No one can deny that modern technology has revolutionized the process of buying a home. Instead of trudging through random houses with For Sale signs in towns and neighborhoods of interest, we can now view carefully selected properties from the comfort of our own living rooms. Today’s buyer has instant access to Information once gained only with considerable expenditures of time and money, assuming it was available at all. Wading through piles of forms to be filed in triplicate is a thing of the past; nowadays, we handle all that with a click of a button.

And yet, despite these incredible advances, computers have their limits. A well-informed decision calls for more than an app and a mouse. Below are four tips to maximizing your time and efforts.

View (actual) houses  

If you really want to get to know a house you have to visit it, physically, in person. An Internet search can pull up every $500K four bedroom Colonial for sale within a mile of the Smithtown train station, but the pictures presented will only show so much. The light, the height of the ceilings, the sounds of the house and the neighborhood; none of these can be conveyed by even a first rate professional photographer. You have to enter a house to truly get a feel for it. Sometimes pictures actually do a house—and those viewing it—a disservice by presenting it in an unfairly bad light. For instance, overgrown shrubbery or trees can make a perfectly charming and structurally sound house appear dilapidated or even downright creepy. A simple upfront viewing might show the house needs nothing more than a little strategic landscaping.

 Meet (actual) real estate agents

Though just about every real estate agent can be found online, anything you can learn about them that way, including detailed sales statistics, only tells part of the story. Qualities like professionalism, reliability, and integrity will elude any website. The best way to find the right person to represent you in this transaction is through a strong personal recommendation or the guidance of a professional real estate referral firm. Don’t leave this crucial connection to a search engine.

Avoid open houses

Open houses can be crowded, noisy, and distracting. Have your agent arrange a private showing, giving you the time and privacy to fully and fairly assess the property.

Block out distractions

Strangely, people sometimes form strong impressions about a house over factors that have little or nothing to do with the house itself. The seller’s taste in décor, furniture, or artwork can unduly excite or repel a buyer. Internet photographs make this mistake even easier to make, leading buyers to focus on the wrong things. Go to the house and look beyond the surface distractions. Imagine your furniture and belongings in this space. Still impressed?

Real estate is a contact sport. While the Internet and social media can prove helpful as tools to help you along in the process, there is no substitute for getting upfront and personal in your search. Good luck and happy hunting!

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