Search Activation & Keeping Active
One of the most common & best ways that buyers find real estate properties to purchase is through their buyer's agents. According to NAR, "86% of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker." Some buyers rely exclusively on their agent, some don't rely on their agent at all to find properties, and most buyers do some of their own searches & have a feed of properties from their agent, which is the approach that I recommend.
How to activate a portal search (by MLS used):
If your agent set up a search or more than 1 search for you, whether more than 1 per MLS or 1 with multiple MLS, be sure to activate and keep active all your searches. If you don't, you won't be receiving updates from that search as properties hit the market or adjust to be within your criteria (i.e. a price reduction). You activate the search by clicking on it within the portal.
If you didn't see the search in your inbox it might have landed in your SPAM folder. The email address is different than this email address that I use to send you information directly. If you're not seeing it in your SPAM or inbox you may want to run a search in your email for one of the emails in the list below or run a search using your agent's name.
Hampton Roads (REIN MLS), Williamsburg MLS, CBRAR MLS, & CVR MLS all use Matrix, which is shown below
Open the email of each initial search title
In each of those emails, click where it states, "View All Listings"
Image courtesy Gmail
If you have multiple searches per MLS that you are using (i.e. 3 searches in REIN & 2 in WBG MLS), it's possible to go within the portal and activate additional searches within the portal by opening them up.
1. click on "My Searches"
Image courtesy https://reinmls.mlsmatrix.com/
2. Then click on each search name so that each search is opened up:
Image courtesy https://reinmls.mlsmatrix.com/
Northern Neck MLS uses Navica
While it will look different, the same basic principles apply of needing to click on a search initially to activate each search and keep clicking on the search(es) to keep them active.
How to keep a portal search active (by MLS used):
If you stop clicking the searches, after a while, they'll deactivate. To prevent that from happening, it's much the same process as initial activation, where you need to open each search being used either from 1 of each search's emails or from within the MLS portal.
Best practices for a well-running active search
1. Be sure to let your agent know if you ever want to modify your search update frequency. If you're actively looking, it should be immediate. If you wouldn't consider seeing a property any time soon no matter what, you may want searches to only come once a month, or you may even want to do a solds only search instead since a once/month search will not include a number of properties that went quickly. If you ever decide to stop searching, be sure to let your agent know and let them know why. Sometimes your agent may be able to share with you surprising information that could influence your decision, and in other cases, your agent could be supportive in your decision based on the data. If your agent responds poorly to your decision (i.e. pressure sales tactics and sharing logical fallacies rather than a logical data-based approach), you may want to find a new agent. See examples of legitimate reasons not to buy in my rent or buy section.
2. If you ever find yourself looking outside of the search criteria of the search, you may want to let your agent know about it and ask your agent about adjusting your search criteria to include the criteria that you're looking in.
3. Activate email-to-text auto-forwarding , be quick on the draw from when you get a notification to when you want to see something you like, & alert your agent via text &/or call as soon as you find something you like (if that agent is me, you can reach out 24/7 via call or text as I turn my phone to silent when sleeping).
4. Keep an active prequalification or preapproval from the past 30 days so that when a property pops up that you like, you're ready.
5. It's typically best to stay within 20 and 50 properties for your search (across multiple searches combined if doing more than 1 search, not counting duplicates). If you have plenty of time on your hands daily & aren't getting tired of searching, 50-100 is OK.
6. More best practices including how to be ready when the right property becomes available, such as sharing your buyer brokerage agreement preferences with your buyer's agent prior to having a property in mind, if not signing a BBA.
Email Senders by MLS used
If you didn't see the search in your inbox it might have landed in your SPAM folder. The email address is different than this email address that I use to send you information directly. If you're not seeing it in your SPAM or inbox you may want to run a search in your email for one of the following based on where you're looking:
REIN MLS (Hampton Roads): VAB@northeastmatrixmail.com
Williamsburg MLS (secondary search in & around Williamsburg): WBG@northeastmatrixmail.com
Central Virginia Regional (Richmond & surrounding) CVR@northeastmatrixmail.com
Northern Neck MLS: email@example.com
What 5 MLS Adam has access to:
Below are Adam's MLS on a map and his coverage area for buyers based on price point:
Northern Neck (NE),
Central Virginia Regional (W),
Chesapeake Bay & Rivers Association of Realtors (E),
& Real Estate Information Network (SE)
Why some agent searches are much better than others
Here are some search template examples of mine. The longer an agent has been doing business, the better-developed search templates they might have, though most agents don't spend much time at all in search templates. Even after decades of business, some agents don't use templates at all. As someone who has spent dozens of hours on templates & with paid access to 5 MLS portals, I have much better-developed search options available than the vast majority of agents in SE VA.
