If you’ve ever experienced the overtly stressful process of finding a house, you’ll certainly wish for simpler ways to do it, preferably online.
For one, spending long hours in traffic to view the wrong house takes its toll on you. Most times, you simply might not be in your preferred location at that time and can’t go house scouting.
What better way to find a house than online?
As important as finding a house is, taking out time off your busy schedule to view several houses at once may not always be feasible.
For this reason, many scout online websites to find the perfect place and save time. Doing this comes with its many advantages and some disadvantages, but if done rightly saves your time and possible online scam tactics.
Online searches help to narrow down your options from a vast pool of houses and a real estate website opens up several options amongst many which you can view through.
For those who wish to use the online channel to find a house. This article would serve as a complete guide to finding houses online.
We’ll cover the dos and don’ts and how best to find a house online.
Before looking into the dos and don’t of finding a house online. You need to be equipped with knowledge of its benefits and possible disadvantages.
- Pros And Cons of Finding Houses Online
- What To Define Before Searching For a House Online
- Best Places To Find Houses Online
- 2 Ways To Verify A Website When Finding Houses Online
- 7 Specifics Professional Real Estate Listings Should Contain
- What To Look Out For When Finding Houses Online
- What To Do Before Paying For The Place
- Safety Precautions To Observe When Finding Houses Online
- 9 Most Important Steps To Finding Houses Online
- Conclusion On How To Find Houses Online
Pros And Cons of Finding Houses Online
Like every other thing in life, finding houses online is not a one-size-fits-all. It has its disadvantages and its benefits also.
Below we’ll be listing the pros and cons of finding houses online.
Some of the benefits of finding houses online include
- Finding good houses that are self-listed by the owners. This eliminates the middlemen and can help you save up on agency fees.
- Finding houses online speeds up the process of finding a home. You can search for houses based on specific features. This narrows down your search faster.
- Provides a larger option pool: Several agents and real estate agencies are all seeking to make a sale. You can view several houses. Sometimes several agents can list the same property on a site. This way you can compare prices.
- Larger market view: Most real estate websites collect data based on what has been posted on their site. This information can be used to study trends and prices of houses within a location.
The cons involve some disadvantages associated with finding houses online. This includes possible risks that you may encounter when searching for houses online. They include the following
- No way to verify the genuineness of the land or houses in the listings till you inspect the place.
- Unavailable houses are still listed on some sites.
- Dealing with unscrupulous agents who demand absurd fees
- Falling into scams and losing your funds.
- Some “agents” post fake pictures, fix an inspection, and show something different from what they posted online when you come for the inspection. Therefore, wasting your time and resources.
- Possible kidnappings when going for inspections.
What To Define Before Searching For a House Online
It is remarkable how quite several people don’t define what they want in a house before going house scouting.
Most have no idea what to expect in a house, while some choose to go with the flow which isn’t commendable.
Finding houses online provides you with lots of options that can leave you overwhelmed. Certain parameters can make your search for houses online more specific.
Defining what you want in a house narrows down your search and saves you time. Listed below are a few things to define before finding houses online.
What is considered good in a location varies by person and is best suited to individualistic needs and lifestyles.
A person with children would consider the proximity to good schools, the safety of the walkways, and good children’s play areas.
Another who commutes to work often would consider easy transit access, easy commute around town, and nearness to the city center.
While some would abhor being close to city centers and prefer much quieter areas. Away from the bustle of city life.
There are several things to define in a location. Regardless of your specific needs, the important factors to define are the area’s security, its closeness to working and accessible amenities like a functioning hospital, and the property appreciation value of the area.
These defining factors play a huge role in the quality of living in a particular location. In real estate, location is everything.
It plays a big role in the price of a house and possible price appreciation. The value of houses differs by state, city, or neighborhood.
Some would say buy the least pleasant house in the best neighborhood rather than the best house in the worst neighborhood.
This is especially true because good neighborhoods can positively influence your property value.
And a good retouch or maintenance work on a house can revive it and you are most likely to sell the house at a profit.
Unlike in a location with lower property appreciation that no one wants to live in, the demands are lower and prices rarely experience a hike.
It’s important to choose your location based on your specific needs. Then research the preferred area. This would specify your search and serve as a guide to finding houses online.
2. The Purpose it Serves You
The reason for buying a house influences what type of house you end up with.
Are you getting the house as a possible investment option? As a vacation home? Or simply for family living?
Or for co-working space to buy or rent? All these must be defined before searching for a house online.
Potential investments, like Airbnb, house flipping, or rentals, require areas favorable to these particular investments.
It’s best to search for high investment areas with sizable price appreciation margins.
Also, certain features can increase or reduce the perceived value of a house and should be considered when finding houses online.
An investor would always consider the resale value when making renovations to a house. That’s because an investor’s priority is to avoid losses and maximize profits.
