We’d recommend setting up email alerts to stay on top of new MLS listings. The best site we’ve found for this is Redfin. On Redfin, you can set up email alerts based on specific search criteria, such as geography, price, property type, and property size. You can set up alerts to be instantaneous so that you are alerted as soon as a property is listed, or you can set up email alerts to send you all properties that meet your criteria on a periodic basis (for example, weekly).
Given how competitive Bay Area real estate is, we’d recommend setting up alerts that are slightly broader than your ideal criteria. This gives you more options to consider, and you may actually discover an attractive property.
Attending open homes
Visiting open homes is the best way to find your dream home, and to narrow down your preferences through understanding the pros and cons of various neighborhoods, property types and property conditions. Buying a property is a big financial decision, and your home is a very personal choice, so you want to spend as much time assessing the property before putting in an offer on it.
Open homes are generally held during weekend afternoons, although some listing agents will also show their homes on weekday evenings. Listing sites such as Redfin and Zillow show you when a home’s open house is, and you can set up alerts to be notified when new open home times are posted. Unfortunately, a lot of open homes are scheduled for the same time, so you may find yourself planning an afternoon with multiple open homes to attend.
You can attend an open home with or without your buying agent; it is really up to your personal preference. Having your agent present can be useful for soliciting advice and opinions about certain aspects of the home, or asking any questions specific to that property. However, some buyers prefer viewing homes in a more casual manner without their agent.
One popular approach that buyers employ is to do open home viewings in staged rounds. They will look at open homes by themselves, without their agent, on the Saturday, and then ask their agent to view the open home with them on Sunday if they are interested in pursuing the home, or if they have specific questions.
Open homes can be rather hectic, particularly for the most popular homes. It is not uncommon to have 50+ parties visit a popular open home in a two-hour window. This can make it challenging to get undisturbed tour of the home and see everything in an unrushed manner. On top of this, you may be trying to visit multiple open homes during the same time window, and thus feel pressured to complete the open home quickly and efficiently. However, it is important that you not rush through the open house, and to have patience to see the entire home in a exhaustive manner.