What You Should Know About Browsing for Homes Online

Okay, admit it!  Browsing for homes online is a window shopper’s Shangri-La.  The beautifully decorated rooms, the sculpted gardens, the colorful front doors that just pop with those “come hither” hues.  Buyer beware, though: those listings may be seductive, but they might not be giving you the complete picture.  That handsome colonial with the light-filled photos just might be hiding some serious plumbing problems.  That perfect split-ranch just might be too close to a loud, traffic-choked street.  That perfectly priced condo might, in fact not even be for sale.  So let’s practice some self care, and set our expectations appropriately.  Fill our your home-buyer’s worksheet.  That will help you understand exactly what you’re looking for.  With that worksheet in hand, start browsing for homes.

You keep current….. Your property site should, too.  First things first.  You wouldn’t read last months Vanity Fair for the latest cafe gossip, so you shouldn’t browse property sites that show old listings.  Make sure to get the latest listings from realtor.com which pulls every 15 minutes from your local Multiple Listing Service (MLS), regional databases where real estate agents post listings for sale.  That means that these listings are more up-to-date and accurate than some others, like Zillow and Trulia, which may update less often. BTW, there are other property listing sites, including Redfin, which is a brokerage and therefore also relies on relationships with other brokers and MLSs for listings.

The best properties aren’t always the best looking.    A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words.  But what they don’t say is a picture can also hide a thousand cracked floorboards, leaky pipes and busted boilers.  So while it’s natural to focus on photos while browsing, make sure to also consider the property description and other key features.  Each realtor.com listing has a “property details” section that may specify important information such as the year the home was built, price per square foot, and how many days the property has been on the market.  Ultimately, ask your real estate agent to help you interpret what you find.  The best agents have local knowledge of the market and may even know details and histories of some properties.  If a listing seems to good to be true, your agent will likely know why.

Treat your agent like your bestie!  At the end of the day, property sites are like CliffNotes for a neighborhood.  They show you active listings, sold properties, home prices and sales history.  All that data will give you a working knowledge, but it won’t be exhaustive.  To assess all of this information and gather facts about any homes you’re eyeing, like how far the local elementary school is from the house or where the closest gym is located, talk to your real estate agent.  An agent who can paint a picture of the neighborhood is an asset.  An agent who can go beyond that and deliver information on specific properties is a true friend indeed, more likely to guide you away from homes with hidden problems, and more likely to say you the time of visiting a random listing.

Want to go deeper?  Consider these sites and sources:

  • School ratings:  Data from greatschools.org and the National Center for Education Statistics and the local school district’s website.
  • Crime rates and statistics:  crimereports.com, neighborhoodscout.com, spotcrime.com and the local police station
  • Walkability and public transportation:  walkscore.com and APTA.com
  • Hospital ratings:  HeathInsight.org, LeapfrogGroup.org, and U.S News and World Report rankings                                                                                                                                 

Just remember, you may not find that “perfect home” while browsing listings on your cell phone.  It is a good way for you to get a taste of the different types of homes that are available and a general idea of what else is out there.  Once you’ve spent that time online, you’ll be ready to share what you’ve learned with your Falvey Real Estate Group agent.  Contact us at 518.452.3912.