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Are you in the market for a new Chicagoland home? It’s never been easier to search for homes, and you can do a good portion of your research from the comfort of your own home. House hunting, virtually, allows you to view listings and tour homes with just a few keystrokes. Here are some tips to do it efficiently and effectively:
Partner with a Realtor
In what is quite probably the biggest financial decision (and transaction) of your life, you want to be represented by an experienced real estate agent that you trust. A seasoned agent can be a big help, even while perusing virtually, as they have access to information, photos, virtual tours and seller disclosures that may not be viewable on popular sites like Trulia and Zillow. Make sure your Realtor understands your list of must-haves and any deal-breakers, so they can help you avoid spending time on any listings that don’t meet your criteria.
Pay Attention to Red Flags
This is another area where a sharp Realtor’s discerning eye can be of assistance. While you’re viewing prospective properties, you’ll want to look out any red flags. Every listing you view should have clear photos documenting the rooms and overall property accurately. If you run across a listing with only photos of the exterior it probably means the interior is in some state of disrepair. Fisheye lens photos tend to mean that the seller wants the space to appear larger than it actually is. If there aren’t any views out of windows in the interior pictures, that might mean that there’s an unsightly obstruction. Also, pay close attention to the verbiage in the listing description — words like quaint or cozy can really mean small, fixer-upper could mean money pit or tear-down, and dine-in kitchen could mean that there’s no dining room. A good listing will describe the house accurately with no obfuscating verbiage, and the pictures should back up any claims.
Time for a Tour
Almost every listing now offers the option to take a virtual tour. The virtual videos are usually short, so you won’t be able to see absolutely everything. If you’re not satisfied with what you can see through the virtual tour, you can always contact the seller and request additional footage. Be specific about what you wanted to see that you didn’t — for instance, if the virtual tour didn’t include the yard, request footage that includes both the front and back yards. You can also ask the sellers to schedule a Facetime meeting with you to tour the home together. Then you can have a real-time discussion about what you’re seeing and get immediate answers to any questions.
What’s the Neighborhood Like?
It’s important that you’re familiar with the area in which the house is located, too. You can make any modification you want to the house itself, but you have no control over the surrounding area. Good news — this can be done virtually, as well. Seeing the neighborhood, looking at schools, restaurants, grocery stores, along with park and freeway access can all be done through Google Earth. Whatever the amount of information you can find online, you’re probably going to still want to visit in person and see it for yourself.
When your list is sufficiently narrowed to the homes you believe have the most potential, ask to see the disclosures from the sellers. Seller disclosures show the home’s maintenance history and any problems or potential hazards associated with the listing. This is incredibly important information and can have an impact on your decision to move forward. For example, if you believe you’ve found the perfect home but it’s going to need an entirely new roof in the next eighteen months, that may not fit within your budget and could be a deal breaker. If you’re torn between two houses and find out that one has a history of mold issues, you won’t have any problem choosing which one to go with.
Virtual house hunting can be a big help in many ways. With these tips, it should be considerably easier, more efficient, and more fruitful.
If you need to get pre-approved for a mortgage, or you need a recommendation for an experienced, local Realtor, please get in touch. I’m always happy to help in any way I can.