10 Essential Web Sites

Some of the richest sources of information for dazzling consumers are available only in cyberspace.

August 1, 1999

1. Cybertech emporium

To help you choose the technology products that’ll keep you competitive in the 21st century, you need a 24-hour knowledge source. Bustling www.cnet.com covers Internet technologies as well as tech products, news, and trends. You can search for laptops, for instance, by price, manufacturer, or processors. Don’t miss cnet’s down and dirty reviews.

Cool feature: Link to cnet Auctions to bid on all things technical.

2. Where am I?

If you can’t find a listing appointment or direct prospects to a For Sale property, do everyone a favor: Visit www.MapBlast.comfor door-to-door driving instructions, including maps. Then print or E-mail the instructions and maps. You can even save up to 10 maps for reference later. Relocating buyers will love searching for businesses by type or specific name in the area they’re moving to.

Cool feature: For easy reference on the road, download maps to your handheld computer (Palm Pilot or Windows CE-based).

3. Disaster prone? Get help here

Mother Nature is on the offensive. Remember Oklahoma’s killer tornadoes this spring? At the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Web site (www.fema.gov), homeowners and buyers will find the resources to fight back--regional offices; locations where disasters are likely; information on how individuals, businesses, and communities can prepare for disasters; and information on how to construct safer structures and how to get federal aid if your area has been hit.

Cool feature: Get customers’ children involved in home safety by pointing them to the educational games and tips at FEMA for Kids.

4. A real estate oasis

The granddaddy of real estate property sites with nearly 1.3 million listings, REALTOR.COM offers a cyber-load of educational information and interactive services for you, buyers, and sellers. For consumers, there’s mortgage information through QuickenMortgage.com, a change-of-address service, and easy searches to find REALTORS®, listings, and neighborhoods.

You can soup up your REALTOR.COM listings--your MLS is probably represented among the roughly 600 participating--with contact information and photos. Buy a permanent E-mail address and home page; add an audio clip if you like.

Cool feature: Consumers who register for the personal planner receive E-mail with new listings that fit their search criteria. Buyers can also save listings to their personal planner that they’d like to share with you.

5. Bank hours don’t apply

The one independent mortgage site that works with lenders in all 50 states, QuickenMortgage.com finds loans for consumers, who can apply via the site to one of the 15 or so participating lenders. Also on tap: rent vs. buy, mortgage, and refinancing calculators.

Cool feature: Type in the home price and loan amount to get a quickie list of your local lenders’ rates.

6. Rev up your car search

The savvy mobile practitioner will find recall information, price lists, a loan or lease calculator, used-car book values, crash-test information, and maintenance checklists at the robust www.AutoSite.com. Search classifieds for more than 250,000 used vehicles. Link to Microsoft’s Carpoint.com for dealer price quotes.

Cool feature: Comparison reports for any two cars are so detailed they’ll leave few questions unanswered.

7. Visit Capitol Hill online

The Library of Congress’ Thomas is the best of both worlds: the latest real estate– related legislative information without real-time filibusters. At http://thomas.loc.gov/, search for information on the federal legislation that interests you by bill or amendment, subject, sponsors, committee, or date it was introduced. Link to contact information for legislators.

Cool feature:Follow the proceedings on the floor of the U.S. House.

8. Uncover toxic homes

Are the buyers concerned about toxins generated by a plant near their dream home? To help them make informed purchase decisions, refer them to the Environmental Defense Fund’s www.score card.org. Users can type in a ZIP code to find a list of pollutant-producing companies in the area and drill down to see exactly where the company is located in relation to a home.

Because the site’s statistics are compiled from 200 federal and state databases, the latest available data may be as recently extracted as 1998 or as old as several years.

Cool feature:Enter your ZIP code and click on Take Action to fax a prewritten letter of protest to polluting companies.

9. Ready, set, search

Find a prospect or a business or search the Internet by topic area at Switchboard.com, a Yellow Pages-like online directory. The site also searches for people’s E-mail address, but our random attempts resulted in no or old matches. Once it finds a person’s street address, Switchboard.com lists restaurants, recreation, entertainment, and health facilities in the area.

On the road? Import your bookmarks to the site so that you can access them from any computer.

Cool feature:Switchboard provides the HTML code and graphics you need to set up a Find a Person or Find a Business search right at your site—a great way to keep buyers interacting with your site.

10. Relocation central

A relocation clearinghouse, VirtualRelocation.comfeatures links to relocation services and related information in 12 major subject categories, from career and education to insurance and mortgages.

Buyers will like community profiles that detail the number of owner-occupied homes, median home value, average rush hour, and the amount of time it takes to get to work in a particular market.

Cool feature: A cost-of-living analysis tells buyers whether a relocation will result in an increase or a decrease in their cash the first year after a move. Also, don’t miss the quality-of-life comparisons.

Other sites worth a surf

Ashi.com The American Society of Home Inspectors lists professional inspectors by ZIP code and educates consumers about the minimum scope of any residential inspection.

Fanniemae.com Loan products, plus single-family and multifamily listings.

Hud.gov U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development listings, homebuyer tips, mortgage programs, and complaint information.

Leadsafeusa.com Brochures and articles on reducing lead hazards and finding lead-based paint experts; also state lead paint statutes.

Moving.com Moving companies by state, area code, and type of move; moving tips and cautions.

Mrin.com Property listings and brokerages near U.S. military bases.

Nareit.com REIT performance data and research reports, commercial property news, and tax law lobbying updates. Links to NAREIT members.

Rate.net Compare interest rates for mortgage, home equity, and auto loans.

REALTOR® Magazine OnlinePart of One Realtor Place®. Article archives and online exclusives, including columns, features, quizzes, daily news, and Web site reviews.

Springstreet.com Six million rental listings are housed at this site, part of the RealSelect Inc. cadre of Web sites.

REALTOR® Magazine Online isn’t responsible for content changes at the sites after press time.

Christina Hoffmann
Senior Speech Writer

Christina Hoffmann has covered real estate and homeownership for two decades, including as REALTOR® Magazine managing editor and HouseLogic.com’s content manager, with added expertise as owner of a demanding 100-year-old house. She is currently a senior speech writer at NAR.

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