While someone buying a house for the sole purpose of comfort and family living wouldn’t mind spending extra amounts for additional features.
This is because their main aim is convenience. This is done even if the additional features don’t directly impact the resale value of the house.
3. Budget Range
It’s wise to have a budget planned out, as well as your means of payment in check.
Determine the highest you can negotiate for a house and the least you can go. Working within a budget helps define your search.
One good thing about finding houses online is, a good real estate website provides estimates or median prices for different localities.
They also have several listings within an area. This could help you compare prices and derive an estimate.
Although the estimates aren’t 100% accurate, they can give you an idea of what to expect. This way you can work within a budget.
Remember that most real estate listings display the asking price when finding houses online. This is the initial price of the house and is often inflated but can be negotiated.
4. Size and Style of the house
Very big houses are nice when you picture them, but unless you have a sizable maintenance budget, it loses its practicality.
Before you start finding houses online, determine the size and style of the house you need. This can help you gauge the amount of maintenance that would be required in the place.
You can opt for different styles of houses that cater to varying numbers of people. Some examples include bungalows, semi-detached duplexes, terraced houses, ranch-style houses, stand-alone duplexes, apartment complexes, penthouses, townhouses, and mansions.
Also read: What Exactly Is A Townhouse?
Getting a house with an extra room or boy’s quarters could be good if you wish to rent it out for extra income.
Generally, smaller houses require less maintenance. A 3-bedroom bungalow requires less maintenance than a 5-bedroom stand-alone duplex.
Having this in mind, you can go ahead with your search.
Best Places To Find Houses Online
Once you define what you want in a house, it’s best to know where you can find houses online.
The list below contains the best places to find a house online. Where to look for houses online
Real Estate Websites
Popular real estate websites exist in different countries. These sites provide listings across different locations for sale, lease, or rent.
Also read: Top 21 Real Estate Websites In The World
The listings are posted by several independent agents and real estate companies. It’s best to stick with sites with extra measures to verify their advertisers.
Some of the most popular sites for finding houses online include
Zillow: Has a real estate mobile app for Android and Apple users. Founded by two former Microsoft employees in 2006. Now one of the most popular sites in the USA for finding a home online. The site offers tools for online home searchers to use in finding a house online.
Airbnb: This website is best for short-term rentals. It lists properties by independent agents and property companies available in various countries and cities across the world.
Jiji: Jiji offers a large option of houses for sale, lease, or rent. The listings are by several agents and real estate companies. It is available in countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Senegal.
Trulia: This is an easy-to-use mobile app for finding houses online. The app has both Android and Apple versions. Best for first-time online searchers because it is easy to navigate.
Realty Nub: The best real estate blog.
Private Real Estate Websites
Some reputable developers and real estate companies own private websites showing listings available either to rent, sell, or lease.
It is best to research local property companies in your area. This way you can find houses online within your geographical area.
Although, it is best to know the official website site of the company. This is to avoid scams from phishing sites with similar website names.
Working through a reputable developer or agency has proven to be the best way for finding houses online.
Facebook Listings and Social Media Sites
Another way for finding houses online is through Facebook listings. Real estate listings are available in the Facebook marketplace, real estate groups, or pages of real estate agents.
Always seek the official social media handles of reputable real estate companies, agents, and developers.
Other social media sites like Instagram and Linkedin are used by these advertisers. Real estate companies, agents, and developers usually list available properties on their official social media pages. Although one has to verify that the page belongs to the said party and isn’t a fraudulent page.
2 Ways To Verify A Website When Finding Houses Online
When finding a house online, it is important to go through legitimate channels to minimize possible risks. The two important ways are listed below.
Registered Company Number
It is mandatory for every business operating within a country to be duly registered by the appropriate means.
This is to ensure legitimacy as the real estate business owner can be traced easily.
When a business does this, the business is assigned a specific number. A company can be verified using this number on the site of the government body responsible for this.
For instance, in Nigeria, the body responsible for incorporating a business is the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
Every major real estate firm has been registered and their details can be easily researched on the site.
Search using their registered company number to know if it’s a listed company for the business it portrays itself to be.
Search Online For Its Reviews As Well As Its Social Media Handles
Usually, their official websites are listed on their official social media handles and vice-versa.
Check their activities and customer feedback and ensure it tallies. Also, check the ratings on each post if it’s a social media handle, a page with 500k plus followers can have 100k likes and 400 comments or more.
Don’t be misled by the number of followers or likes on a post, people can buy/ pay for that. Seeing someone with over 500k followers having less than 900 likes per post and probably 200 or fewer comments is fishy.
Do your research on the company posting. Stick to their verified website to avoid phishing sites.
