For most of my life, I’ve been a store shopper. I’m accustomed to seeing my options firsthand. I like to check out the fabric, inspect the quality, know what I’m buying before I buy it.

The more I browse shopping options on the web, the more I find myself changing my ways. It’s hard to deny the ease of popping into 10 stores in the matter of an hour, all without leaving your couch or changing out of your pajamas, right?

So why would it be any different if you’re shopping for a house?

I’ll tell you exactly why.

Should You Shop Online for a Home?

When you’re first kicking around the idea of buying, that’s a great time to shop in the comfort of your pjs. To find out what’s on the market in your area, there are a plethora of websites out there, from the big guys like Zillow and Realtor to those that cater to niche markets. As you browse, you’ll get an idea of the different styles of homes and the price ranges they fall within.

While it’s natural to get excited as you browse, don’t let that cloud your judgment. Here are questions to consider along the way:

  • Is the content timely and accurate? Online listings can be misleading if not updated regularly.
  • Are the photos an honest depiction of the property? Camera lenses can paint a picture of the home that differs greatly from what you’d see in person. Photos can also distort the lay of the land around the home.
  • Is the property really for sale? Websites can blur the distinction between homes that are currently for sale and homes that are under contract. Also, if you search a particular address, you might find an old listing that’s no longer on the market.

The Key to Online House Hunting

So, what’s that one thing you must do when house hunting online? Know when to stop.

Once you decide to take the next, serious step forward, your online shopping should come to an end.

Here’s why.

When you start calling about the homes you’ve been eyeing online, you’ll begin to hear a familiar refrain: “It’s already under contract.” In other words, that home you fell in love with is on the way to being sold. This happens because the MLS system reports properties that have a contract on them as “contingent” instead of “under contract.” Outside algorithms don’t compute this distinction. Therefore, these listings will show as “active” when they actually aren’t—and that gets very frustrating very quickly.

The good news is there’s another way!

At this point, you can work with a professional REALTOR®. Keep in mind: In almost 100% of the cases when buying, our services are free. I recommend talking with a few; then pick one person you feel the most comfortable with. As long as your REALTOR® is licensed and affiliated with a broker, they can sell you any house you choose regardless of who it’s listed with.

Plus, we have tools at our disposal that can provide you the most up-to-date information about what’s available and what’s not. This gives you one source for streamlined information who can also guide you through the process of getting to the closing table.

So, log on in the beginning, but know when it’s time to unplug and find a knowledgeable expert. This is what we do every day, after all.

Let us make life easier on you.