Does online house shopping really work?

By: Contributors

Shopping for a house online is a good way to start your search, but you shouldn't do the whole thing on the Internet. Web sites like Zillow and Trulia are good for getting your house hunt underway, and they're more accessible than a human real estate agent. You can search any time of day and the information is already there; you don't have to wait for someone to get back to you with a list of prospective houses and then go door to door to check them out. Web sites normally give you all of the basic details about available homes, including square footage and the number of rooms. Pictures let you get a better idea of which homes are of real interest to you.

You can even use Google Maps to help you in your house hunt, since it has a real estate feature and it can provide directions to get to the actual houses. You can also use Google Maps to get a sense for the neighborhood, based on nearby restaurants, grocery stores and schools. Plus, if you access the site from your mobile phone, you can call up real-time directions as you drive to check out potential homes.


However, Internet house shopping can only take you so far. Eventually, you have to take your list of potential homes and check them out in person. Even if you have the option to buy online, you shouldn't buy property sight unseen. You need to get a feel for the place, examine the faults and benefits of each place and talk to the owner or realtor. Still, using the Internet to narrow down your options is a good and convenient way to go. It's even easier than highlighting ads in the paper's real estate listings.