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Real estate in the Internet age

New tools can help homebuyers and sellers


by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - Matt Crile is president of Windermere West.Perhaps you can remember, back in the day, when you would load the kids into the station wagon on a beautiful Saturday or Sunday afternoon, grab some quick burgers, then head to the newest housing development, in search of a new home to purchase. More than likely, you would bring along a newspaper to help you navigate from development to development.

But those were the years before home computers, smartphones and tablets.

We are in the digital era, and technology is here to stay. The Internet has revolutionized home buying and selling, yet the client/Realtor relationship remains as vital as ever.

Over the years, Matt Crile, president of Windermere West, has been keeping track of “techie” trends in his industry.

Crile, who lives “where Beaverton and Portland meet,” started with Windermere in Seattle, in the mid-1990s.

At that time, “The Internet had certainly begun to exert its influence, but in a much different fashion,” said Crile. “Windermere had a leading presence in terms of exposure to the Internet, and that was something about which we were very proud. Looking back upon it, it was minuscule compared to the presence and usage of the Internet in our marketing mix today.”

Early on, according to Crile, who serves clients in the Beaverton, Tigard and Tualatin areas, the Internet was “simply a way to provide greater exposure for our clients’ properties to a wider audience.”

“To a certain extent, it supplemented the print advertising that we were doing at the time,” said Crile. “Back then it was supplemental. Now, today, it’s fundamental.”

An integral tool

In its early history, the Internet was helpful in researching and comparing properties.

“Today it’s not only the primary channel through which to expose a listing to the marketplace, it’s also an integral tool to the daily activity of a real estate broker,” said Crile.

Today, it’s essential that real estate professionals embrace technology as they build relationships with clients.

“It’s almost unthinkable that one would try to ply this trade without that gadgetry,” pointed out Crile, adding that there’s a huge volume of digital information.

For the home buyer, the Internet lets you search for houses in the comfort of your home — and you don’t even need to shed your pajamas.

“You get a chance to see a piece of property without having to actually visit it. You can see it in some great detail,” said Crile, adding that just 20 years ago, it was difficult to get a perspective on a home without walking through it.

Today, said Crile, through virtual tours and still photos (which are abundant online), a purchaser can cull through homes in great volume and find one that fits his or her needs.

It’s not just visual information that home buyers can find online. The same goes for data.

“One can very carefully scrutinize a property, in light of its competing candidates, to get a sense for its relative merits,” said Crile. Through the data, you can find out if a home is priced properly. You can research schools, crime statistics and other data to help you develop a strong feeling for a particular community.

Three simple steps

Crile suggests three steps that home buyers can take in the comfort of their homes. Each step, said Crile, blends traditional methods with a modern twist. The first step is getting pre-approved for financing.

“That can be accomplished online now, thankfully,” said Crile.

The next step is to identify the criteria that will define your search. “Today,” said Crile, “you can actually go on Windermere.com and create a search with the parameters sliced and diced six ways from Sunday.”

The third step is to tour the properties.

“But in this case, you’re going to tour, likely, from the comfort of your home, in a virtual sense,” said Crile.

There is yet another step, this one essential: Connect with your broker.

“Identify for him or her, those candidates that you would like to see in person,” stressed Crile. “From there, you do have to do the heavy lifting, visiting the home in person, to get a sense for how it looks, tastes, feels, smells, how it will live. That’s where the rubber meets the road, still, but all those preliminary and subsequent steps are highly informed by the tools and technology available on the Internet.”

Sellers, according to Crile, can also use a similar blend of traditional and online technology to help sell their homes.

By the way, in case you’re interested in getting in the real estate game, but you’re too “old school” to thrive in the digital age, consider these rather blunt words from Crile: “You’re going to have a tough row to hoe. It’s a business that really blesses those who can embrace technology.”