Thanks to the internet, shopping for a home is now easier than ever. All you do is enter a few preferences into a website like Zillow, Trulia or Realtor.com (or even on a smartphone app!), and voila, you’ve got a bevy of fitting and affordable properties to choose from. You can even schedule tours, contact realtors or apply for your mortgage online — all in a matter of seconds.

But as convenient as this all is, there are also some downsides to digitizing the home search – and if you’re not careful, it could end up costing you cash or, even worse, your dream home.

Want to make sure your online home search goes off without a hitch? Here are the mistakes you’ll want to avoid at all costs:

  1. Not doing your research.

Sure, there’s a lot of information in online listings, but there’s also quite a bit those listings can’t tell you. For example: What’s the neighborhood like? The crime rates? The quality of the schools? What about local amenities, grocery stores and restaurants?

Don’t make online listings your sole source of information. To really get a feel for what life at a property would be like, schedule some time to tour the place, and allot an extra few minutes for exploring the neighborhood and surrounding community, too. You should also do some online research — check sites like City-data.com and NeighborhoodScout.com for stats on crime in the area, and use GreatSchools.org to read up on local public schools.

  1. Assuming there’s no rush.

It’s easy to see an online listing, bookmark and think “Oh, I’ll come back to this later.” That might be OK in a slow market, but in today’s world, when inventory is extremely sparse, you’d be lucky if that listing is still up in just a couple of hours!

If you see an online listing you like, act on it fast. Contact the listing agent, or call your realtor to have them schedule a tour ASAP. There may already be bids on the home, so if you don’t want to lose out, it’s imperative you pull the trigger quickly.

  1. Not taking things with a grain of salt.

We’re not saying don’t trust online listings, but be a little wary — especially if something looks too good to be true. Oftentimes, agents will use old photos of homes (ones from when the home was brand new or sold the previous time), and simply recycle those for the new listing. This can be frustrating when you actually do tour a home, because nothing looks as expected!

To prevent this from happening, do a quick Google Maps search of the property’s address. Sometimes, you have the option to select “Street View,” and see a recent photo of the home from the street. This can give you a good glimpse of what the home would actually look like were you to tour it.

  1. Going at it alone.

The web makes home shopping seem incredibly easy, but don’t get too comfortable: You’re still always better off with some professional help on your side. Sure, you can pull up listings and schedule tours online by yourself, but when it comes to negotiating, navigating contracts and ensuring a smooth and fast closing, those are all tasks better left to an experienced agent.

Agents not only make the entire process easier (they know the homebuying process like the back of their hands!), but they also can save you a pretty penny along the way, too. They can tell you what a home is worth, based on market comps and its condition, and they can help ensure you get the absolute most bang for your buck. If the market’s right, they can even help negotiate a seller down, so you pay even less out of pocket.

Online – And Then Some

The moral of the story? The web is great for starting your home search, and it’s a solid way to gather information on the homes and neighborhoods you’re considering. But don’t let it encompass your entire search, and don’t forgo the tried-and-true methods of calling an agent, touring the home and simply cruising the community. These are invaluable steps to ensuring you get the absolute best, most fitting property for you and your budget.

Want help ensuring your home search is successful? Contact the Claus Team today. Our expert agents can guide you every step of the way – from the initial online search to the day you sign those closing papers. We’re here to help.