The Basics Of Online Real Estate Sales

At the dawn of the Internet age, if you were shopping for a house, it was a novelty to be able to look at grainy pictures of properties and long text lists of MLS listings. These days, it's not a luxury to use the Web to buy or sell a house, it's a necessity, says Regina Lewis, AOL's consumer advisor.

And it's about how savvy you are about marketing your home online that can make all the difference in the end result. It's log on or lose.

"These days, getting a real estate edge is easier said than done," said Lewis. "Playing your online cards right, is not just smart anymore ... it's make or break."

According to Lewis, here are five key things to consider before you start showing your home:

GET READY: Stage your home, Lewis advises. "You've got to get the house looking sharp if you want it to move. There are Web sites where you can get tips & hire professional "home stagers." Be sure to look at their work in advance of signing them up." She suggests checking out the site www.stagedhomes.com.

REAL ESTATE AGENT: "Insist on digital photos ahd a 3D tour! When you are selecting a real estate agency or agent, check out their online listings. Do they look striking to you? Don't let anyone tell you that your house needs to be at a certain price point for online marketing to be offered. It's too important in any/all price points at this stage. Insist on it and ask to review & approve all photos and video in advance of them "going live" online." Lewis suggests you can check out www.realtor.com

FSBO WEBSITES: "If you're going to go FSBO (For Sale By Owner), do it well, or don't do it at all. If you go it alone on sites like FSBO.com, make sure you know what you're getting into. Find the most cyber-savvy person you know (maybe your teenaged nephew?) to help make sure you put your best online foot forward. If you can't do it well, have someone manage this piece for you at a fraction of what you'd pay a realtor. www.fsbo.com

AUCTIONS: "eBay it away! Yes, you can auction off a house on eBay. There are thousands of listings right now. You pay a transaction fee that's a fraction of what you'd pay a realtor and you can, of course, set a minimum reserve. To be legally binding the actual transaction is facilitated by, though not conducted by eBay. See www.ebay.com for details.

MAKE ME MOVE?: "Yep. Instead of leaving a note in someone's mailbox saying, 'Hey, if you ever think of selling,' you can also make sure you immediately know if it goes on the market," Lewis said. "Just plug the address into the 'alert' system (described above) and if you want to throw out a figure to see if there's someone out there who might bite, go on Zillow.com and enter a 'Make Me Move' price. It's not binding."

One other piece of advice from Lewis: if you're looking for a bargain, there are some Web sites that can offer some crucial assistance. "The Internet can be useful here too ... You can be alerted of price drops, have listing sent to your cell & be tipped off on foreclosures." She suggests looking at these sites:

PRICE DROP ALERTS: www.Trulia.com
SEND TO CELL: www.Mobile.Realtor.com
FORECLOSURES: www.Bargainnetwork.com
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