Ep 227 – Using The Internet To Research Your First Home 

 March 25, 2024

How to Buy a Home | First Home


Are you looking for a house in an area? Is it a hassle to drive around the neighborhood or travel far to check the place where you would move in? Why don’t we make that task easy and efficient for you? There are different internet sites you can utilize to research your first home. Join David Sidoni in this episode as he shares the best sites to look into when looking for a home or in a neighborhood. His tips and tricks will allow you to navigate through those sites. Don’t miss this opportunity and find the home you truly deserve.

Using The Internet To Research Your First Home

Best Internet Sites To Do You Research For Renting Of Buying A Home

So, you’re ready  to make your online researching more efficient when you’re looking at the neighborhoods and homes and thinking about buying your first home? Maybe your dream area is too expensive. So you need to look into areas that you don’t know as well. You need to do the research. Or maybe you got a job transfer and you need to move somewhere that you don’t know at all.    

Well, way back in May of 2019, I did a podcast helping people understand how to use the internet as a tool to help them and not be overwhelmed when you jump into the internet to try to figure out what’s going on with the neighborhoods. Well, it’s about time. As a matter of fact, it’s time for the Internet 2024 remix.

What is up my how to buy a Homies? How are you living out there, huh? Are you chill? Are you vibing? Maybe you’re feeling ultra relaxed because you know that you’ve got your cringy uncle in your ear holes. What’s up gang? It’s David Sidoni here. I’m back like the Backstreet Boys, but instead of sweet harmony and dope dance moves, I have mad old man knowledge to give you the 411 on how to best use the interwebs.

You got it. It’s right there. It’s in your pocket. So let’s figure out how to use the internet when you’re trying to buy a home, 2024 style. Now first up, I want you guys to know I understand you could just straight up google this and if you look through a few different sites there you’re going to find somebody has done a curated top 10 best internet sites to help you research a neighborhood. Well, here’s what I did. I took that one step further for you.

I took the top 10 lists and then I cross-referenced them with each other to find the best of the best. Then I cross reference that with this amazing new technology. I know you guys have heard about it. No, it’s not AI. It’s the super cool new technique called Asking Real People Who Bought a Home What Internet Sites Helped Them. I’m super lucky. I’ve got hundreds of them that I can talk to. Then I triple cross-reference that with some of my own research.

Now I’m going to give you the definitive list of where to go for help and better yet, I’m going to give you some listener tips on how they actually use them in real life. How these sites help them maximize their knowledge intake. Which reminds me, by the way, if you’re jonesing for more information than just how to use the internet to buy a home, I highly recommend, if you’re trying to figure out, God, I really don’t want to know more about the buying process right now, go back to season one of the podcast and listen to the interviews with the real listeners, real first time home buyers.

Internet Sites To Look Up When Searching A Home

You’re going to hear firsthand, no BS. We’re talking straight tips and tricks. Each episode isn’t like a tip or trick on one thing because they all go through the whole process. It’s phenomenal for you because it can help you go, “Oh, that’s something I never thought of. Love them.” Let me quickly, before we get into the home stuff, give some information out there for some of you who maybe are going to be stuck renting for a little while.

If you are, you should be in the Last Lease Ever program, all you have to do is reach out to a unicorn team and they’ll help you focus on the big three, improving your credit score, managing your debt, and automating your savings. I did some research, talked to some of my people, and checked out apartment therapy, which is a great place to get some information.

Here are the best places for getting apartments these days. ApartmentGuide.com, ForRent.com, and Zillow have some good stuff, but be careful, they take pictures of realtors’ houses, and then they tell you to come over and give them money, even though the house is vacant, and then they take your money and run, and you can’t get in, it’s a scam.

Seriously, if you walk up and hand someone an envelope full of money, maybe you shouldn’t be allowed to rent a house anyway. Oh, that was harsh. No, seriously, be careful. Also, Darwinism is real. OK, moving on. Trulia, Realtor.com, Craigslist, be careful, scams on that one, too. StreetEasy, Nooklyn, RentHop is a good one. Apartments.com, now I’ll talk to you about this a little bit later, but Apartments.com is actually owned by the company that owns Homes.com from the Super Bowl ads that y’all just saw.

