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Bryce Holdaway Blog post by Bryce Holdaway

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Searching Online

Today I want to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to searching for property online.

We’ve certainly come a long way from the old days where we used to circle the classifieds in the newspaper and the agent controlled all of the information. It’s certainly changed with the internet now! Combined with the fact that people are so time poor and they’re looking to be a borderless property investor or property buyer, it’s important that we actually do look online to give ourselves some research and some insights into the properties.


So, first of all, the good: 

For me, it’s a big marketplace. If you think about or you think about Domain, you think about home sales —it’s where the market is.

Granted, you still get the agent who advertises in the local newspapers — they will still advertise in the local magazines to expand the exposure to the property — but the majority of the agents are putting it online. So it’s where the market actually exists!

That’s my number one good — if you’re not looking online, you’re missing most of the market.

Now these portals make it very quick easy and convenient for you to look at these properties.

Can you imagine trying to see the insides of properties like they can? Multiple properties in an hour; you can literally look at scores of properties. But if you’re physically walking around, chances are you’d see two, three, maybe four at best, so it’s just very, very quick, easy and convenient to look online.

The other thing is you get a very quick snapshot, a very comprehensive overview.

You’ve got the description, you’ve got the floorplan, you’ve got heaps of photos, and you’ve got a map, in terms of the context of where this property is in the overall of the suburb. So you’re getting lots and lots of information in a very quick snapshot to determine, “Hey look, I don’t want to be in that part of the suburb.” If you’re looking at the map or you look at some photos, you can say, “That color scheme doesn’t actually work for me.” So it’s very, very fast and gives you access to all that information. There’s also a lot of free information that you can get: rental sales, data, suburb history. All of this information makes it very easy for you — particularly if you don’t know the suburb or you’re researching some new opportunities for new suburbs — this data makes it very, very easy for you to gather. It would be very, very difficult — probably, I’d argue, almost impossible — to do that manually. The aggregation of this information that happens online is unbelievably good.

The other thing that’s really good is you can get a virtual tour.

I mean, if I’m sitting in, let’s say somewhere in Perth, and I want to look at a property in Adelaide or Brisbane or Canberra, I can do a virtual tour very easily.

The obvious one is to go on Google Maps and have a look at the street view, but a lot of people don’t realise the power of Google Earth.

I can actually do a flyover within the suburb. I can change the orientation that I’m looking from. I can zoom in very, very quickly, while also getting into the street view. So that virtual tour is something you actually can’t do when physically inspecting the property. You would need a drone, or a helicopter, just to get that bird’s-eye view you get online.

Also, you can research the locals.

You know, the suburb and the location where are the schools, and what are the local businesses, and where can I go and get a cup of coffee and what’s the local park? I mean, what am I going to do in the suburb when I’m not working? What am I going to do in my leisure time? What are the businesses I’m going to interact with? What are the types of people, the demographics? I can get all of this information online, which you just cannot do if you’re doing a physical inspection — where would you get access to that information really, really quickly?

The other final thing for me is it’s 24/7.

Let’s say you’re a shift worker and you get home at midnight — you have to wait till tomorrow to start looking at real estate. You can get online straightaway and can be looking until 2 am. in the morning. It is 24/7 research you can do straight away and that’ll never change. So there’s lots and lots of good research that come from searching online.


In terms of the bad things:

 Searching is not researching.

If you think of an analogy: if I’m looking at a show and there’s a farmer sitting next to me and we’re looking at all their prized cows — all I see is animals with four legs that are either brown or black and white. That’s the variation for me; but that farmer can look at that cow and see so many intricacies I would never even dream of. This is the same when it comes to looking at real estate. I could be looking at a property and see different things from someone who’s a beginner, who’s also looking at the same information.

So searching is not researching. So, just because it’s convenient and you can do it; it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s all you need to do.

The other thing is the agent is always putting their best foot forward.

Their number one goal is to get you to inspect the property. They want you to get out of your seat, get in your car and go and have a look through the property. So they’re only putting the best photos up. They’re only putting the positive reinforcing aspects of the property in the description. I mean, you’ve never seen a feature photo of the big gaping crack that’s in the wall, which leads all the way to the roof. It just doesn’t happen. They don’t put the negative photos into the description and into the advertisement. So, it’s important to understand that they are putting their best foot forward, and there’s more information than these to transpire. You just can’t get that online, and paying attention to these details is one of the five key things to look for during a property inspection.

Things aren’t always as they seem.

Think about the photo that’s been digitally altered, or think about the photo that’s been taken from a wide-angle lens, which represents a room to be much larger than it ordinarily is. It’s just a lot smaller and they’ve made it look bigger. Again, their goal is to get you to have an inspection and put that positivity in. But it’s only as strong as that weakest link. So, if they are altering those images, it’s important to understand that this can only be rectified through the physical inspection. That’s how to outsmart the real estate agent.

I mentioned before it’s only as strong as the weakest link.

If the agent was to accidentally put it in as two bathrooms and it’s only one, or they forgot to put a car space in when it actually does have something, it means that you will have that property represented in a way that’s not reflective of what actually exists. So, the information you get online is only as strong as the weakest link.

Finally, as good as Google is, and as good as it is that I can see anywhere around the world, it’s only as good as Google catchig up with the photo.

Think about a new subdivision or a new area, which doesn’t yet have any information that you can see online. Nothing will replace the physical inspection in that particular circumstance. If there’s any missing properties, you won’t be see any.


In terms of the ugly:

For me, that’s kind of “What’s missing?”.

The first thing is really around the feeling.

What you cannot replace in a physical inspection is the feeling of the house, the feeling of the suburb, the feeling of the layout — that’s just something that you get only when you physically inspect the property.

Secondly, you want to have the interaction with the suburb, the surroundings, the agent… you just don’t get that online. So it’s important that you do the physical inspection for that.

Of course the local knowledge.

You want to talk to the people in the area. Specifically, I like to go and talk to the neighbors. I want to ask them some intel — what do you know about why they’re selling? Because remember my number-one priority is to find out what the vendor’s motivation is, and I could probably fast-track that if I talked to some people in the area who know these people are about to move out. I might get some really great intel, and I just cannot do that by searching online.

Of course, the final thing is around full disclosure.

You are still going to need to talk to the agent and ask them specifics about a property that you just don’t know. There might be stuff in the contract that you need to find out, there might be some specifics about why is the vendor selling, you need to actually find that information out through talking to the agent and inspecting the property — you just can’t get that information from our searching online.


So there you have it! The good, the bad and the ugly.

We’ve come a very long way since those days when we used to circle in red around the properties in the classifieds and I think, importantly, what we can do is a lot of preparation online.

We can do a lot of DD (due diligence) sitting it out in front of our computer in our chair, but nothing will beat a physical inspection and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical inspection by you — you can actually get a physical inspection by someone you trust with the transaction. It could be a friend, a trusted relative or it could be a professional like a buyer’s agent who can inspect that property on your behalf.

But the main point here is: I wouldn’t buy property sight unseen without having your representative check the property physically.

We’ve got to remember it’s a high-value transaction — it’s very expensive — so it’s important that we get it right because the recycle costs of getting it wrong are very, very costly. So, there you go the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to searching online,

So, why don’t you leave me a comment below and let me know what you think about this?


Interested in this topic?

WATCH: How does Online Search Interest measure Australia’s property market Demand?



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