What You Should Know About Browsing for Homes Online
By Joey Marino, President Stark County Association of REALTORS®
Browsing for homes online is a window shopper’s dream. The elegantly decorated rooms, the sculpted gardens, the colorful front doors that just pop with those “come hither” hues. Browser beware, though: Those listings may be seductive, but they might not be giving you the complete picture.
That perfect split-level ranch? Might be too close to a loud, busy street. That handsome colonial with the light-filled photos? Might be hiding some serious plumbing problems. That attractively priced condo? Might not actually be for sale. Imagine your despair when, after driving across town to see your dream home, you realize it was sold.
Following are some tips to help you navigate your home search online.
Choose a Website that Keeps Current
Make sure the website you are searching is current. A great website for homebuyers is realtor.com. It pulls its information every 15 minutes from the Multiple Listing Service (regional databases where real estate agents post listings for sale). That means that realtor.com®’s listings are more accurate than some others, like Zillow and Trulia, which may update less often. You don’t want fall in love over a house that’s already off the market. You may also ask your REALTOR® to send you automated emails from their MLS with new properties that meet your needs and wants.
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, busted boilers, and leaky pipes. 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, for example, 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 though, ask your REALTOR® to help you interpret what you find. The best REALTORS® have hyper-local knowledge of the market and may even know details and histories of some properties. If a listing seems too good to be true, your REALTOR® will likely know why.
Treat Your Agent Like Your Bestie
At the end of the day, property sites are like CliffsNotes for a neighborhood: They show you active listings, sold properties, home prices, and sales histories. 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 home you’re eyeing, like how far the local elementary school is from the house or where the closest Soul Cycle is — talk to a local REALTOR®. A REALTOR® who can paint a picture of the neighborhood is an asset.
A REALTOR® can go beyond that and deliver the dish on specific properties is a true friend indeed, more likely to guide you away from homes with hidden problems, and more likely to save you the time of visiting a random listing.
To find even more information, consider utilizing these sites and sources:
- School ratings: Data from greatschools.org and the National Center for Education Statistics, and the 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: healthinsight.org, LeapfrogGroup.org, and U.S. News and World Report rankings
You’re probably not going to find that “perfect home” while browsing listings on your smartphone. Instead, consider the online shopping experience to be a useful tool in your home buying process— 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 a REALTOR®.
Find more home buying tips on the National Association of REALTORS® website, houselogic.com.
The Stark County Association of REALTORS® welcomes you to visit our website at www.starkrealtors.com for a complete listing of REALTORS® and Affiliate members who are sure to meet your professional real estate needs.
If you have any questions or comments on this article, please contact me by email at
The voice of real estate in Stark and Carroll counties
Source: “What You Should Really Know About Browsing for Homes Online”, houselogic.com