What’s the first thing you do when you decide to start house hunting? Well, many reach for their smartphones and do a quick search for available properties. According to the National Associations of REALTORS®’ (NAR) annual publication “Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers” over 90% of buyers use the internet in some way when shopping for a home. And no wonder, really. Online home search sites have a lot to offer. By filtering searches by area, price range, and size buyers can customize their search criteria to their specific needs. There are also valuable tools, like mortgage calculators, and access to qualified professionals like lenders and real estate agents. However, these resources do have some drawbacks. Like anything, online home shopping has its limitations. Here are a few online house hunting pitfalls to avoid when buying your next home.
Falling in love with the photos
Good real estate agents know that most buyers look for homes online. They realize that a buyer’s first impression will be the photos in the listing. Therefore, it is important to get quality photos of the home in order to grab the home shopper’s attention. Real estate photography is a field of expertise all its own with very specific criteria. Sometimes the pictures are a little too good, in fact. It is very possible to fall in love with a home after checking out the photos online only to be disappointed when you actually visit the house. A good article about common mistakes buyers make by USA Today points out that “Savvy sellers do all they can to make their home appealing to potential buyers. At a minimum that means making sure a property clean and clutter-free.” It can also mean staging and photography that parallels model homes making it simply irresistible. Do yourself a favor and hold back that excitement until you’ve had a chance to at least walk through the home.
Neglecting to Consider the Neighborhood
Online home listings include a great deal of information for home buyers to think through. A buyer can learn about the square footage, various features, when it was built, how long it has been on the market, amenities, and construction type to name a few. One aspect of buying a home that can be easily neglected is the condition of the neighborhood. When you buy a home you are embarking on a new life in a new community. Well, what is that community like? Is it the lifestyle that you want? Again USA Today advises: “A better approach might be to focus on what kind of neighborhood or community you want to live in, and then looking for homes in areas that fit your criteria. Here is one way to go about assessing a neighborhood: “Before you start scrutinizing neighborhoods, turn the magnifying glass back on yourself. Think about what you’re really looking for in a new neighborhood. Remember, you’ll probably have to make compromises, so put the “must-haves” at the top and the ‘would- like-to-haves’ at the bottom.” In order to get some hard facts about a given neighborhood we have a few helpful online resources of our own:
One reason home buyers tend to overlook researching the neighborhood is because it often requires an online search that is separate from the home listing websites. However, by doing diligence to search for both a home and a great community you can save yourself disappointment down the road.
Judging a Book by Its Cover
Not only is it possible to fall in love with a house because of its online representation it is also possible to dismiss a house because it isn’t represented well. Not all agents get professional photos for their listings. Also, it is easy to sift through home listings online quickly – spending only a few seconds on each listing. A listing with less than impressive photos might just be that diamond in the rough. You may even come across an online listing that has great photos, but certain aspects of the home are unappealing. For example, you really wanted crown molding but the home you’re checking out online has wood paneling. Well, if the kitchen is everything you dreamed of, it might be worth it to change out the trim. Apartment Therapy has a great list of things to overlook when home shopping. You never know, you may come across an unexpected gem by giving those less appealing listings a try.
Its the challenge of the modern day real estate agent: outdated or inaccurate information. Here’s how this scenario goes:
You find the perfect real estate agent. They learn about your idea of the perfect home in your price range. You want to find something in the Joliet real estate market for under 350K. They send you listings according to that criteria. No doubt, you check them out. But you also spend hours looking at homes on Zillow each night. When you find something you quickly email it to your agent. They research the property and notify you that is has been off the market for two months. Disappointment.
Or how about this one?
You find a home you like online and wonder if you can afford it. No problem, there’s an online calculator. You fill in your info and find that your payments will be significantly less than you imagined. Yes! However, you start working with the lender that works with extensive financial data and find out that the house is above your price range. Bummer.
So how do you avoid this pitfall? Well, take things with a grain of salt. Recognize that your agent has access to the best and most relevant data. Let their search results take precedent over listings you find online. Finding a home online is certainly a viable means to find a home, but it needs to be tempered by realistic expectations. Save yourself the disappointment by remembering that not all information you find online is trustworthy (who woulda thought?).
We offer these tips for online home shopping because we hope that your buying experience is the best that it can be. Your dream house might just be a click away!