With advances in technology getting better each day, more people are shopping online for everything, from groceries to cars, and now you can even purchase a home virtually.
The whole home buying process can be done from the comfort of your home, from searching for your home on sites like Realtor.com and Zillow to exploring the house through a virtual tour. With today’s technology, you can even take a virtual walk around a neighborhood with Google Street View.
You might feel intimidated by all this, but don’t be. The whole buying process can be quite smooth, as long as you avoid these common mistakes when buying a home sight unseen.
1. Not seeing the 3D virtual tour
If a photo is worth a thousand words, then a virtual tour is worth a million. It is a real estate photographers job to make all photos look good. All photos are taken from the best angles and then corrected with software like photoshop.
Virtual tours, on the other hand, show the whole picture, not just the nice parts. You can see the house as if you were there in person. As great as this technology is, it cannot transmit sound or smell. This is very important, the house might smell of cigarettes or it’s in a flight path and you can hear airplanes all day long.
This brings us to the next point.
2. Failing to research your real estate agent
A good agent is a key to finding your new home remotely. Search online for reviews about an agent on sites like Zillow and give them a call.
Do not be afraid of asking questions to see if they will be a good fit for you. Especially important is asking if they are willing to do a live video chat or facetime in order for you to see the property live.
Ask questions like:
- Does the property have strange smells?
- Are the neighbor’s yards clean and tidy?
- Is there a noticeable noise like cars, airplanes, etc?
- Are the floors and rugs clean?
- Does anything stand out to you?
- If you are unfamiliar with the area, feel free to ask about traffic and things like shopping (is there a supermarket nearby?).
3. Not researching the neighborhood and schools
When purchasing a home it is your responsibility to research the neighborhood and schools. Don’t take anyone’s words for it, go online and search for crime statistics, what school districts correspond to the house, and more.
School districts can also change over time, so go directly to the district’s website and verify if the school corresponds to the house. If in doubt, find the school district’s phone number and call them.
Crime statistics can be found on numerous websites and are usually a good indicator of what a neighborhood is like.
Another telltale sign about the quality of a neighborhood is what type of business is close by. Is the house next to an all night club or a high-end supermarket? Ask yourself if you and your family want to live next to a certain type of establishments.
4. Not searching for a good home inspector
When buying a house a certified home inspector is trained to find issues that you normally would not find yourself.
Home inspectors can point out issues with plumbing, electrical, roofs, and foundations. It is their job to find any issues with the property and report them.
Make sure the person you are hiring not only has good reviews but is properly licensed and insured. Do not just hire a person based on a single recommendation.
5. Be on the lookout for red flags
If it is too good to be true, it probably isn’t. This applies not only to used cars but also to houses. Beware of great offers or discounts for damages that the inspector found. Have the seller repairs problems before you purchase.
Many times, sellers will offer to discount the home for the estimated value of the repairs, remember that until the repair is done, no one really knows how much it will be.
Red flags to look out for include:
- House is listed for less than the neighborhood average for comparable homes.
- Seller is in a rush to sell.
- Future developments in the area (is that a new freeway they are building behind your home?)
- Sinkholes and flood plains nearby.
- Old roofs.
- Waiving contingencies in the purchase contract (don’t do it!)
Buying a home online is getting easier every day, but do not let this simplicity fool you into a false sense of security, after all, a house is not something you buy on Amazon and can return if you are not satisfied with it.
Buying a home is an important step in your life and as such should be approached with all the care and caution you would take with any other major life event.
“What can I say? I love taking photos of houses.”
Based in Orlando Florida, Jose is a real estate photographer specializing in vacation homes, working for realtors and property managers to make their properties look great.