7 Specifics Professional Real Estate Listings Should Contain
When it comes to real estate, working with professionals is highly important. Your finances are involved and silly mistakes could cost you a lot.
Professionals in this case don’t always mean expensive, it’s more about people who take their jobs seriously.
Professional listings would have key details about a property, showing prospective clients what is involved before fixing a viewing appointment.
To guide you when finding houses online. the following but not limited to these about a property must be stated by the advertiser.
1. A Detailed Description Of The Property
Good details of a house describe the ins and outs of the house and available facilities, for example, a garage, the number of rooms and baths available in the property, and the size/square footage of the property.
The detailed description also includes the peeks and highlights of the house, for example, an outdoor pool, all rooms ensuite, sweeping staircases, fully fitted kitchen, boys’ quarters, etc.
And should include restrictions if any, for example, no pets allowed on the property, no fences allowed, etc.
2. Clear Pictures Of Key Areas Within The Property
A professional real estate listing should contain clear pictures of areas in the house. This includes pictures of the kitchen, bathrooms, sitting room, bedrooms, and exterior pictures.
keep in mind that pictures sometimes do lie and some homes are staged. Nevertheless, clear pictures of these areas are important so you know what to expect. Especially when finding houses online.
3. Price and any added fees
The price and other fees are important aspects that must be stated in every real estate listing. This would determine if the property is within the budget range of potential buyers. It includes the price of the house, agency fees, and other added fees.
4. Neighbourhood Attractions
A good online listing should clearly state what makes the neighborhood stand out. Doing this is an easy draw for potential buyers.
Every real estate housing advertiser wants to sell off their properties fast. To facilitate this, they add as many good features as possible, this includes the highlights of the neighborhood the house is located in.
Examples include a good school district, notable property owners within the area, closeness to a beach or spectacular view of the city, etc.
A good real estate listing should contain the exact location of the house. Preferably with the map coordinates. Location is a deal breaker for a lot of online home seekers.
When finding houses online, most people search strictly by location before going on to other aspects.
This is an important prerequisite for a real estate listing. The title or documents on a house is the only legal way to confer the ownership of a house.
Also read: 10 Must-Have Important Property Document In Nigeria
Knowing which one a house has could help buyers know what is involved. Although property documents differ by country, it is important to know which ones are recognized by the government and which you intend to buy or lease from.
When finding houses online, it’s important to know that the house title exists and is not a lien.
7. Other Clauses
Except the advertiser has something to hide. It’s essential to include added clauses to a house. Doing this lets the potential buyer know what is involved before coming for an inspection.
What To Look Out For When Finding Houses Online
These are measures to prevent fraudulent activities but cannot give you a 100% guarantee.
Disconnect Between The Property Description And The Pictures Posted Online
Some online descriptions state the house is already finished, whereas the picture shows it still in the construction stage.
Some write listing descriptions of a bungalow but post a duplex instead. This is unprofessional and could be a rookie mistake or may just be a scam.
When searching for houses online, it’s best to work with experts in the field.
Request For Initial Payment
Some fraudulent listing agents use certain tricks to coarse unsuspecting people into paying for houses they haven’t verified.
One common tactic is stating that a more willing client is ready to pay for the house immediately. Then unsuspecting clients are asked to make immediate payments either in part or in full to reserve the house for themselves.
The fear of losing the house which seems like a great deal prompts the unsuspecting buyer into paying the fraudsters.
It’s a common scam people encounter when finding homes online.
To avoid this, do not make payments beforehand no matter how much you are persuaded. Always ensure to inspect the house and verify its legitimacy.
If something doesn’t seem right to you, don’t go ahead with the deal. In the worst-case scenario, you lose the house.
If it’s too good to be true, it just might be.
Highly Important Tips For Finding Houses Online
Seek credible and verified places to find houses.
Stick with trusted official websites: Beware of fake websites with similar links to popular ones. These are called phishing sites.
As a rule of thumb, Social media sites are less trustworthy when compared to official real estate websites. A lot of shady handles especially on Instagram and Facebook advertising houses for sale end up being a scam. To be safer look for local listing websites in the area and ensure it’s the original website.
Never skip the inspection: Ensure you pay a physical visit to the house or have a trusted person go on your behalf before paying for it. This way you can confirm that the house exists and is not a 3D model.
Have strong background knowledge of what you want: know the necessary documents required for sale or rent, the ones to sign or review, lease agreements, and how to verify document authenticity.
What To Do Before Paying For The Place
These should be done after you’ve searched through online listings and found the house that suits your taste, budget, and lifestyle.
1. Conduct a Physical Inspection of the House
Going for an inspection? Here are things to check out in a house.
Don’t get carried away by the beautiful house paint and great aesthetics of a house without checking the more important things. Look for potential red flags which include:
- Drainage and plumbing, ensure it functions properly and there are no leaking or busted pipes.
