With Homebuyers Relying More on Digital Tools, RE/MAX Brokers Point to Value of Understanding Online Shopping’s Limits

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Home shopping has gone digital in a big way, but for the best results its wise to combine in-person interaction with the newest tech tools.

House hunting continues to move in a digital direction, and the ability to pursue property listings online certainly makes the home-search process simpler. Nonetheless, RE/MAX advises buyers to review online listings with their limitations as well as their benefits in mind.

“A recent National Association of Realtors study revealed that 92 percent of buyers use the internet in some way in their home search,” said Jim Merrion, regional director of RE/MAX Northern Illinois. “We provide our customers with the most technologically advanced digital search tools, but buyers should keep in mind that those tools don’t answer every question.”
Among buyers that RE/MAX broker Peter Consolo assists, a strong majority uses the internet to evaluate listings.

“Certainly it’s an age-related phenomenon, with younger buyers being much more oriented to digital tools, which save time but also can create misimpressions,” said Consolo, who is affiliated with RE/MAX NOW in Lake Barrington, Ill. He cited three common issues that can lead buyers astray.

1.    Photos shown online can look better than the real thing or not as good.
2.    Listings generally don’t provide a good feel for the layout and flow of the home or the amount of storage space it offers although new 3D tools help to address that issue.
3.    Listings rarely offer much information about the location, neighborhood amenities, adjacent properties, etc.

“There’s no substitute for local knowledge when dealing with real estate, and I think that’s one reason brokers won’t become obsolete in this digital age,” Consolo said. “A good broker is a terrific source of information.”

That was the case when Kevin Rampersad of RE/MAX Professionals Select, Naperville, Ill., talked with clients about a home located well beyond walking distance to a commuter train station.    

“They were ready to make an offer until I explained that there was a two-year wait for parking in the train station lot,” Rampersad recalled. “Suddenly, our search was refocused on homes within walking distance of the station.”

Rampersad stresses to buyers that an online search is only a starting point.

“You need to experience the property before deciding you want to live there. Does it offer an acceptable level of privacy and quiet? Does its layout work for your family? Are its surroundings comfortable for your lifestyle? Those are very basic questions that looking at listings on your cell phone typically won’t answer.”

Like online listings, much of the communication needed in house hunting is now done digitally using email and text, but neither of those are perfect substitutes for an actual conversation with your broker, noted Rita Neri of RE/MAX Premier Properties in Chicago.

“To do the best job for a buyer, I have to understand what they need and what they want. Often those priorities come through most clearly in conversation,” said Neri. “It can be their tone of voice that tells me the most about a buyer’s priorities.”

Neri also pointed out that the limitations of online listings cut both ways. Buyers may be disappointed by homes that looked great online, but the bigger risk is that an online listing doesn’t do justice to a house, causing buyers to ignore a property that is just right for them.

“Some homes aren’t presented that well in an online listing, with poor photos and inaccurate or incomplete information, or buyers can be turned off by some easily corrected issue. Maybe the living room is painted blue, and the buyer hates blue – but a paint color is easy to change,” she said. “That’s when buyers can miss out on a great house, and it’s why I ask buyers, after we’ve spent some time together, to let me show them a few homes I think they should see even if the online listings haven’t caught their attention.”

RE/MAX has been the leader in the northern Illinois real estate market since 1989 and is continually growing. The RE/MAX Northern Illinois network, with headquarters in Elgin, Ill., consists of 2,250+ sales associates and 105 independently owned and operated RE/MAX offices that provide a full range of residential and commercial brokerage services.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: RE/MAX® is a registered trademark. Please spell in all caps. Thank you. This release is posted at blog.illinoisproperty.com.

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Stephen Johnson
RE/MAX Northern Illinois
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