If you ask anyone doing serious house hunting in town how they are going about it, there are few who won’t point to the web (nationally, 88% use it) as at least one of the top two most useful tools (their local Realtor® is the other one: 87%).
Yes, yard signs are helpful, and its first cousin, the Open House, is another (they’re related since it’s hard to imagine an Open House without a yard sign or two). Both come into the house hunting picture a little less than half the time, according to NAR® statistics. A quarter of house hunting expeditions also rely on one or more online video sites, but I think that’s just because online listings frequently link to those to display virtual tours. To a prospective buyer, it may not even be evident that a different site has been used. In fact, who cares?
What is important—and what shoppers who are actively embarked on an area house hunting foray do care about—is what is the best way to find the town homes for sale that best fit their requirements. Along with size and price guidelines, usually location turns out to be a leading specification—sometimes the leading spec. Most of the online search tools let you enter location in a form that allows “city, state, neighborhood, or zip code.” Sometimes, “county” is allowed.
Especially for anyone planning to move to an area that is largely unfamiliar, it’s here that assumptions can be misleading. Of course, house hunting using a sizeable “City” is likely to deliver unwieldy results. If you entered “Los Angeles,” for instance, the difference between a nice little parcel on Mount Lukens (elevation 5,000+ feet) and one by Point Dume (elevation zero) makes such an entry all but useless. “Neighborhood” will usually yield much more meaningful results—but only for those who are already familiar with the area.
This is where entering a “Zip Code” might seem to be the most likely way to get the house hunting results you’re looking for. Sometimes it might. Yet a word of caution is in order—this is where a little practical zip code knowledge could come in handy. A zip isn’t always as cozy an area as you might think. For instance:
- Towns and cities sport different zip code “overlays.” More than one town name may be in a single zip (but that zip might not cover the entirety of any of them).
- Many zips can share the same town name (for instance, Austin has 78).
- If commute time and/or fuel economy is an issue, entering 89049 (Tonopah, NV) might not be helpful. It covers 10,000 square miles, which makes it slightly larger than Maryland.
- On the other hand, some zips cover just one building.
But if you do decide to use the zip code to specify a search area, steer clear of “48222.” It’s the one that delivers mail to passing ships. Also, if you’re interested in Centralia PA, don’t bother looking for its zip; just enter ‘Centralia.’ (It’s the only town that has no zip code).
No matter what online search method you use, when the house hunting destination is in the town vicinity, there won’t be any more foolproof way to locate the home you’re looking for than to give me a call. I’ll put together a list that takes all your specifications into account…after which we can set out for a real-life, non-virtual tour!