They’re making a big run trying to take over Zillow. Then the last couple ones, if you’re looking for a home, PadMapper, RentCafe, Zumper, Rent.com, and of course, Redfin and Facebook groups because landlords are old, that’s where they hang out. If you just want to rent a room, there’s a place called SpareRoom. You can check that out.

Now I know what you’re thinking, Sidoni, why aren’t you telling us to go to a realtor? Look, here’s the deal. In the old days, we used to do a lot of leases. Realtors don’t do leases anymore because the internet is the place where the landlords work because the landlords can use the internet and not pay the realtor. Pretty much realtors are only doing leases for very high expensive leases, which most of the time when I’m doing that, I’m thinking, boy, this is like $8,000 a month. Why aren’t you buying something?

Anyway, let’s get into the best internet sites that can help you when you’re trying to discover a new neighborhood. This kind of stuff can help you when you’re trying to go deep into a neighborhood that maybe you think you already know, but you might find information that perhaps you didn’t know. By the way, this stuff can still be good for those of you who are stuck around here for a little while, if you’re doing a last-lease-ever program.

You can use these sites to find out the same kind of thing about the neighborhoods. First, I’m going to give you the best-curated places to get the community information, and then we’ll dive into how to use the sites to do serious research on specific homes, maybe even one that you want to write an offer on. So the discovery.

Some of you homies are going to freak out because the first thing I’m going to tell you is some of the best sites to do your research are Zillow, Redfin, Realtor.com, Homes.com, and Trulia. I know, I rag on these sites, but I rag on them for what they’re trying to do setting you up with a realtor, with a lender. Here’s the deal, these big real estate sites, they have spent billions, that’s billions with a B, and they have lost millions.

How to Buy a Home | First Home
First Home: The best sites to research are Zillow, Redfin, Realtor.com, and Homes.com.


They’re not even profitable because they’re putting all their money into their tech to put a big tech face forward and build their brand. You know what? While they’re building their brand and losing money, who cares? Have at it. They have the most user-friendly and the easiest to digest information. Great place to get real estate information. A horrible place to get a real estate agent.

I know that they’re trying to force crappy realtors on you because I know the inside secret. The inside secret is they make money in two different ways. The first way they make money is they charge crappy realtors to advertise on their site and they charge $50,000, $100,000 to be a featured agent. That’s for a month.

Anybody who can pay them, that’s their vetting system. Do you want to know how they vet somebody? “Hey, you got money? Sweet. You’re featured. You’re the top agent in the area.” Now, I know this and I understand what they’re trying to do. Zillow lost, $158 million in 2023 because they’ve got a way to make a little bit of money and keep spending billions by charging the agents.

Then eventually what they want to do, step two of their big plan, they’re going to use their good name to try to become the one-stop shop for all home sales. Then they want to be the biggest and the only real estate broker for realtors. That’s their plan, the end. What does that mean? That means that right now they have really good stuff to help you when you’re trying to use the internet to research stuff. Now in the long run in 2034, I’m super freaked out on what this is going to mean.

You’re going to be paying an arm and a leg to these internet companies to buy a home and its service is going to suck. Go ahead, let them spend their billions on making their sites super badass, and hell yeah, use and abuse those URLs baby. Find what you are looking for. Explore the sites for school information, neighborhood stats, recent sales, maps, and local information. I don’t care where you go to get the information, just get the information.

I’m telling you, I’ve looked at all of them. There are a lot of good caring people out there with really lame sites. These sites who are trying to fleece you, they’re the best. They could be helpful in your search. Just do me a favor, never use the guestimates ever. Never use any of their home value guesstimates that they have on any of those sites.

Never ever click on the realtor or the lender from one of those sites. Unless you love spam, unless you love people calling you every day, multiple times. Then if you end up working with them unless you like working with people that paid to get there and pretty much suck, you’re going to get a far superior service level that you go out and you find, and you interview, and you hire.

