Today's real estate buyers are becoming extremely good at researching the market! I am continually impressed with the average buyers understanding of property inventory and general knowledge of value. Gone are the days of the "secret" Multiple Listing Service data and the need to introduce oneself to a real estate professional in order to obtain basic information. Good riddens to the old ways! I love working with buyers who are focused on their needs, know what they want, and have a general idea of values based upon their independent search of real estate inventories on Realtor.com or other popular sites.
Buyers benefit most in areas where sold data is made public - this excludes Montana, which is a non-disclosure state. Buyers and Sellers cannot rely on Zillows Zestimates as being accurate! The service pulls tax records and mortgage information from recording sources, but the sales prices in Montana are not of public record. Period.
Beyond pricing, disclosure problems become the next buyer hurdle. Bank owned properties, in particular, offer the least amount of assurance that the material defects of the property will be fully disclosed or discovered. Title insurance and home inspections help limit the buyer's exposure to potential risks of property defects, but are not comprehensive enough.
Real estate due diligence is where the value of a dedicated real estate professional becomes really apparent in the transaction. Rural real estate is complicated. Water wells, septic systems, boundary markers, and more are outside the scope of both home inspections and/or title insurance. Simply put - buyers should take advantage of the free services that are offered to them from an experienced real estate professional in the local market where they are shopping.
Successful agents know the lay of the land, and they have access to well data, septic data, water rights, and a network of professionals to insure that the property items can be fully discovered and reviewed before making an offer or, at the latest, within the review time period provided on the purchase agreement. The Montana Association of Realtors' Buy/Sell form is very easy to understand and does a great job in protecting the public and also "prompting" review items that are particular to the rural nature of Montana real estate.
Happy real estate hunting! Let me know when you are ready for my special expertise in rural real estate.