Buying or Remodeling: Advice is Just a Click Away

North Americans love their toys, and we’re turning to our devices for advice on everything from remodeling projects to home searches. According to a joint study by Google and the National Association of Realtors, real estate searches on Google.com have increased by 253 percent in the past four years.

“Increasingly, online technologies are driving offline behaviors,” noted Patrick Grandinetti, head of real estate for Google, “and homebuying is no exception.”

Buyers screen homes on the Internet

The study indicated that nine out of ten home buyers turned to the Internet during their home search. Although half launched their search online, they quickly moved offline; 76 percent viewed or drove by a home they’d first seen on the Internet.

The real estate industry is very much on side. For players, it’s all about providing buyers with new tools to access property and neighborhood information, and rather than discouraging personal interface between buyer and real estate agent, most purchasers still seek out agents for their experience and expertise; interestingly, almost one-third found their agent online.

“See” your planned renovation online

It doesn’t stop there. Recently, there’s been a boom in remodeling projects, and, of course, there’s an app for that. Homeowners contemplating a renovation have turned to the Internet for advice for several years. But new approaches by sites such as Zillow Digs and Houzz are changing the dynamics. Both offer platforms for consumers, design professionals, product manufacturers, and architects to interact as part of a visually-focused online community. You can share photos of products or designs with your architect or contractor or “meet” with the designer online and book your re-build right then and there. As one consumer, whose remodeled kitchen was designed by an architect she met on Houzz, notes: “It’s positively addictive.”

Google’s Grandinetti would likely agree. For him and other experts, it’s just another example of online technology driving offline behavior.

How to Buy Your Dream Home Even if It’s Not For Sale

Have you ever driven through a new neighborhood only to turn the corner, and there it is…your dream home?

But, darn your luck, this dream home isn’t for sale. While the majority of us drive away, saddened, some people leave determined to make this home theirs – whether it’s for sale now or not.

And often, with the help of a great agent, they’ll do just that.

For real estate agents, it’s a form of cold calling: The clients point out an unlisted home they love, and the agent plays matchmaker, contacting the homeowners to see if they’re prepared to sell.

Some homeowners won’t budge, but for others, there may be incentive to sell. They may have considered selling but haven’t started the process. The house may have been on the market previously. Or, maybe the owner decides to jump at the opportunity.

If you’re interested in a property that isn’t for sale, here are some strategies:

  • Research both the property and its owner; public records or old real estate listings can give you an idea of value.
  • If you decide you’re serious about approaching the owner, your best bet is to ask your agent to do so on your behalf. It will show the owner you’re seriously interested. Consider sending or having your agent give the owner a handwritten letter, expressing why you’re interested. It will help personalize the process.
  • Be aware that you’ll likely end up paying a premium for a house that isn’t officially for sale.