Looking to buy a house? Driving around the house at different times of the day, talking to the neighbors may be some of teh traditional routes to take; the best approach often starts by online search. Whether you decide to browse prospective homes options on Realtor.com, or browse our website, here the home buying process almost always starts online. This is where you will find the basic information that will ultimately lead you to your dream home. However, if you dig a little deeper, the Internet can provide you with so much more than an address and the asking price.
6 Ways to Use the Internet When House-Hunting
We always recommend to our clients to use the Internet as their own homework tool when purchasing a home. After all, buying a home isn’t just any other purchase — it’s usually the biggest purchase people make in their lives. Therefore, it’s important to do your due diligence.
Below are six ways homebuyers can take full advantage of the information available to reveal some unique insights about houses they’re considering.
1. Look for an active neighborhood organization. Whether you’re looking in the suburbs or the city for a town home or two-story, you’ll be surprised at the amount of homes that are a part of neighborhood organizations. And, more importantly, these organizations often have websites that can give you an inside peek at the community, including details on local events, neighborhood businesses, and other useful information — all of which will help paint a picture of the neighborhood you may soon call home.
2. Check out the neighborhood’s “walkability” score. A great, yet underused resource by house hunters is the website Walk Score. Just type in your potential address, and Walk Score will give you that address’s “walk score” and “bike score,” which represent how easy it is to walk or bike to local shops and restaurants. The site will also give you a map of the nearest restaurants, coffee shops, parks, grocery stores, and other daily places you might visit, allowing you to see the types of places you will be eating, shopping, and spending time at if you choose to live there.
3. Explore the nearest restaurants. Is it important to have good Chinese delivery near your home? Do you need options when ordering pizza? Restaurant review websites like Urbanspoon and Yelp are great for learning not only the types of local restaurants around the area, but also local patrons’ reviews on these restaurants.
4. Investigate crime statistics. For many, safety is a huge factor to consider when buying a home, but it takes more than a drive through the neighborhood to get a good idea of how safe a place really is. The website Crime Mapping can help with this by offering police and crime data for public viewing. Local police websites are another resource to utilize when researching a neighborhood you love but are still a little unsure of safety-wise. Local websites like these allow you to view things like incidents by type of crime and sex offender registries.
5. Research the school district. Schools are another top priority for potential homebuyers, and a great way to learn about a neighborhood’s school district is to go straight to the source — the school district’s website. This website will include helpful information like the size of the district, if that district has been nationally ranked or won any awards, and many other valuable details. Another great site to check out is GreatSchools, which includes a “great schools ranking” and parent reviews for most pubic and private schools.
6. Learn why the seller is selling. This is for the nosy homebuyers out there, but nevertheless, it is a valid factor to consider. Try searching social networks by location to find some information on the seller’s possible motivation for moving. Perhaps there’s a new shopping center going up right across the street, or maybe the state is expanding the highway — right into your potential home’s backyard.
The amount of information available on the Internet has changed the home buying process forever, allowing homebuyers the opportunity to look into important details that could truly affect their purchase decision. I highly recommend getting as much information as you can before signing on the dotted line, and you can do this without ever leaving the comfort of your couch.
Have you used these websites when house-hunting? Do you have any suggestions for websites to visit before buying a home? We would love to know some new ideas feel free to leave your recommendations in the comments below.