Last week I compared tracking and chasing the real estate market to learning how to jump rope double-dutch style. This week, I'm going to show you how to watch the market (the ropes) in different areas, so that you have the information you need to know when to 'jump in' (buy) and when to 'jump out' (sell) and make a clean break.

If you can learn how to use the internet to your advantage, you can align yourself with updates and information to monitor real estate activity in Northern Virginia, or any other part of the country.

Any search engine, but particularly Google or Yahoo, is a good place to start. Think in general terms, write them down, then force yourself to carve out the fat and trim your search down to more specific terms.

For example, typing in 'real estate investing' returns hundreds of sites with get rich quick methods of investing in real estate. Remember, you're looking for information that you can use to help you make a decision. Delete your search, and type 'hot growth areas' OR 'hot job markets'. This will return specifics on areas that are currently experiencing an upswing in the market and have a stable local economy.

Another example, search for Fortune 500 companies, and try to find out where they are opening new offices, plants, stores, etc. Our own local Washington Business Journal (http://washington.bizjournals.com/washington/) is a premier place for businesses to make their announcements to Northern Virginia and the DC Metro area. Remember, Virginia was cited as the #1 place for business in 2006!

Are you retiring within the next five years and leaving the area? Research where you plan to move, and do your due diligence to see if it makes sense to purchase your next home now as a rental property, and rent it out until you're ready to move-in. That way when you move in, your mortgage will be based on today's value as opposed to the future appreciated value.

Well, what are you waiting for? Start your search! Next week, I'll tell you the BEST sites to bookmark for staying on top of trends anywhere and everywhere.

Email me and let me know what you've found out, and if you're one step closer to investing in real estate! If you thought of a very unique search phrase that provided you with astounding results, please share!