How to House Hunt Without Leaving Your Couch

By Mikey Rox on 4 October 2016 0 comments

Buying a new home can be exciting, but the process of hunting for one isn't always aces. Between work and personal obligations, your time may be too tight to drive from one bad house to another, just to be disappointed after each walk-through. Yes, it's time-consuming and exhausting, but the search has become a bit easier. With advances in technology, you can hunt for and purchase a home without ever leaving your own house these days. Here's what you need to do.

1. Check Out Mortgage Calculators

Using a mortgage calculator doesn't take the place of speaking with an actual lender and getting preapproved for a home loan. But a mortgage calculator is an excellent starting point because you can plug in different variables — such as an estimated interest rate, home price, and mortgage term — to learn how much you can afford to spend on a property.

Some calculators only estimate principal and interest, whereas more advanced calculators include estimations for taxes, insurance, and PMI. As long as you know the average prices of homes in your area, you can use a calculator to assess whether you can realistically afford to buy in a particular area. Calculators can also compare the cost of renting versus buying.

2. Compare Mortgage Options Online

It isn't enough to use a mortgage calculator; you also need to know your home loan options. Nowadays, shopping for a home loan and comparing mortgages has never been easier. Websites like Realtor.com and LendingTree.com allow borrowers to compare mortgages offered by different online lenders. You can even request free rate quotes directly from local lenders.

Before purchasing a home, always get quotes from at least two or three lenders to ensure you're getting the best deal. Buying a home is expensive, but working with the right lender can help you save on interest and closing costs.

3. Research the Multiple Listing Service

The multiple listing service, or MLS, is a website real estate agents use to post their property listings. This is an excellent tool for house hunting without leaving your house.

Before modern-day buyers had access to this invaluable tool, finding a property meant spending hours driving through neighborhoods in search of "For Sale" signs. This was tedious and prolonged the home search. The multiple listing service lets you search properties online based on specific parameters. The search results provide a listing of homes matching your criteria.

You can search homes located within a particular ZIP code or price range, and you can narrow the results according to number of bathrooms or bedrooms. Not only can you find properties, some websites offer information on local realtors. If you're not working with a real estate agent, you can find contact information for agents and interview a few. Some websites — such as Zillow — have a feature that lets you read real estate agent reviews.

Be aware, however, that the MLS doesn't have information on every house for sale in the area. Some sellers don't list with an agent. Therefore, you should also search other reputable websites, including FSBO.com and Owners.com.

4. Take a Virtual Tour of Properties

One painstaking thing about buying a house is spending hours touring properties with your real estate agent. It can take hours to drive from one property to the next, and it often takes several days to tour every property your realtor pulls.

What if there were a way to speed up the process? Better yet, what if you could tour properties without physically being there? This is becoming more and more possible with virtual reality technology.

This feature isn't available for every property or in every housing market. But if you're fortunate enough to take advantage of virtual home viewing, house hunting can become less of a chore. Wearing a virtual reality headset, you can take a 360-degree tour of properties for a buying experience unlike any other. And since you're not driving from property to property, you'll save time and tour more homes in a shorter window.

5. Set Up Email Alerts

The local real estate market changes from day to day. Homes are constantly being removed from and added to the MLS. To stay on top of what's happening in your community, you would have to check online real estate listings every single day. And unfortunately, your schedule might not allow this type of commitment.

To make the search easier, go to different real estate websites and sign up for email notification. Based on your preferences, you'll receive an email whenever new listings matching your search criteria and price range appear on the site. You'll stay in the loop and learn about new property listings without having to drive up and down the neighborhood.

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