The Smartest Way to House Shop Online
The Smartest Way to House Shop Online
People dreaming of buying a house often end up scrolling through house-shopping websites like Trulia or Zillow. All the search filters and photos let them browse houses without ever leaving their couches, and they can express interest in the house by just filling out an online form. Some people even think they’ll get a better deal if they buy through these sites.
But here’s the thing—online listings aren’t perfect. If you don’t do your homework on them, you may end up disappointed. I’ve seen listings with the wrong school district on them, which not only affects where your kids go to school but also what taxes you pay. Some database listings aren’t in real-time either. This means some of the houses you’re looking at may have already sold, but the website doesn’t reflect the purchase yet.
And here’s the real kicker—if you buy a house through a site like Zillow by yourself, you may end up paying more than you need to. This is because you don’t have representation, but the seller does. The top agent shown on each Zillow listing is the seller’s agent, and this agent has one job—to represent the seller’s best interests. Not yours.
Now, I’m not saying to stop house shopping online. But I am saying there’s a smarter way to do it—one that protects your interests.
Online House Shopping Made Smarter
The best and safest way to house shop online is to find a professional, experienced buyer’s agent beforehand to guide you through the ups and downs of buying a house. You can hire either a real estate agent to serve as your buyer’s agent. Their job will be to protect your best interests during the shopping and transaction process.
Whenever you find a possibility for a house, contact your agent, not the listing agent. This way, they can check the listing to confirm that it’s still available and all the listed information is correct and can schedule an appointment for you to view the property.
Throughout the entire process, an agent will prevent you from making costly mistakes, help you navigate any setbacks in the transaction, and give you recommendations for mortgage brokers, home inspectors, and all the other people you’ll need to bring in during the process. They’ll also negotiate on your behalf, saving you some serious time and money.
Finding a Buyer’s Agent
Like I said before, you can hire a real estate agent to represent you as a buyer’s agent. You’ll want to find a seasoned agent who will be upfront and honest with you, who can negotiate well, and who you feel comfortable around. If you meet with an agent and don’t trust him (or her), feel comfortable with him, or believe he will fiercely look out for your best interest, find someone else.
Always look at their reviews on either their social media, Google, Yelp, or Zillow. Reviews that talk about being return customers are a good indication of the agent’s character and results.
You don’t have to worry about paying your agent upfront. . . or even after you buy a house. Your agent will be paid directly from the proceeds of your purchase, and the seller’s agent arranges the payment.
An Alternative for Finding Houses for Sale
An even better option than searching Trulia or Zillow is to search your agent’s online database. Unlike those other sites, real estate databases update in real-time. To see what a real estate broker’s database looks like, you can view my Long Island database here.
As long as you have a trustworthy real estate agent, you’ll be in good hands no matter where you house hunt. Your agent should show you any and all listings that match what you’re looking for, whether it’s in his database, a different one, a private “For Sale By Owner” market, or somewhere else. Some agents will even know of pre-market homes to show you. (Having someone to do part of the house hunting for you is another perk of finding a buyer’s agent!)
Online house shopping isn’t bad. In fact, it’s great. You just need to have someone shopping with you who has your back. A buyer’s agent will bring you peace of mind, save you time, help you find more possibilities, and make sure you don’t overpay for the house you want.
If you’re currently house shopping, you may appreciate getting free email alerts about new home listings that match your preferences. You can set your preferences for neighborhoods, renting vs. buying, number of bedrooms, price, and more. Sign up for these free email alerts from my own real estate database here.
And, as always, if you have any questions about this topic, or you’d like to talk with me about representing you as your buyer’s agent, please contact me here. I would love to talk to you.
Your friend in real estate,