We’re going to teach you how to do that with me in your earholes, getting you educated on the process. Now the next sites and apps to help you with your neighborhood discovery. These are awesome. Love these Walk scores, Bike scores, and Transit scores. It takes each address. You drop an address, whatever you want and it gives you a score, how walkable it is, how bikeable it is, and then of course public transportation.

It’s really good stuff. Now, I don’t know what you’re into. So, let me give you the next best sites. Now this is just like the top 10. So you’re going to go to Zillow, Realtor.com, and Redfin. Then you find the walk score, bike score, and transit score. Now these sites are awesome. NeighborhoodScout, StreetAdvisor, CityData. CityData actually has the best real data information, but it is a clunky ass site.

HomeFair is another good one and there’s one called HAR. That’s pretty good too. They’ve got some of the best neighborhood information out there and don’t be fooled by their old-school layouts because the data in there, it’s pretty killer. Some of the cooler, newer sites that I found, this is one site called AreaVibes.com. I like that one a lot. It’s great and sorry, this isn’t just me talking. I say I like that one a lot. I like it because a lot of people told me that they liked it.

Then Niche.com. That’s another one that a lot of people have told me they used and it really helped them. Now, if you’re diving into the internet and your brain is swirling, from all the data that you’re getting from all of those sites, and you’re mentally downloading this stuff, and you’re just like, “Oh my God, I need some fun.” Want some fun? Check out HoodMaps.com. Trust me, Hoodmaps.com. You’ll learn maybe a little, but you’ll definitely laugh.


Check out Hoodmaps.com.


The reason I came back to do this episode is because I know that you’re going to be using the internet. I love helping buyers learn about where to learn about new regions, new cities, and new areas because, for me, you guys understanding how to dig deep into what matters to you will help you make your decision. I want to once again give you a little bit of a heads-up so you can come in with the right glasses.

Even websites are written by humans and even the ones that are written by AI, the AI gathered the information from sites that were originally written by humans. If you’re getting AI or a website, there’s got to be some opinions in there. Make sure that you’re looking with the glasses on that realize, what’s the opposite of rose-colored glasses. Glasses that can see rose-colored thoughts? I don’t know.

Dude, all I’m saying is that some websites are going to be biased one way or the other. Keep in mind, that your version and my version of a good neighborhood or a safe neighborhood could be wildly different. Don’t look at just simple adjectives and think, “Oh, that’s great.” That’s why I give you guys the best of these curated sites because some of those sites can tell you a bunch of stuff that your unicorn team legally cannot tell you.

For real, there are several things that a real estate agent or a licensed mortgage broker cannot talk to you about. Don’t think that your unicorn or your mortgage broker doesn’t know. We’re not allowed to because of discrimination and that’s a good thing. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits realtors from discriminating against anyone. We can’t talk about anything that has to do with race, color, natural origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, family status, disabilities, all that stuff.

This is for good reason. We don’t want the terrible old practices. I don’t know if you ever heard of this thing called Redlining, but it sucks. Your realtor shouldn’t be talking to you about any of that stuff. Don’t ask him about anything racial, not even the financial demographics of an area. As I said, if you want to know where that stuff is, go to StreetAdvisor and the other stuff, NeighborhoodScout, and CityData. It will tell you that stuff, but we’re not allowed to.

Bear in mind, that a lot of this stuff is out there in the census, but just know that we cannot discriminate. In fact, it even gets kind of weird when we talk about crime. I’m going to give you some of the crime sites that people have told me to use, but we’re not allowed to say this is a safe neighborhood or this is not a safe neighborhood, again, because that’s opinion. Here’s what’s interesting. A lot of my listeners said going to the local police site, was better than going to the national sites that say that they gather the information.

That was in extreme sarcastic air quotes. You see, there’s a ton of these national websites that actually make money by selling you this information, certain packages. They put it all together, they curate it, and then they sell it back to you. Depending on the area you’re looking at, if they’re decently up to date with what’s going on, check with the local official .gov sites or the police site or the sheriff’s site.

