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What You Should Know About Browsing for Homes Online

It’s fun, it’s exciting...and it’s important to take everything with a grain of salt.

Ok, let’s just admit it. Browsing for homes online is a window shopper’s Shangri-La. The elegantly decorated rooms, the sculpted gardens, the colorful front doors that just pop with those “come hither” hues.

Browser beware, though: Those listings may be seductive, but they might not be giving you the complete picture.

That perfect split-level ranch? Might be too close to a loud, traffic-choked street. That handsome Craftsman with the light-filled photos? Might be hiding some super icky foundation problems. That attractively priced condo? Might not actually be for sale. Imagine your despair when, after driving across town to see your dream home, you realize it was sold.

So let’s practice some self-care, shall we, and set our expectations appropriately.

Beware: Your Property Site May Not Be Accurate or Complete

First things first: You wouldn’t read last month’s NY Times for the latest economic new, right? So you shouldn’t browse property sites that show old listings and incomplete or mis-information, either.

What many online shoppers don't know is that the meg-sites pull their data from local, independent MLS providers. Local MLS providers collect and report critical information about listings differently from each other, which forces the mega-sites (you guessed it; Zillow, Redfin,, etc.) to either omit, or lump together important details about properties. For example, an online shopper may not be able to discern if the property is truly still available for purchase, if it is a distress sale requiring special contracts or terms, if the transaction requires an all-cash purchase or if the home qualifies for VA or FHA financing. The list of potential mis-information or lack of complete information is extensive.

Therefore, if you are seriously shopping or comparing properties anywhere in San Diego County, get the latest and most complete listing information from a reliable source--like from me, which feeds directly from the Greater San Diego Area local MLS.

The Best Looking Properties Aren’t Always the Best

A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. But what they don’t say is a picture can also hide a thousand cracked floorboards, termite ridden framing, and leaky pipes. So while it’s natural to focus on photos while browsing, make sure to also consider the property description and other key features.

Ask me to help you interpret what you find. I have hyper-local knowledge of the market and may even know details and histories of some properties or neighborhood. If a listing seems too good to be true, I will either know why, or find out for you.

Treat Your Agent Like Your Secret Weapon

At the end of the day, property sites are like CliffsNotes for a neighborhood: They show you active listings, sold properties, home prices, and sales histories. All that data will provide you good knowledge, but it lacks personal experience.

To assess all of this information — and gather facts about any home you’re eyeing, like what the vibe of the neighborhood is — contact me. I can deliver the scoop on specific properties, helping to guide you away from homes with hidden problems, and saving you the time of visiting a random listing that doesn't fit your criteria.

Want to go deeper on an area or specific listing you're interested in? Consider these sites and sources:

  • School ratings: Data from and the National Center for Education Statistics, and the school district’s website

  • Crime rates and statistics: provides detailed information on crimes reported by local law enforcement and allows you to screen for specific crime types.

  • Walkability and public transportation: I just pulled up the walkscore for my home on and found it to be 75 out of a possible score of 100, indicating I have many services and transportation within walking distance (which I indeed, do).

  • Hospital ratings:, or The San Diego area has a great reputation for excellent healthcare, by the way.

Just remember, you’re probably not going to find that “perfect home” while browsing listings on your smartphone. Instead, consider the online shopping experience to be a great way to get an overview of the different types of homes and pricing in particular communities or neighborhoods and a general idea of what else is out there. Once you’ve spent some time online, you’ll be ready to take your home shopping to the next level--with me helping you identify and flesh out the details that are critical in making a sound investment on a home you'll love.

Until then, happy browsing, and please let me know if I can help you or someone you know with a real estate purchase or sale.

Tamara Z (Zyhylij), GRI, REALTOR, CNE

TamaraZHomes, affiliated with Ascent Real Estate, Inc.

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