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House Hunting, With Or Without A Broker

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Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a home or apartment, with leading experts lending their two cents. Additional questions welcomed to Today: how to find that next place, with commentary by Alicia Cervera Lamadrid on the benefits of a broker.

Once you've figured out how you're paying for it, the next step in house hunting is, well, house hunting. So, get a broker or, with the bountiful resources of the internet at your fingertips, find your future house/apartment/hovel/double-wide yourself. Or both. With a broker, you have a professional who will help you in the hunt, the negotiation, and the complications that can potentially arise. If you do it yourself, resources like StreetEasy, PropertyShark, Zillow, and Trulia provide closing prices, sale histories, listings, and everything else you need to know.

StreetEasy: When it comes to searching by area, Streeteasy has options to search by neighborhood, zip code, address, building, or even by street or commute time and bazillion other variables. You can get a lot of information for free, but to see the recorded sale prices and other nifty info, you must become a Streeteasy Insider for $10 a month.

PropertyShark: Requires a (free) log-in to get basic information, unlike the other sites, although that info is surprisingly extensive, including valuations, transfer histories, and land use maps. For more information, including what you would need to run comps, you'll be laying down at least $64.95 a month for the lowest level of membership.

Zillow, Trulia, and Estately: Works for searching properties currently on the market, but doesn't always work for comps.

Miami-Dade Property Appraiser: Most data available here can also be found on other sites, like PropertyShark or StreetEasy. The difference is this is the official source, and it doesn't require a login. Oh, and it's surprisingly easily to use for a government website.

Then there are the market reports, which give you more of an overview by and/or neighborhood. The more well known ones include the Douglas Elliman Report, focusing on most of South Florida's more affluent coastal areas, and the Condo Vultures report, which focus on condo sales. (If we're missing any of the good reports, do let us know)

Mind going numb? Then get yourself a broker! One of Miami's top brokers, Alicia Cervera Lamadrid, has a few thoughts on the benefits of a broker:

When you do anything in life (whether its real estate or anything) it's always better to do it with a professional. Someone who is really an expert in that field. I always say that one of the differences between the United States and other countries is that we rely heavily on experts. No one pretends to know everything about everything, or everything about one thing. Rather, we are specialists in fields and within those fields we specialize in different things. So to work with a professional on one of the most important things aspects of your life - your home - seems to be an obvious proposition. Why would you not work with a professional on that most important of decisions?? A professional will help you find the right place, they will help negotiate a more affordable deal, and in Florida that professional is paid by the seller of the property. So, for the buyer the services of a broker are usually free. The broker will help you navigate through legal issues. They won't assume the role of a lawyer of course, but they will help you find the right lawyer, and help find other professionals you need in order to do a successful real estate transaction. Of course, depending on the complexity of the real estate transaction, it will require more or less outside professional support.

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