Now, if you want to look at some of the national stuff, crime reports are one people have told me they really liked. FamilyWatchdog. Of course, don’t forget Megan’sLaw that’s going to tell you about the sex offenders. I know all about this not because of that but because I’ve seen every Law and Order SVU twice, at least all 25 seasons. Dun dun.

SpotCrime is also a good one. MyLocalCrime people have talked about and I had a bunch of listeners tell me they liked CityProtect. It’s a massive interactive crime map and it’s run by a tech company, Motorola, I think. They actually say that they work in concert with a thousand different police departments across the United States. These are good resources. If you don’t know the area and you at least want to get some crime stats, but again, go directly to the source if you can.

Finally, one of the biggest things that people will say is, if you really want to do a deep dive, I don’t know if people have told me they’ve done this. I don’t know how they got a straight answer on this. They actually went to the FBI. The FBI has uniform crime reports on their site. God knows how you get one of those, but good luck.                                                                    

All right, since I was talking about crime, let’s talk about schools. Perfect segue, right? Students and criminals, are excellent. When I talk about schools, I want to make sure that I give you guys a little tip. A lot of people say, “Oh, we don’t need to talk about schools, we’re never going to have kids.” Cool, I’ve got a tip for you but I also want to talk to you guys to say, “Oh, we have to make sure that we’re talking about the school district and blah, blah, blah.”

Meanwhile, they’re engaged and then they tell me they want to spend the first five years without having kids. People move every five to seven years. Make sure before you start thinking about the school district, how does this really affect you? I see a lot of people that use the school data to their advantage. If they don’t think they’re going to have kids while they live in this home, either they’re not going to have kids in the next five to seven years, or they’re never going to have kids.

I’ve seen people use that data, that understanding and they get a killer deal on a fun home or unique home in an area that maybe isn’t known for a blue ribbon school district. They might actually get a little discount on the home. Kind of a cool thing. Figure out if school districts are important to you and then use these places because people have told me this is the best place to go.

I hate to say it, but a lot of people just say they go to Zillow because they have a nice easy one to ten score. Now, the reason for that is to go ahead and look at great schools, neighborhood scouts, the National Center for Education Statistics, or any of the government school ranking websites. They are laborious. A lot of times people just have to go to Zillow and look for the one to ten but if you want to get deep, those are the websites for you. That’s just what it is.

Now, moving on. If you are a real glutton for punishment and you want to get the real tea, you want to find out the real dirt on a neighborhood, you can go creeping into these sites, but I warn you, it can be scary. NextDoor, Citizen, Facebook groups, or if you dare, Reddit groups. God forbid, I’m even saying this, but sure, you can even check out Instagram and TikTok.

Just remember any idiot can get a social media account and God knows why they’re posting about cool things in the city. Wherever you’re looking, check the source. I would say trust, but verify, but it’s more like don’t trust first, discover, research, double check, triple check, who the heck is this person? Then still don’t think that that is verified until you’ve heard the same information on a credible site.

No, your favorite influencer is not a credible source, and remember this final piece, if you’re looking for people who are giving their opinions on areas, people love to bitch  online. You’re going to find more positive info, more of the generic, not-so-flashy, not-so-catchy sites, or potentially in real life when you actually go to visit these places.

Okay, creepers, let me give you some tips on how to be a stalker. I’m telling you, you can use the internet in some pretty scary ways and the best way to get the deep details on specific homes and neighborhoods is using the internet. Now, if you want to go to the open house, that’s the real best way. Go someplace in life but if you’re at home, let’s talk about discovering information about the homes themselves.

My biggest tip which I gave way back in May of 2019 is Google Maps. You have to become a Google Maps professional. It feels a little creepy and a little stalky. Stalky? I just made up a word. Stocky. I like it. I’m going to copyright it. Send it to Dick Wolf so he can have Olivia Benson say that and Elliot Stabler, although he’s on another show now with less sex stuff and more organized crime, but I’m Italian. I can do either one.

