Great question!! I know, you would think this is an easy answer but it is anything but easy! What makes it difficult? We have 4 MLS systems (Walker County, Cullman County, Birmingham, North Alabama) and a couple of consolidators (Zillow, Realtor) and advertising sites (Lakehouse.com) that serve Smith Lake. This makes it challenging for those of us working to make sure clients see all available properties.
Quick summary of how I attack the problem: I go through a progression starting with Walker County MLS (has about 80% of properties for sale on Smith Lake) and then supplement that search with searches of the other sites to ensure I do not miss anything….and I still miss a few. If you decide to search on your on…go to “Search Properties” on my website which will give you the Walker County MLS and then hit Lakehouse.com and Zillow.com. Put in the same price range on each of these and filter through the results.
Below we will discuss the different categories of sites: consolidators like Realtor or Zillow, advertising sites like Lakehouse.com, and individual realtor sites.
Individual Realtor Sites: Most all of us have our own personal websites where we give you the opportunity to search for properties on the lake. If you go to a realtors site and they do not provide you the abilty to search all properties on the lake then they probably are not the realtor for you…as they are probably not using all of the technology available to ensure you see all available properties. Realtors can only give you access to properties on their MLS. Some realtors are members of multiple MLS systems so they offer you multiple links to different MLS systems. So far, none of the realtors combine all MLSs into one search, Lakehomes comes close (see below).
Consolidators: Zillow and Realtor are probably the two most popular. They appear high on the search results and do a great job of consolidating. They receive listings from most every MLS system as well as allow FSBOs to pay to advertise their properties. The only issue I have is that these sites sometimes display properties that are no longer for sale which can be frustrating.
Lakehouse.com: This site has become the one place that most all listings are put by the listing agents. FSBOs will also show up here as well. This site is populated solely by realtors or FSBOs. In other words, it is not automatically populated from other sites (like Realtor or Zillow). What this means is that the ad owner must also maintain the status which is about the last thing the realtor does on status change. This is where the frustration comes in as a large number of the listings are stale (e.g., expired, sold, cancelled, etc). This is still one of the best sources on the lake, you just have to check that it is still active.
Lakehomes.com: This site is different in that they are a brokerage and are selling real estate. They have their own realtors working the lakes where they have homes listed. For instance, Justin Dyar is associated with Lakehomes.com. Lakehomes.com only has the properties from the MLS’ they are members of and no FSBOs.
As you can see this can be confusing…of course, I recommend using a realtor and letting them do the initial searches. They will not find them all but they will find the majority. Ask the realtor to have email updates sent to you of new and changed properties and supplement this by signing up for email updates from Lakehouse.com.
Happy hunting and call me with any questions.