Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Find Me A House in Boulder? [Strategy]

by Osman Parvez

About a quarter of new listings that hit the Boulder market last week were already under contract within 7 days. Think about that.   

In this market, speed is an advantage.   

The MLS recently added a new feature to allow instantaneous listing alerts. That means that when you're working with a Realtor, you'll get notified of new listings as soon as they hit the market.   

Of course, this assumes that you've chosen to work with a competent agent. And we all know that's a fairly big assumption.   

Here's the thing. IRES (the MLS covering Boulder) is increasingly complicated. It's easy to screw up the listing alerts and miss seeing property that you should have seen.

Here's are some examples and how it can be screwed up:

Search by MLS AREA
The map below show IRES areas.    Boulder is area 1 with subareas 1-11.  




Sub areas are a throwback to a legacy system in the MLS. It's before my time but a lot of less tech savvy agents still set up searches by area and subarea. As you can see, plenty of land is actually just outside the area and subarea.  

Search by City of Boulder
How about just search by City of Boulder instead. You can't screw that up, right? Wrong. Take a look at the following map of the City of Boulder. 



The red outline in the map above is the city (from openstreetmap.org).   There are tons of pockets which are not annexed and still reside in unincorporated Boulder County. If you set up listings alerts with "City of Boulder" as a search criteria, you can easily miss property too. Plus, now you're ignoring a huge chunk of Gunbarrel. Oops. 

Some of these unannexed pockets are very much within what most people would consider the City of Boulder. Enhance... 




Whole neighborhoods may be surrounded on four sides by the City, but are actually not inside the City of Boulder (yet). Setting up search alerts using the City as a criteria could result in missing an important property coming on market (or a comp if you're trying to analyze market value). 


Search by Customized Map
Choosing to create a map with hard boundaries is a better approach. It looks like this (the search area is shaded pink) 




In the example above, it covers everything west of Broadway, north of Canyon, and south of Iris. Because the MLS forces listing agents to confirm the property's location on a map, the data is usually pretty good for property placement.   

Here's an example that covers everything west of US 36/28th Street and goes a little further up into the foothills: 




The Rub
Setting up custom map searches for each and every buyer is time consuming.  It also requires having an in-depth conversation with the client. Many agents aren't going to take the time to do it, especially in the early stages of working together. It's yet another reason to work with a pro.  


Questions 
Some common questions that clients ask. 

Q: Can you just set up your own search results?
A:  Yes, but you're always better off working with a pro. Publicly available listing alerts from Zillow, Trulia, and hundreds of agent websites (including my own) are filled with old and expired listings (dirty data). They also don't update very frequently leaving you at a disadvantage. Plus, your agent should have valuable insight into neighborhoods that property types that you may not have considered. You're paying them, give them an opportunity to add value. 

I tell my clients to go ahead and look at these websites if they have time but only in addition to my listing alerts. If they see something that my listing alerts missed, contact me and I'll dig into it. 9 times out of 10, the listing will end up being an old or expired listing but it's always worth it to verify. 

Q:  What other methods exist?
A: Searches can be created by school, property characteristics such as bedroom/baths/price, as well as key features like a main floor master bedroom.   Keep in mind the results are only as good as the agents who enter the data.   Schools which have a long traffic record of excellence, by the way, are an important anchor to long term value and appreciation. 

Q:  What is your preferred approach?
A:  If you're a buyer, start with a broad net and narrow down the search criteria as you become clearer about what you want.   

You should also use MySite, the agent provided custom website to manage your listing alerts. You can use this a shared workspace with other decision makers, allowing you to leave comments, create favorites, maybes, and trash listings.   Plus you can easily see when a property goes under contract. MySite also isn't filled with distracting (and confusing) advertising by other agents and service providers.   

If you're a seller, before you price your property, be 100% sure your agent is pulling the full set of comps.  You need to pull data from both MLS listings and the public record.  

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Like this analysis?    Subscribe to my research.       Want to meet me in person?    Attend a Boulder Real Estate Meetup.    Ready to buy or sell?  Call me at 303.746.6896.  

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