When you buy a house, you typically look at the listings online, then meet with the sellers to view the properties you liked. Despite the convenience of that process, though, it can still take time. There are so many real estate websites to browse. There's also the matter of finding an agent. And you have no guarantee that the homes on the listings are truly worth their prices.
Simply put, browsing listings online have safety risks. But because of the pandemic, we don't have much choice but to take those risks. While New Zealand is still COVID-19-free, the threat of another outbreak is far from over. Recently, a tourist who tested positive for the delta variant roamed around Wellington and put 2,600 locals at risk. Luckily, the tourist didn't infect anyone.
This proves that we still need to be careful. If you plan to buy a home now, what's a more careful way to do it than online? But before starting, take note of these safety guidelines first:
Buying Remotely vs. the Traditional Process
Nowadays, you can buy a house online through home buying apps. It's more streamlined than browsing multiple listing websites. You can sign up for free, and get in touch with legitimate sellers, buyers, and the app's accredited real estate professionals.
Using an app also allows you to self-manage the process. Its advanced features can match you to the sellers you're looking for. This saves you time from screening too many sellers and their properties. What's more, the app can show you properties that aren't on the market yet. That's a perk you wouldn't enjoy from typical listing websites unless you hired an agent.
Once you've picked a house, you can start doing your inspections, negotiations, offers, and finally, closing the deal. You can complete this process with or without an agent, with either scenario safe and secure.
On the other hand, the traditional process usually begins with finding an agent first. It's not recommended to self-manage the traditional process because it's time-consuming and risky. You have no means to verify the identity of sellers, and you may not have access to a larger pool of sellers that agents usually have.
Then you'd browse multiple listing sites, do thorough research, then get in touch with sellers. Although this process is still popular, it's not practical if you're busy or if you're considered a high-risk for COVID-19 unless you can carry out every procedure remotely (e.g., video calls).
When you're ready to make an offer, these rules apply to both online and traditional buying processes: talk to your lawyer or conveyancer. They'll ensure that the sale contract is lawful and that the transfer of ownership will be conducted legally.
Risks of Buying a Home Online
While online home-buying is considered safe, it's not entirely free of risks. This is especially true if you solely rely on online listings instead of secure apps. The photos you see online can be deceiving, after all. A pristine-looking property may actually be ill-maintained in reality. What looks like good lighting may be a work of Photoshop.
But the hacks to know if you're being duped is simple: if the deal is too good to be true, be wary. For example, if a big, beautiful home is priced too low, chances are it's a fixer-upper. You may buy it cheap, but the money you'll spend repairing it may almost be equivalent to its purchase price.
Be wary of overpriced homes as well. Those houses may include high-end appliances you don't need or high-maintenance amenities. Worse, the seller might've just overpriced it to take advantage of buyers who are in a rush. These scenarios are the reason you need an agent, especially when undergoing the traditional home-buying process.
But whether you're buying through an app or traditionally, be sceptical about the words in a seller's ad. They may not tell lies, but they may not be honest either. They can stretch the truth or hide the issues in the house, especially if they're something you wouldn't notice immediately, like broken wiring or moulds in the vents.
Look out for undisclosed information as well. It doesn't necessarily have to be negative information. For example, if you're looking for a home in a cooler region, but the property you're considering doesn't mention if it has a heating system, don't assume that it has one just because of its location. Contact the seller to ask about the heater. It will save you time and money.
Remember, when in doubt, consult a professional. Don't be blinded by your budget constraints. You'd save more money if you're sure that the deal you're closing is fair and legitimate. Besides, a home is an investment, so you shouldn't take shortcuts. Be meticulous and thorough.