It is always frustrating to search for a home online, then get there to find that it isn’t at all what you expected. Worse, it isn’t even on the market because it was sold 3 years ago. The market is like the ocean, tides come and go, you want to ride the wave that gets you there.

1.Use a reliable source. There are lots of options, Doorstep #1 Zillow is #2, Trulia #3, and Realtor.com #4. I can also set up an auto update http://www.findmyminneapolishouse.com/where you can search on your own, save, and get auto updates. Public sites don’t always update a listing when it has an offer, so it looks active when it isn’t really available. One buyer emailed me 6 times asking to look up properties he found on a site, none of them were available. We were frustrated.

2.Use Google maps. A 1” square photo can’t tell you everything you need to know. Drill down on the maps, look at the neighborhood and the back yard. You’ll see if it is flat, sloping and where the garage is. If there is a gas station next door, or it backs up to a major highway you might want to skip that one. Is there going to be less traffic in the next 10 years?

3.Check room sizes. I see hundreds of properties and still can’t tell from the outside how big it is inside. Check room sizes, foundation, and total square footage. If the kitchen says 8×15, it is a galley kitchen, if a bedroom is 7×8, it is very very small and you can put a teeny tiny bed in it and nothing else. That California king bed is not going to fit in an 11’ x 12’ bedroom.

4.Check Trulia/Zillow for schools, amenities, crime stats/transportation/demographics A real estate license doesn’t allow us to tell you if it is a ‘good neighborhood,’ or who the neighbors are. There are online tools to research crime rates, schools, demographics.

5.Don’t fall in love with the photos. As much as I hate to admit it, some agents are horrible photographers and can’t even focus a cell phone. Some pros use a super wide angle lens that makes a closet look like a ballroom. I dragged a client to see a property based on a living room photo that looked like a massive 25 ft swath of hardwood flooring. It was not the house in the photo at all, and it was disappointing. Again, photos should match room sizes.