Websites help home buyers, renters hone their searches

Among new Internet-based real estate ventures to pop up in recent months is one that enables house hunters to simultaneously search for just about every lifestyle criteria imaginable. Another protects would-be tenants from unwittingly renting from a struggling owner in the midst of a foreclosure., an overlay technology that can be embedded on an agent's website or perhaps on an entire multiple listing service, enables buyers to pursue properties using any number of lifestyle criteria. That's over and above the usual number of bedrooms and bathrooms and price, the benchmarks on which most people base their searches.

Say, for example, that you want to live near a gym, grocery store, park and java joint. Select from more than 100 data points and, almost instantly, the program will show you houses on the market that meet all those requirements.

The geospatial map-based platform, offered to agents and realty associations by Home Junction Inc. of La Jolla, fluidly filters the results according to what users consider most relevant without reload or refresh screens. The hyper-local database includes, among other things, businesses, public and private schools, hospitals, topography and crime statistics.

At, potential renters can guard against dealing with shaky "accidental" landlords who turn to renting because they can't sell their underwater properties. Even though the owners are collecting rent, they sometimes can't keep up with their house payments and lose their properties to foreclosure.

For free, a renter can limit his or her risk by using the website to search databases to determine whether any notices of default have been filed against the property. Of course, there's no guarantee that the landlord won't run into financial difficulty after the place is rented. But at least you'll be warned before you sign a lease if he's already in trouble.

For $27.95, you also can use the site to determine whether the "landlord" you are dealing with really owns the property and whether he or she has filed for bankruptcy, has a criminal record or is being sued by a previous tenant.

Distributed by Universal Uclick for United Feature Syndicate.

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