How to Buy a House Online

(Spoiler alert–you have to get offline and go look at the houses in person)

Like most things in the world, the internet has revolutionized real estate.  There was a time when you had to physically go into a real estate brokerage to look at listings.  They were printed up and put into a binder that you could flip through.  Really! I’m not kidding!  Multiple listing services (like Portland’s RMLS) helped, but getting the listings on the internet was what opened up real estate to the masses.

Once real estate agents started getting their own websites, they wanted to be able to syndicate the MLS listings so that clients could search for homes natively without wandering the internet.  With syndication, came web portals like and Zillow and Trulia and more.  Zillow really went for the gold by adding in their “Zestimate” of value on the home (which is really a huge wide range that you should not take too seriously. Like the lottery, Zestimates are for entertainment purposes only).

So, now real estate listings and information are everywhere, including about 8 squillion apps for your smartphone and tablet.

There is now so much information empowering the consumer!  The only problem is….too much of the information is not reliable or even true.  When I see information on many of those sites, I more often than not see mistakes.  Even in the MLS, which should be infallible, agents often input information incorrectly, which then gets syndicated to the 8 squillion wesbites and apps.  The only way to truly find a home is to use the internet as a guide and then get out in the real world and look at houses in person with your own eyes and senses.

This is especially true for first-time home buyers.  By touring homes with your Realtor (hopefully me!), you can become more familiar with the features of homes and neighborhoods compared to how they show up in listings.

By seeing what listings look like in real life, you will become a savvier real estate consumer. You will develop that spidey sense about which listings are too good to be true and which ones might be diamonds on the rough.

Online listings can be spruced up to make dumpy homes crumbling into a Hellmouth look like the palace of your dreams.  And, vice versa.  I just had a buyer get a screaming deal on a great house in a beautiful neighborhood simply because we were one of the only people to even view the home in person.  The online pictures were terrible and the descriptions were lackluster.  People probably saw this poorly-presented listing online and passed, never getting to experience the sweet hardwood floors, big private lot, solid bones and nice neighbors of this hidden gem.

The opposite is also true.  Some buyers sit on the sidelines looking at thousands of listings online, waiting for the perfect one.  Then they analyze this perfect online listing to death.  And, they finally go see it in person and it is not what they expected or wanted.

Don’t believe everything you see online.  Shopping for a home online requires you to do some real legwork.  Remember, you can’t return a home like you can a pair of shoes that don’t fit right.  Use online resources—the most reliable sources are RMLS and the listings you get from your Realtor—and then get out and look at some real homes in real life in real time.


swamp3Corey Eubanks is a gay Realtor working in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA region.  For more information, please visit  He also runs the website 365 Queer Things To Do in Portland at