These days about 90 percent of home shoppers first view prospective houses online. Your agent may still do her own search and make recommendations, but gone are the days when agents had an almost exclusive hold on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Now real estate agents’ websites and online home search sites like REALTOR.com and Zillow continue to refine their search capabilities to help you zero in on the houses that best fit your needs. Here’s how to get the most out of your online home search.
Keep your initial search broad
The more selective the criteria you enter for your online home search, the greater the chance that you may never see houses that might be viable options, nor ideas you might not have considered. Besides price range and bedroom/bathroom minimums, keep your search criteria broad in the beginning. Limit the initial criteria to your “must haves.”
A picture is worth how many words?
Nowadays online listings have plenty of photos as well as virtual tours. Pictures shot by a professional, not just with a mobile phone, show a house in its best light. But don’t pass on a house with mediocre photos since they may not reveal a home’s true virtues. Whatever the quality of the pictures, be sure to read the listing agent’s description of the property in your online home search. If it meets your specifications, be sure to arrange to safely view it in person before going under contract.
Dig out the details
When your online home search turns up a property you want to pursue, ask your agent what else the listing reveals. The seller’s disclosure of property condition and previous inspection reports should be available to review. Special provisions about the HOA also may be accessible. Ask to see any key documents.
Beyond the property sites
As you conduct your online home search, don’t forget that other crucial data can be found outside the real estate search sites. An address search on the property will reveal the county in which it is located. With that information you can check the county’s property tax appraisal website. Depending on the county’s online document policy, this site may reveal the tax valuation of the property along with past sales transactions and amounts. Keep in mind that county tax district valuations may vary from the most recent comparable sales data in the area.
Research the quality of the local school district. Check on local shopping, parks, amenities, entertainment and crime statistics. Chamber of Commerce sites may reveal planned developments that could prove to be attractive. A wealth of information lies beyond the house listing sites.
Related – Should You Buy a Home Sight Unseen?