Between work, family and our social lives, just thinking about buying a new house can be overwhelming. There's so much to consider -- finding a home that's welcoming and affordable, picking a neighborhood with good schools and shopping -- and then there's the actual challenge of buying the house and making a move! But nowadays, the Internet makes the process a bit easier. We no longer have to call up a real estate agent, wait for a list of prospective houses and check them out in person to begin the home-buying process. Now we can start online.
There are several real estate sites like Zillow and Trulia that can help you kick off your search for that perfect home -- from bed on your laptop, from a waiting room with your smart phone or from your cubicle at work (during your lunch break, of course). Most houses on the market are listed with all the basic info like square footage and bedrooms/bathrooms, but the process only begins with the houses that catch your eye.
Google Maps is an excellent tool to plan out a touring schedule of all your prospective future homes. In fact, it even includes a real estate feature that marks the map with homes for sale. You can always use "My Maps" to save a list of homes for later, or use Google Maps from a smart phone to get real-time directions from house to house. And while you're using Google Maps, you can search for restaurants, grocery stores or schools to scope out what's nearby.
Of course, at some point it's time to take the next step and move your search from the digital world to the real one. As useful as the Internet is, eventually you do have to visit homes for sale in person.