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  • Writer's pictureMike Roberts

Should You Buy a Home Sight Unseen?

Online real estate marketplaces are amazing tools for sellers and buyers alike. But if you’re a buyer, should you make a purchase decision solely based on website photos? Here’s why using old-fashioned shoe leather is still vital to your home search.

The advantages of real estate marketplaces

Real estate firms post listings on their own sites and on the large home-shopping websites, and about half of home shoppers start their search there. Online marketing saves time for both buyers and sellers, honing the search to the best matches. Pictures give potential buyers a sense of whether a home’s style fits their tastes, and virtual tours give those buyers the sense they’ve actually walked through a house.

What digital pictures can’t show

But while online marketplaces can help narrow the search, certain aspects of a house only become clear when buyers tour in person.

For example, every photograph of a home posted online portrays the best possible impression. Think of it in terms of posting pictures of yourself on social media or sending out your resume; you polish your presentation to look your best. Photographers shooting pictures for online marketplace sites use wide-angle lenses to make rooms seem as large as possible. Only a personal visit lets you see how large a home’s rooms really are, whether the lighting is really that bright, and whether the floor plan flows or is awkward. Damage won’t be shown in online photos, nor can you tell how clean a home is. Only a visit to a house reveals odors from pets, smoke or mold.

Seeing the house in person also gives you a look at the quality of the neighborhood, nearby shopping, schools, public transportation and amenities that you just can’t get with online photos or virtual tours.

Buying long distance

One situation where buyers are heavily dependent on online real estate marketplaces are a job relocation. If the hiring company does not already have an agent who specializes in relocations, ask them to help you find one in the area. You want an agent who can serve as your eyes to view potential properties in your future community. Cull through online listings and ask the agent to visit the possibilities herself, perhaps even doing a FaceTime video tour with you. Once you’ve narrowed it down to your top choices, travel to the new city to see them before you buy.

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