However this reliance on the virtual can lead to house-hunting paralysis -you can see too much or too little, you can discount on inaccurate information or imagery, and just not get out to see any property at all. Some of the most frequent obstacles are set out here by househunting experts Stacks Property Search.
Not everything is ‘on the internet’
Whilst the majority of available properties are listed on the internet, many of these will already have been sold and of course those which are ‘off market’ will not appear. The risk of a property ‘going stale’ by being online too long is one that agents make efforts to avoid, by ‘resting’ a property and relaunching, however neither should you read too much into a house not having sold instantly – it may yet be perfectly uniquely suited to you, and it gives good scope for negotiation!
Everything on the internet is not necessarily for sale
Counter-intuitively, not all properties listed on the portals are available for sale – some owners are testing the market, or will not sell unless they have found something to buy. These people sometimes will not allow viewings unless you are cash-buyers and can accommodate their timescale. Still other properties are well along the process of being sold, but are listed as available as ‘insurance’ against a chain collapse. This can be a colossal waste of everyone’s time, including the vendors.
Another major downside of using the portals as your main search tool are that buyers may not realise that there is a huge amount more information which is not included in the basic description and details which the agents provide, both on the house itself and the local area that will impact the house. The tendency these days is increasingly visual, both online but also in the physically printed Property Details, all of which conspire to leave vast amounts of information – which may be positive or negative for you – unknown. Local knowledge is crucial – you must get out and about to understand an area – and by ‘out and about’ we don’t mean drive-through in your car, there’s much to be missed even on Google Earth or behind your steering wheel.
Inaccurate Data entry
‘Putting it up on the internet’ is not the task of the main estate agent – it is usually delegated as low as it can go, but this can lead to egregious errors in data entry which can go unnoticed by almost everyone. The most regular of these is a misclassification of location, which has knock on effects in terms of which properties might be sent out to you on alerts etc, but almost as frequent are floorplan errors that have missing doorways or windows, relocated compass points which fundamentally change the orientation of the house – all aspects that your property finder will have fact-checked on their preview visit, of course!
First impressions are almost impossible to overcome – that’s why your Search Agent will prefer to conduct a ‘Mystery Tour Day’ in the first instance – just like the TV programmes! – so you don’t pre-judge from photos which are overly flattering, cleverly angled or deceptively bleak. Wide-angled lenses and drones can both add and detract from the quality of the information online. Try to decide whether it really is ‘location, location, location’ that counts for you, or ‘whether it is space for your money’ or ‘amount of work to be done’.
Out of date information
An estate agent makes more money the less time that has been devoted to each property, Therefore time-sensitive information can be out-of-date very quickly from when the property was listed – for example, there may now be a decision on the planning application which will increase or decrease the price expectations. Having the full picture allows you to make an informed decision you can live with, and your Buying Agent’s due diligence will ensure that that is the case.
Everyone has a theory of the housing market – should you have a board up? does ‘everyone’ expect a price-chip? has everyone factored in the downsides of the property into their price and therefore are unprepared to haggle? There must be a problem if that house hasn’t sold yet, etc. Try to be aware of when your own assumptions might be in conflict with the reality of the situation. This is where your own search agent can be invaluable in getting an unemotional assessment of a situation.
Potential is hard to see online
It is a rare person who realises that they don’t have ‘vision’, but in reality, almost everyone has their own set of blinkers – a major portion of what your Buying Agent does is help you ease these away and see the compromises that are inevitably part of a house-buying process. However large your budget, everyone could always do with ‘just a little bit more’! Whether you need help in visualising space reconfigurations, or seeing beyond someone else’s décor and taste in lifelike dolls, or understanding exactly how much ‘work’ will be ‘too much work’ – decisions made on the basis of solely online advertising – which is in essence all the property search portals provide – are unlikely to be wise and you may be missing out!
For more information on how your Homefinder can help you efficiently and effectively househunt, see here .
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