In the days before the Internet, home buyers had to research homes the hard way. The process was tedious and drawn out. You couldn’t just hop on a website such as GuaranteedRate.com and get your pick of the latest mortgage and loan options.
But today, with all the online, one-stop shopping websites for home buyers, the process has been tremendously simplified. With the abundance of tools at a prospective home buyer’s fingertips, many people leave the real-estate agents in the dust and do their own research from the comfort of home.
1. Easier access to comparables
It used to be standard practice to depend on a real-estate agent to run the numbers on homes in a given neighborhood that are similar to the one you’re looking at. Many home-buying websites provide you with automatically generated facts about homes that have the same features — complete with the age, number of rooms, number of bathrooms, type of construction, and even price.
In no time at all, you can access such information and generate your own comparables, thus saving loads of time, before you ever meet with a real-estate agent for a walk-through on a house.
2. The virtual walk-through
In the old days, you met with a real-estate agent and scheduled a time to do a walk-through on a promising home. This could force agents to reschedule until everyone was able to agree on a time.
More and more websites provide a digital walk-through for residences on the market. This is especially great when you’re trying to research a new home to purchase from out of state.
3. Mortgages and loans
Another area where technology has changed the process of buying a home is in locating financing. Online sites now put consumers in touch with banks that compete to give home buyers the best rate on mortgages and loans.
An example of an online trend is a hard-money loan. Instead of obtaining financing through a traditional bank, hard-money loans are funded by investors who simply want to earn a return on their money.
The interest rates on hard-money loans are typically higher than at a traditional bank, but they often don’t require the person seeking the loan to jump through as many hoops to get financing. The recent introduction of Dodd Frank regulations has made it more difficult to obtain loans from both hard-money lenders and private lenders.
4. County records
Another extremely useful move was to put county tax and real-estate records online. In the old days, if you wanted to do any extensive research on a home, you had to drive down to the courthouse or county records office and poke through the hard files.
Now a person who’s seeking to buy a home out of state can get access to a lot of important information. If you visit the county appraiser’s website for the region you plan to move to, you can easily determine the just value of a property according to the county assessment.
That will tell you if other websites are inflating local prices or a home is being offered at a significant discount with respect to the county’s assessment of its overall worth. In addition, the annual taxes on a property can be researched. And if you’re fairly adept at reading a property’s hard file, it’s also possible to perform your own quick-and-dirty title search, and make sure there are no clouds on the title that could pose a problem down the road.
No matter how you slice it, advances in technology have made the online real estate-purchasing process a lot smoother for the home buyer.