Some agents will do a search in locations where other MLS have primary coverage without informing the buyer, drastically reducing a buyer's options if they're relying solely on their agent's searches. If you're looking in SE VA, you can check on just how well you're covered in SE VA here.
Which MLS is most important for which city/county in SE VA & other MLS details
Why are searches with agents typically better than what buyers come up with on public websites?
1. The features available to most agents for searches are far superior to the options of buyers in most cases. Agents are able to better fine tune the search in part because the search criteria itself can be much more advanced than if you were to look on somewhere like Zillow. For instance, in the main MLS of Hampton Roads, REIN, I'm able to exclude properties that are listed as not qualifying for FHA financing if I'm working with a buyer who is using an FHA loan. You can't do that on Zillow. Because of it, the same buyer on Zillow could fall in love with a property, see it with an agent (& some agents will show even under contract properties without ever telling the buyer if it's their first showing with that buyer to attempt to establish rapport), make an offer (many agents don't do their homework also), and be rejected based on loan type, rather than never seeing the property in the first place in their search.
2. Agent feedback on searches is critical to developing an effective search. There are many elements of searches that I include in my standard search templates that buyers would have very rarely mentioned if I hadn't asked them about it, with public websites not having those options available and buyers not knowing that they even could ask about them. Very often as I am conducting a search creation, when I ask buyers about if they want to exclude Exterior Insulation & Finishing System Siding or Asbestos Siding, they aren't familiar with why they might want to exclude those. Also when I ask buyers about if they want to exclude short sales, they're again sometimes unfamiliar with various dynamics of those.
3. The information available on MLS won't all translate over to public websites, so if you're only looking on public websites, you're missing out likely. For instance, I've seen where all monthly fees aren't present on public websites, where virtual tours aren't present on public websites, etc.
4. Within SE VA, flood zones are a major problem (stats by city/county). There is even 1 city (Poquoson), at least 1 town (Chincoteague) & 1 county (Mathews) in SE VA where the majority of the homes are in locations with required flood insurance for any home with a mortgage. While the Matrix portal makes it easy to look at property flood zones, an integrated feature that developed/user-friendly isn't available on most public websites.
That said, in Northern Neck MLS, they don't use Matrix, and there isn't an integrated option for looking at flood zones, so in a case like that, you can use a 3rd party resource like FEMAs Flood Map.
Why an active search with updates (public & agent generated) as properties change & hit the market is far superior to browsing occasionally, saving buyers time, helping buyers get properties they wouldn't be able to otherwise, & helping buyers save $
It can be fun to browse listings, but there are a few problems with casual browsing that an active search with updates as properties hit the market solves:
The best properties that are priced the best go the fastest. If you're looking once a week for months, many have difficulty of being consistent and many of the best properties go in less than a week, so if a property goes on the market on Thursday and you don't see it until Tuesday, it could already be under contract with another buyer by the time you get around to it.
Saving time: Those who casually browse waste time sifting through those properties that they already know about, while property updates will show updates of properties as they occur and properties as they hit the market without needing to sift through all the properties within your criteria that you've already seen. You're able to focus better and it's a less tiresome process.
With an active search going where you're able to jump on it and see it before those that take a more laid-back approach and browse. In some cases, I've been able to help buyers make offers and get under contract very quickly, sometimes the day it hits the market, and I've seen where a superior offer was available to the seller vs what my buyer brought to the table but where my buyer got there first and got it under contract first. I've even seen where a seller said that they accepted 1 offer over a similar offer simply because the 1 buyer made their offer 1st. I've also seen where my buyer's deadline on the offer helped secure the offer on day 1 on the market before, though there are pros and cons to deadlines and deadlines aren't typical in Hampton Roads offers (unlike Richmond, where they're common, due to a different typical offer type including a spot explicitly for a deadline).
Why an active search with a real estate agent is even more important in Hampton Roads than Richmond & the Northern Neck in SE VA
Public searches, especially in Hampton Roads, often include phantom property availability due to local MLS policy and the inability for buyers on most public websites to see if a property is active and contingent at the same time.
When to use public search techniques
While your search should start with your buyer's agent, who will help you know what kind of criteria to look for (i.e. did you know that it's better to be searching for properties 1400+ sq ft instead of 1500+, or 4700+ instead of 5k+?) and who has search options unavailable to you, it shouldn't end there. In rare cases, public searches should be the backbone of your searches, and typically, public searches should be a supplement to your search from agents.
1. At a minimum, I suggest creating a for sale by owner (FSBO) targeted search on Zillow. Those are pro