Stocky, that’s my word. So, Google Maps, I know I’m being a goofball in this episode, but there’s a lot of good information here. Use the satellite view. Satellite view, dig deep, go way into it. You can look inside people’s backyards, and find out if they’ve got junkyards back there. Look if they park numerous cars on their front or back lawns. You can even see, sometimes those cameras catch people sunbathing on the roof. I don’t know, who knows? Maybe that’s a plus for you. Maybe you’re into it.

Use that street view to figure out and get more than you could when you’re driving by. When you’re driving by, sometimes it’s hard for you to know what’s behind what but if you look at it from that bird’s eye angle with the satellite view, you can figure out where there’s an empty lot or, where there’s a sewage drain or where there’s a water treatment plant. Get on Google Maps and get active.

The next thing you do to the next level of being super stalky is the Street View. If you don’t know how to use Google Street View, learn. It’s a lot easier if you do it on your desktop, just so you know. I know a lot of you out there doing all your research on your best friend, your little cell phone, but I highly recommend that when you’re at work, you completely ignore your obligations to make money for the salaries so you can buy a home and use your big desktop computer and use Google Street View. Research and look like a complete stalker.

I’m sure you won’t get fired for that. Now, when you’re using Street View, don’t just look at the front of the homes. That’s the cool thing about it. You can spin around in a circle, you can go higher, you can go lower. Look at everything, look at the curbs, look at the sidewalks, look at the trees and the way they’re planted and the planter boxes around them. Look at the driveways, look at the roofs, look at the chimneys, look at the stucco, look at the bricks. Look at the paint jobs. Look at the parked cars. That’s a huge one to know what kind of neighborhood you’re looking at.

That’s it. Get Stalky on Google. They’ve done the work for you with those creepy cars with all the cameras on them. Another nice little tip for you, BroadBandNow.com. Hey, if you’re a person who’s going to work from home, you might want to know about what kind of internet connection you get. It allows you to search zip codes and your location to see which providers are in the area and it offers detailed information like pricing, coverages, fees, and all that stuff. Love that one.

Next, you want to get deep into what’s going on in the cities. Find out information. I recommend googling the sites of the cities themselves. Now, why do you do that? No, you’re not going to find out specific information about your home, but you are going to find out more from finding the local newspaper, which a lot of the chamber of commerce and the local city halls, they love to put it up online. Look at the city reviews, and see what’s happening in the specific area. See what other people are saying about it.

I’ve even had folks who have told me that they did a deep dive into Facebook groups and even into Craigslist. Now, why would you go into Craigslist to figure out what’s going on in a neighborhood? Because for instance, they told me, I want to see what kind of things people sell in this neighborhood. Are people selling high-end furniture or are they selling something like, “Come buy my shovel for a dollar?”

The big one they looked at is garage sales. How many garage sales go on in this neighborhood? Are they fun garage sales like my crazy Aunt Pat? Who I know doesn’t listen to this, but God, I hope some of my family does.  There are lots of different ways that you can get stalky and finding out what garage sales are like on Craigslist, is a good way.

I’m going to have to go on a little tangent here. If the neighborhood you need to explore is within driving distance, get off your ass and drive there. “Look, I know.” “I’m busy.” “I got so much.” “I’m doing this.” Fine, this is the biggest financial decision.  This is the biggest financial decision of your life and you need to take it seriously. If you can’t sleep, take a drive.

Good to see the neighborhood at 2 a.m. anyway, right? Do you want to know what it’s like? “I can’t even, I’m a parent.” Cool. Whenever my kids couldn’t sleep, the best thing to do was stick them in the car seat. Knocks them right out. Take a drive. If you’re close, or if the neighborhood that you need to explore is somewhere that you can explore on the weekend, go take a drive. Go to a new park, a new mall, a new 7-Eleven, a new Starbucks, a new grocery store and if it’s somewhere on your way to work, drive a different route on your way to work.

Tips On What Not To Look At Online

Try the area because Google Maps can be nice and stalky to look at some of these things, but you have to go hardcore old-school CIA, get out of your car, and walk amongst the people. Here are a few tips on what NOT to look at online when you’re researching the actual buying of the house. Now, if you’re brand new to the podcast, you’re going to think that I’m some sort of pompous a-hole right now. Hopefully, you’ve listened for a long time because I’m going to be kind of snarky about this.

