It's easy. You sit in front of your computer or smartphone and see all the homes on the market as you scroll through a website. A picture is worth a thousand words online, but it might be hiding a thousand words as well.
Good sellers will stage their home properly and show off all of its finer features. But what you might not see while window shopping online is the actual location of the property in relation to schools or busy roads. Pictures might be hiding the less attractive parts of the home, such as plumbing, that would be good to see before falling in love with the place. Also, just because it's still listed online doesn't mean it hasn't already been sold.
So, browse through these tips before you dive headfirst into the interwebs and fall in love with a new home.
Keep current and only visit sites that keep current as well.
Try to avoid sites that show old listings. As houses are sold, they should come down from these sites to make your buying experience better. Stay up to date with the latest listings from Realtor.com. This site pulls information every 15 minutes from regional databases where real agents post listings for sale.
The best properties aren't always the best looking.
It's natural to focus on the photos while browsing through online listings - how else will you see if you're interested in a showing? It's a great start, but you should also pay close attention to the property description for other key features. The property details may specify important home information that can help you decide if each home listed is a possibility for your situation including the year it was built, price per square foot, how long it has been on the market and more.
Having this information at your fingertips is great, but you should really ask your agent to help you interpret what you find. They may even know details and histories of some of the listings that can help guide you as you search. And, if a listing seems too good to be true, your agent will most likely know why.
Treat your agent like your best friend.
At the end of the day, property sites are like a CliffNotes version of home listings. If you want more details or to see the property firsthand, you're going to need to give your agent a call. They can help you understand the market for similar homes, their prices and how fast they fly off the sales block.
Your agent can also help you gather more facts and information. How far away is the nearest school for your children? Are you in the city limits with police patrols for safety? Where's the nearest sushi place to feed your raw fish cravings? This information isn't always readily available online and can easily be answered during a conversation. An agent that becomes your friend can also help guide you to properties that are hidden gems while also steering you clear of properties with hidden pitfalls.
At the end of the day, you should know you're not always going to find that perfect home while browsing online. It's like Wikipedia - a great start, but not the best source for your information. You should always follow up with an expert to confirm. In the housing game, that expert is your agent. Once you've spent a little time online finding out some preliminary information, call your agent to get the full picture.