What to Look for When Browsing for Homes Online

If you are thinking about buying a new home, it can be fun and informative to look through online real estate listings.

When you are serious about purchasing a new property, do not begin your home search until you have been pre-approved for a mortgage by your bank or another financial institution. This is because it is important to gauge how much you can afford before you dive head first into a search.

Although using the internet is a great way to find a home, it is crucial to still view the property in person before you decide to buy. You must make sure the unit conforms to your requirements. It is important to make a checklist of what you would ideally like in a home before you start looking for your dream property.

Does the home face the right direction to allow natural sunlight to come through? How long is it going to take you to commute to and from work? Are there amenities nearby?

You must ask yourself questions like these before you determine whether a home is right for you. Find out more about browsing for homes online in the following informative sections.

What is a Multiple Listing Service (MLS)?

A Multiple Listing Service, known as MLS for short, is a database of property listings from multiple agents and brokers. The MLS typically includes comprehensive details about each home listed. Properties that are being sold directly by their owners and other privately listed units may not appear on the MLS.

If a market does not have an MLS, listing agents have more power in regard to showing you their property listings. This means you have less choice in the properties you view and consider. Additionally, this means agents push their properties onto you more.

Conversely, if you look at an area with an MLS, you view all homes for sale in your chosen area and narrow your search by only searching for properties within defined parameters. With an MLS, your agents work with any property, regardless of who is named as the listing agent.

Through an MLS you can do a broad online search for the area you want to move to. By hiring a buyer’s agent, the agent can provide upcoming listings that are not currently listed online.

Your agent helps you find a home that matches your requirements as well. It is beneficial to work with an agent in highly competitive markets.

Learn About the Top Online Real Estate Listing Sites

Some of the most widely used resources for prospective homeowners are easily accessible real estate websites. An MLS is a more real estate-specific term for the type of online real estate listing sites you are familiar with already.

The term “MLS” is primarily used by the real estate industry and it covers most online real estate listing sites. Some of the most popular and easily-accessible websites include:

  • Realtor.
  • Zillow.
  • Trulia.
  • Redfin.
  • HotPads.

Generally, these websites include listings for every area in the United States. Therefore, you can find a home in whichever area you choose to live. The websites collect and present information provided by brokers from the local regions, so the information is comprehensive and up-to-date.

Increase your chances of finding the right property by using sites like ForSaleByOwner.com, which list properties without agents.

How to Narrow Your Results

To find a home meeting your criteria, narrow down your search. Most websites allow you to search for properties of a certain type, in a certain area and of a certain price. Use advanced search options to narrow down your search even further. Search according to several factors, such as whether you want a property by the oceanfront or in an area with low crime statistics.

Once you have narrowed your search, set up a property alert with the websites you have chosen to search through. These alerts let you know when a new suitable property is listed under your preferred specifications.

New listings are added to websites as quickly as every 15 minutes. It is impossible to keep up with property availability by simply scrolling through listings. Setting up alerts and dedicating certain times to check the listings is beneficial in terms of finding the right property.

If you find that searching for a property is turning into a full-time job, you may benefit from using a buyer’s agent. A professional keeps you informed about new listings and relieves some of the tasks involved with property searching. If you use an agent, do not shirk all responsibilities. This is your investment, after all.

If you have not made up your mind about where you want to live, use online sites designed to help you decide. For example, some sites enable you to browse statistics such as crime rates, local education, commuting factors and other elements that impact your daily life when you move to a new area. Use these sites to find out more information about moving to an area you have already decided on.

Learn About the Pitfalls of Online Listings

Properties often look great online but seeing a unit in the flesh is different to seeing one or two photos and reading a carefully constructed blurb of information. Details are often missing from online listings as well.

If a floor plan is missing from the outlined information, you may visit the property and find the spaces are much smaller than the photographs indicated. You may find the photos do not reflect the reality of a property in other ways.

For example, everything looks ship-shape in the photos, but when you arrive at the property to view it, you find the place needs major repairs.

Property listings that use specific words or phrases are often a red flag. Here are some common terms that dress up the reality of a property:

  • Charming: This term sometimes indicates an irregular space.
  • Cozy: This means a space is cramped.
  • Custom: This means a homeowner has updated a part of the property to their own tastes. The work may not be of a high standard.
  • Needs TLC or Recent Facelift: Both these terms mean major repairs are needed.

If an online property listing looks ideal, it is always best to visit it in person before you proceed further. If this is not viable, hire an agent to inspect the property for you. He or she may be able to give you a virtual walk-through. Finding the right property takes time, but using the right tools to narrow down your search provides you with the chance to find your dream home quickly.