The revamped HAR consumer site debuted with a splash on Valentines Day — and Houston real estate will never be the same! Over the past week, a few site quirks have quietly been ironed out (tabbed browsing now works again, for example), but there are plenty still left to enjoy. Below is Swamplot’s handy guide to some of the freakiest new HAR features — sure to excite thousands of obsessive online Real Estate voyeurs:
1. View up to 100 Properties on a Single Screen
Searches still bring up an annoying five properties per page by default, but you can change that by choosing “Show All” from the Records Per Page dropdown menu at the top right of the search results.
2. Change Your Search Criteria Without Starting from Scratch
No more leaning on that back button! Just choose one of the dropdown menus at the top left of the search results . . . then click away!
3. Compare Properties
By marking the checkboxes next to properties you’ve identified in a search (up to 5), you can set up a fun little comparison grid, each column headed by a postage-stamp-size image of the property. This is where the fun begins! Yes, you can send the comparison to yourself or a friend in a single email. But there’s more. You can also:
4. Stalk Real Estate Agents
Yep, photos for the agents listing the properties you’re comparing show up, all MySpace-like, so you can . . . uh, see what they all look like together. But that’s not all: By filling out a simple form on the Email Agents tab, you can email all of them at once! Agents are your friends!!!
5. Let Real Estate Agents Stalk You
If you’re feeling lonely, when you sign up for the My Home Finder service make sure the button that says “YES, Sign Me Up for More Information.” is checked. (It is by default.) That means HAR will give out your email address to the listing agent every time you bookmark a property! (After you sign up, you can change this default on your Account Settings page.)
6. Search for Foreclosures
Wallow in other people’s misery — or monitor your own! You’ll only be searching through foreclosures that show up on MLS, of course.
7. Follow the Herd
The My Home Finder section shows the most-viewed properties on the website by city, plus the 10 most-bookmarked properties in a number of separate categories. Sure, it’s fun to see what homes other people are attracted to. But how long will it be before enterprising agents start gaming the system by hiring workers in Bangalore to create thousands of new user accounts and click on their listings repeatedly — just so they’ll make the Top 10?
8. View 3D Aerial Photos
The new site integrates Microsoft’s Virtual Earth, so you can get bird’s-eye views of any property. Once you’ve switched to Bird’s Eye from the top of the map window, click on the N, S, E, or W at the top left to rotate your viewpoint.
9. Search Within Neighborhoods You Define
This is the whizziest new feature of all. The link to Map Search is hidden in plain sight on the main search screen. (If you can’t find it, try using this link.) Click the green Show Listings button and listings in the area you’ve zoomed to will appear. Even better is the Polygon Search: Click on the Draw Poly button and draw an up-to-8-sided polygon on the map (see the screenshot at the very top of this article); then click on Show Listings. You can alter the search criteria within your own personal Golden Triangle by clicking on the Search Criteria link to the top left of the map or on the Select Search Criteria button under the Instructions tab on the right. And yes, you can even draw on top of the new Bird’s Eye view, though it probably won’t be particularly useful.
Unfortunately, you get a maximum of 100 results from any search, so it’s hard to compare quantities above that number in different areas, or get a graphical sense of the number of listings in a larger region. Also, the polygon tool likes to freak out occasionally once you’ve reached seven sides on your polygon, so you may just have to keep redrawing until you get it right.
10. Map Recently Sold Properties
Map Search works for recently sold properties too, though HAR still doesn’t reveal actual sales prices — just ranges. You can toggle between recently sold, for-sale, and for-lease properties from the Search Criteria dropdown at the top of the Map Search map.
11. Search Listings from your Mobile Phone
Got a phone you can browse with? Use this link.
12. Get Email Alerts
When you bookmark a property (you’ll have to sign up for My Home Finder first), check the box that says “Receive email alert notification.” You’ll receive an email when that property’s price drops or its status changes.
(Strangely, it appears you can only bookmark a property directly if you’ve run the search from within My Home Finder. If you are searching from the main search page, you’ll have to add properties to “MyCart,” then bookmark all the properties in the cart. Then you’ll have to navigate to the My Home Finder, click on the “Bookmarks Listings” tab, and make sure “Email Alerts” is turned on for each property you want to follow. Simple, huh? Well, there’s another step.
If the email alert is not set properly for a property, you can’t adjust it directly from that page (above). You’ll either have to click on the Detail button to get to the page where you can switch on the alerts — or make sure the button below the photo of the appropriate property is selected, then scroll to the top or the bottom of the bookmarks and click on the button at the far right that reads “Edit Price/Status Alert,” which will take you to the same page. And yes, you do this individually for each property.)
From within My Home Finder, you can also save a search and sign up to receive an email every time a new property that meets that search’s criteria appears on MLS.
13. Collect Fun Error Messages
Hey, they’re becoming a lot less frequent!