How to Buy a Home | First Home
First Home: Google Maps can be nice and stalky, but go hardcore old school CIA. Get out of your car. Walk amongst the people.


Do not believe any of the bullsh, ha. It is such crap on these sites. Auction.com, Foreclosure.com, ForeSaleByOwner.com, HomeSales.gov. Do not believe that any of those places have a deal that’s going to work for you. Don’t. Stop. Stop talking. I love you guys. I’m here for you.

Unless you were looking to buy your first home strictly as an investment, and you’re not going to be pissed off if you get screwed and you lose gobs and gobs of money on this purchase. That’s the only way you can use those sites and be sure that you’re safe. I mean, “Yes, so my uncle did it and he got a great deal.”

Fine. I know everybody every once in a while, maybe somebody got a great deal but unless you’ve researched the investing process of using Auction.com, ForCoach.com, for SaleBuyOwner.com, and HomeSales.gov, and all the places that are trying to tell you to buy something, oh, take over for their taxes. It’s gambling.

For every great random story you heard about someone getting a deal, there’s a thousand behind it where someone got screwed and is too embarrassed to tell you. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It’s gambling and keep this in mind. If there really were a website, where you could go and get a great deal for the way that you want to buy a home.

Let’s say you want to buy your first home with 10% down and get a 10% discount. I’m going to go to Auction.com and Foreclosure.com because no one else is doing that. Dude, if I had a million dollar portfolio right now and I could go buy a home for 10% down, 10% off the market price, I would be buying 50 of them a day. So would everybody else who’s been in real estate, who’s been doing real estate investing for years and years and years.

Any deal that you see, if it looks like it’s something amazing, I guarantee you an investor with 100 times your net worth would be buying homes that way 10 times over. The fairytale purchase just doesn’t suddenly pop up on a website. If it’s too good to be true, it is. One more bonus tip. When you are researching, be careful of the sites that have too many ads or seem like they might be tied to somebody getting paid for regurgitating or disseminating certain pieces of information. Check your sources.


When researching, be careful of the sites with too many ads or seem tied to somebody getting paid for regurgitating or disseminating certain information. Check your sources.


There, now you’re ready to go out and get stalky. While you’re online, check out HowToBuyAHome.com. You’re already there anyway, right? You can check out HowToBuyAHome on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and like I said, the website. If you’re not subscribing to the podcast, do so right now and of course, please leave me a review.

I don’t know what happened tonight. What kind of mood I’m in but thanks for putting up with me. This has been really fun and I’m really excited to be able to sit here and give you guys all this information for free. No obligation, no questions asked. If you go to HowToBuyAHome.com, there are three different ways you can check in with us there. You can get the starter kit totally free. You can ask David a question, and if you’ve got something specific, you can ask for your unicorn team.

That’s on the internet, and that’s what this whole episode was about. People, the internet is your friend, as long as you know where to look. Get after it, and do some homework, but don’t do it on your own. Too many people think the internet’s going to be their crutch for a year. You don’t have to do this alone. Get a unicorn support team, get a guide, and you can do this.


Important Links


This podcast was started for YOU, to demystify things for first time home buyers, and help crush the confusion. After helping first timers for over 13 years, I knew there wasn’t t a lot of clear, tangible, useable information out there on the internet, so I started this podcast. Help me spread the word to other people just like you, dying for answers. Tell your friends, family, and perhaps that random neighbor you REALLY want to move out about How to Buy a Home! A really easy way is to hit the share button and text it to your friends. Go for it, help someone out. And if you’re not already a regular listener, subscribe and get constant updates on the market. If you are a regular and learned something, help me help others – give the show a quick review in Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, or write a review on Spotify. Let’s change the way the real estate industry treats you first time buyers, one buyer at a time, starting with you – and make sure your favorite people don’t get screwed by going into this HUGE step blind and confused. Viva la Unicorn Revolution!


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