Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The New Way to Hunt for a New Home

If you’ve ever hunted for a resale home, chances are you’re well acquainted with the Canadian Real Estate Association’s consumer site Realtor.ca (formerly MLS.ca). Millions of Canadians rely on it every month to learn about their housing market. It provides insight on nearly all the resale inventory available through CREA Realtors.

While it may not be the flashiest site on Earth, it’s current and comprehensive and it does the trick. If you’re searching for a new home, however, you likely have a folder overflowing with newspaper clippings and builder brochures and a dozen (or so) builder websites pegged as favourite URLs. With the hours spent on your computer, you’re ready to add “Real Estate Analyst” to your résumé.

Why is it so much harder to shop for a new home?

Well, up until recently, access to comprehensive, up-to-date information on new homes has only been available to those in the building and development industry. But things have changed.

Toronto-based RealNet Canada has been compiling data on new construction for years. Working with local builders to amass an inventory of records, they have become the official source of new housing data for BILD (Building Industry & Land Development Association, formerly the Greater Toronto Home Builders’ Association).

RealNet reports on 99% of developments over 15 units in the GTA, and their information is updated monthly. And now your Realtor has them, too — nearly 40,000 current records right at their fingertips. Sitting down with your Realtor (the service is not available to the general public), you’ll be able to view loads of details on available properties in your desired areas, separated into high-rise and low-rise. Want to see two-bedroom condos at Yonge and Bloor? RealNet has them. Fancy a three-bedroom townhouse in Aurora? RealNet has them. The search is similar to any other, allowing users to find properties based on geography, price, type and number of bedrooms. RealNet new-home records show the individual details, including price ranges, lot sizes, options, available parking, occupancy dates and more. There are also tidbits that you just can’t find anywhere else — like what the condo fees will be, the deposit structure and whether or not you can buy a storage locker.

Some house hunters may prefer to conduct their online research independently by visiting consumer websites. If you come across properties of interest on your own, you can contact your Realtor to see how they compare to others in the area. Having a well-informed Realtor involved offers significant benefits. In a fluctuating market like the one we’re currently experiencing, you’ll want to be as informed as possible. Through TREB and RealNet statistics, your Realtor is armed with industrial-strength information on both new and resale properties — data which will aid you in making better real estate decisions.

With a Realtor by your side, you’ll have someone who understands your life needs, financial goals and best interests when advising you during key moments, not to mention helping to coordinate multiple sales and closings. Next time you’re looking to fuel your real estate addiction, invite your Realtor over for a tour of what’s going down in the suburbs or up in the city. You’ll have the benefit of an expert armed with the latest in market intelligence and you’ll save yourself the frustration of searching the Web in vain — and maybe even a tank of gas or two.

DAVE YOUNG - SUN MEDIA 23rd February 2009

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