The Internet has made the house-hunting process quicker and easier by putting a wealth of information at your fingertips. Literally. But many home buyers don’t realize the many ways that web technology can help them. So let’s take a look at some of the ways you can use the Internet to simplify your home search process.
1. Hire a Modern, Web-Savvy Agent
As far as Internet technology goes, there are two types of real estate agents. The first type views the Internet as a “gadget” that’s not worth their time to learn. They use the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), and only that service. They are not web-savvy, and therefore have a limited view of the real estate world around them.
The second type is part of the new generation of web-savvy real estate professionals. This agent knows the value of the Internet, and is “wired” into all of the major home-search websites, among other things. This agent can help you find and research properties more quickly by using the power of Internet technology. He or she is pretty handy with digital cameras, mobile devices, and other useful tools as well.
2. Use the Big Home-Search Websites
Over the years, real estate search engines have exploded both in quantity and complexity. These days, you can visit one of these websites and gain instant access to local property listings, recent sales data in your area, and more. This is an excellent way to screen houses before you visit them, which can save a lot of time.
For example, if you only saw a black-and-white photo of a home in the newspaper, you wouldn’t know what the inside rooms looked like. You would have to visit the property to find out. These days, however, you can use virtual tours and photo galleries to preview nearly every corner of a house. If it doesn’t match your needs, you don’t waste your time with a visit. Now that’s using technology to your advantage!
3. Use Your Local Newspaper’s Website
Most city newspapers have an online version of their news as well. For example, here in Austin, Texas, I can visit the Austin-American Statesman website to get information about the local real estate market, homes for sale, new subdivisions being built and more. Sure, the Sunday paper has a lot of this information. But why wait until Sunday?
4. Read Local Real Estate Blogs
Many real estate agents and companies have begun to use blogs as a way of publishing information online. A blog is like a website, only the information is presented in chronological format like a daily journal. Many agents use their blogs to publish updates about the local market, new homes they have listed and more. An agent’s blog is almost always more up-to-date than the main website. So they can be a good source for timely real estate info in your area. You can find them by doing a Google search for your city name plus “real estate blogs.”
5. Use Your Email Network
Do you know a lot of people who live in the area where you want to buy? Friends, family and coworkers perhaps? If so, send them an email to let them know you’re looking for a home in the area. If they see homes for sale in that area, they can email you about them. Essentially, you are creating your own house-hunting “army” to help you stay on top of things.
This can be especially useful in a hot market where homes sell fast. For example, imagine the following scenario:
Jane knows that her friend Sally is looking for a nice one-story home in the Shady Lane area. On her way to work one morning, Jane passes a “for sale” sign in front of a nice one-story home in that area. She pulls over to the curb, snaps a picture with her camera phone, and sends it to Sally. In turn, Sally emails it to her real estate agent who meets her there at lunchtime to view the property. This is a prime example of how technology can help you stay ahead of the curve when shopping for a home.
Citation Note: The original version of this article was written by Brandon Cornett. Brandon is the publisher of the Home Buying Institute, which includes one of the largest libraries of mortgage advice for home buyers.