at http://www.InsideIncline.com.