Use a variety of websites to search for homes, and understand that some are better than other. There are several very large and very popular websites that make real estate data available to the public. Many people start their search with one of these sites, but quickly find that the listing data isn’t always up to date and can be inaccurate.

The public can access property data on these websites, so there are common problems with web users editing property data that isn’t always 100% correct.

Be prepared to ask your real estate agent to set you up with a search directly through the MLS. The official MLS require agents to have an active real estate license and access is not permitted to the public. The MLS also have very strict rules when it comes to the accuracy of the information uploaded into the MLS database. If there are mistakes, omitted data or other errors with the listing data, the real estate agent responsible for the in-accurate information often faces hefty fees for bad information. The strict rules established by the local MLS are in place to provide the MLS members with information that is as accurate as possible. The official MLS database updates daily, so you know that you have an edge over other home buyers, and are many times the first to know about new listings or changes to current listings prices.

When asking your agent to set up your MLS search, it’s a good idea to customize the search for specific location or features you MUST have in a home, but don’t make the search too specific. Many times people have asked their agent to only deliver listings that EXACTLY match the dream home they’ve created in their head. Reality is, these people are chasing the Pink Dragon, meaning they are searching for the super-awesome home in the perfect location, priced way below market.

These people chase that Pink Dragon for a long time, always just one step behind, only to learn that there were a few homes they could have bee really happy with, but they were never notified about their existence because their MLS search was too specific.

If these people instead loosened the search criteria they would have had a larger selection of homes to choose from and a better understanding about the market.

Understand what type of home you are looking for. Most of us hear that foreclosures and short sales are what we should buy if we want to get a good deal and make money. While foreclosures and short sales can sometimes prove to be a profitable investment for people, purchasing them comes with a large risk. In most cases purchasing a foreclosure, buyers are required to sign an “As-is Addendum” and typically foreclosures have unseen damages and problems that could leave a potential home buyer with a money pit. If a homebuyer doesn’t have a background in construction, doesn’t have a lot of time to work on the home, doesn’t have a reserve stash of cash to take care of the “known-unknown” expenses, they would be wise to use extreme caution if they are thinking about buying a foreclosure.

So set your home search settings loosely and don’t chase that pink dragon, because it doesn’t exist. Understand the dangers buying foreclosures and analyze the risk to benefits ratio very carefully before submitting an offer. Keep realistic expectations and compare as many homes as reasonably possible.