Mobster Bugsy Siegel had the right idea when it came to house hunting. Spotting a Hollywood mansion he liked in the late '30s, the Brooklyn-born killer explained to its owner, in no uncertain terms, that it was time to move. VoilSiegel had a California address. Not all of us can be so . . . efficient. But, for finding a home in the Seattle area, the Internet can help.
Start with John L. Scott's Web site, www.johnlscott.com. Select the neighborhood you fancy, then specify your druthers: price range, square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Out come current listings matching the criteria, and (if you wish) the site will e-mail you news of anything similar. You can take a virtual tour of some of the houses listed, and a mortgage calculator lets you start crunching the numbers.
Also handy is Windermere's www.windermere.com, with a search feature that lets you simply click a map without first having to specify a neighborhood. Built upon the same Northwest Multiple Listing Service database that underlies all these sites, Windermere has detailed photos and lots of general info.
The "home search" at www.coldwellbankerbain.com may be the ultimate in user convenience and thoroughness. One can poke through listings via clickable map, alphabetical list, schedule of open houses, or a couple of showcase programs. Helpful, too, is a rare zip code search on Prudential Northwest Realty's site (www.pnwrealty.com). Prudential also offers a curiosity: an online appraisal process for your current dwelling.
The Landmark Group (www.thelandmarkgroup.com) provides progressive refinement of searches but is short on pop-up addresses and maps. Less compelling is MacPherson's (www.macphersons.com), which doesn't allow searches to be refined and buries you in listings (without addresses!), many of which will be unsuitable. Life is too short for this.
Despite its photo tours and links to contractors and mortgage lenders, www.realestateseattle.com frustratingly omits how often its listings are updated. One said to check back "after March 1st" for new pictures. Sure I will.