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Are you looking to buy a new home in Des Moines? Gone are the days of driving through neighborhoods and knocking on doors with for sale signs. Why would you when you can find the house of your dreams with just a few strokes on the keyboard? Virtual house hunting allows you to peruse multiple listings and tour prospective homes and neighborhoods from the comfort of your couch. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Find an Agent
When buying a home, it’s important to find a real estate agent who’s seasoned and professional to help you through one of the biggest transactions of your life. A good real estate agent is especially important when house hunting virtually, as they’ll have access to information, photos, virtual tours, and seller disclosures that you may not be able to see on sites such as Zillow and Trulia. Be sure to communicate your wants and needs to your agent so that they can steer you towards the listings that will fit your criteria. Touring homes virtually can take some time, so it’s important that your agent weed out the prospects that won’t be to your liking.
Look for Red Flags
Once your agent knows the criteria you’re looking for, your inbox will become flooded with online prospects for you to tour. While this can be a fun and exciting time, you’ll want to keep an eye out for any red flags in the listing itself. This is a good way to whittle down properties that may seem too good to be true. When viewing a listing, the photos should be clear and concise, documenting the actual space of the property. Listings with photos solely of the exterior tend to mean that the interior is in a state of disrepair, while photos using a fisheye lens are trying to portray the space as being larger than it is. Pay attention to the wording of the listing as well. Words such as cozy or quaint could also mean small or fixer upper, while an eat-in kitchen could mean no dining room. A good listing should describe the property without fluff and provide photos to back up the description.
Take a Tour
Most listings these days will have an option to take a virtual tour (look for the virtual tour icon at the bottom of the listing page). Typically, a virtual tour is not going to show you every nook and cranny of the home, as sellers and agents want to keep the video relatively short and concise to highlight the home without boring potential buyers. If you’re not able to get a good feel for the home through the existing tour, ask your agent to contact the seller for additional footage. Specify your areas of interest, for example, if the original virtual tour didn’t show the yard space, ask that the additional footage include the front and back yard. An additional option is to set an appointment with the sellers for your agent to Facetime with you from the home so you can tour it together and discuss the pros and cons of the property.
Don’t forget to check out the neighborhood – after all, it’s easy to make changes to a property, but the neighborhood, not so much. Never fear, this too can be done virtually. Google Earth allows you to virtually tour a neighborhood and check out the schools, restaurants, shopping centers, as well as freeway access, parks, and public transport. With that said, if you find a property that seems to fit the bill, you may want to do a drive by viewing to see it for yourself.
Once you’ve narrowed down your options and have a shortlist of potential homes, request to review the disclosures from the seller. A seller disclosure will outline the maintenance history of the home, as well as any potential hazards associated with the property. The information on the seller disclosure can be a make it or break it decision for a buyer. If you find a home that seems perfect but it needs a new roof next year, that may not be in the budget and could be a deal breaker. If you’re having an issue deciding between two homes and you find out one of them has a history of mold issues, your decision just got easier.
Buying a home sight unseen isn’t the best case scenario, but with virtual house hunting, it can be done with confidence. What are you looking for in your next home?