- The wiring and connections, potential flood zones or natural disaster-proof, and the quality of water in the house. The roads and outside drainages ensure no foul smell emanating from the outside drainage.
- Also, ask for copies of floor plans and building permits. This is to know what structure is approved on the site and possible future renovation.
2. Do A Neighbourhood Review
If you like the place, come back on a day different from the planned inspection day and observe the surroundings.
Are the neighbors loud and party all night? does the house still hold the initial charm you thought it had earlier?
Before buying, ensure all promises are met beforehand. Or the former owners could go back on their promises.
3. Discuss Terms and Agreement
You get to discuss who would cover the cost of what, either repairs or maintenance depending on if you’re buying or renting the place.
This includes all fees including hidden charges, the terms and agreements of the property, and seeking adjustments if needed.
They are called hidden charges for a reason and if you don’t properly negotiate the terms, you may end up being roped into something undesirable.
Safety Precautions To Observe When Finding Houses Online
- Only pay the rental fee, sales fee, or any other payment after you have met the landlord and verified the ownership.
- When going for inspections ensure you meet the agent in an open location. As much as possible come with your means of transport and avoid entering unknown vehicles.
- Agents who list houses on some websites are independent of the real estate websites and do not represent the companies, as a result, the companies are not liable for any problems that may arise.
- Have it in mind that some crafty agents put up pictures of houses that are no longer available to lure victims. As a result of this, it’s advisable to buy from verified companies that have a reputation to maintain.
- Do not pay any inspection fee without seeing the agent and the property. However, working with a reputable real estate firm does not require such fees.
9 Most Important Steps To Finding Houses Online
1. Decide And Research About What You Want In A House
First of all, before searching for a house online, you’ll have to determine what you want in a house. In regard to your wants, needs, and lifestyle.
These include the following. Location, budget, and purpose the house would serve. Run research on these specifications and determine areas that best serve you.
2. Seek Verified Places To Find Houses Online
The next step involves looking for the right places for finding houses online.
Browse for reliable real estate websites, private real estate sites, or social media sites.
You also need to know what to be on the lookout for finding houses online on these sites. This involves ensuring the site is genuine.
3. Use The Search Bar To Narrow Down Your Specifications
When the site has been verified as genuine. You can check for specific listings that fit your desired choices.
You do this by inputting the keywords of your specifications in the search bar. Varying from broad searches to more specific searches by country, city, town, streets, neighborhood, and house features.
For example; new houses for sale in Lagos, Nigeria. You can further narrow the search to a 4-bedroom detached duplex with a swimming pool in Lekki Lagos for sale.
4. Select The House Listings That Fit Best
The website would provide house listings that are closest to your specifications.
Look through the provided listings for red flags and scan through their highlights to ensure which fits best.
Narrow down choices from the list of many that you desire to inspect. This is after you have sieved out houses that don’t fit what you desire or fishy advertisements.
5. Research Who Is Selling / Advertising And Verify Their Legitimacy
You do this by looking for red flags, past jobs they handled, and reviews about them. Some would have reviews on the website or their social media handles.
6. Book A Viewing
Once your research pans out, you can book a viewing. This is an important step that must be adhered to after finding a house online.
Viewing the property helps you see the property for real, and have an overview of the surroundings and neighbors.
It is usually the make-it-or-break-it stage of finding houses online.
You can either go for the inspection yourself or assign a trusted person to go on your behalf.
During the inspection, carry out necessary precautions. Also, know what questions to ask, and check for red flags, inconsistencies, and faults in the building.
This is also the opportunity to discuss all terms and agreements involved in the house.
7. Conduct Further Inspections
This isn’t always required. Sometimes the first inspection is enough. However, some prefer coming back on a different day to have another view of the neighborhood and ask questions about the house and its owners.
8. Involve The Experts
Some decide not to do this to save cost on agency and legal fees. While others choose to employ the services of either a real estate agent, a lawyer, or both.
The job of an expert is to ensure you aren’t shortchanged and the deal favors you, their client. They conduct further searches on the house and its legitimacy.
Their findings reveal past owners, verify the seller is who they say they are, building permits, debts like mortgages, and outstanding property taxes.
9. Make Payment
After finding homes online, if everything spells outright, you can go ahead to make payment for the house. However, do this physically and not in cash, so you have undeniable evidence of payment.
Conclusion On How To Find Houses Online
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when house scouting. Having a detailed guide to finding houses online is the easiest way to navigate the process. Thanks to technology trends it’s now even easier.
All the tips and steps listed in the article would help you in finding the perfect house online. After finding a house online, you can decide to involve the experts like a property lawyer or local real estate agent.
It depends on you and your budget.
In all, ensure to carry out your due diligence and make payments when everything spells out rightly.