Have you ever dreamed of being a private detective?
Welcome to online home search - solve the case of locating your new perfect home!
The events of 2020 have resulted in a permanent change in what we look for in a home. This goes beyond just confirming whether a space can be useful as a home office, which is something that would typically be marketed even pre-pandemic. With in-person dining at restaurants closed ad hoc across many counties and states, knowing the food delivery vendors for a home has become a critical data point. Also, given the amount of time spent living and working from home, it is not enough to just know the square footage of your home office; what about the quality of the cellphone coverage? The speed of the internet?
All major home search sites include a filter tool to help narrow your search from thousands of homes to <100. A basic filter specifies the city, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, and square foot range.
Once you have narrowed your search to fewer than 100 homes based on the above criteria, you can rely on a combination of pictures and secondary data points to narrow your search down to <10, i.e., a number of homes that could potentially be visited in one weekend.
The goal of the visit would then just be to confirm the data you have already learned online – does the house feel bigger or smaller than its official measurements? Are the pictures accurate? Are there any weird smells or noises?
PI Tip: All missing person cases should begin with a profile of the subject.
Home Search Tip:
Create a list of features describing your desired home. In order to move beyond Phase I, you will need to narrow it down by city, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, and square feet. If you haven’t decided on a city, you may still need to make a wish list of describing your ideal city attributes; the top items people typically consider are affordability, commute to work, school quality, safety, and environment.
PI Tip: Make sure to use a nondescript car with a neutral color when staking out or tailing a subject.
Home Search Tip:
Search technology today enables you to conduct your “surveillance” from the comfort of your desktop, or while scrolling through your phone.
Make a list of other aesthetic or stylistic features of the home that are important to you; this can include architectural style, yard features, and the appearance of kitchens and bathrooms (are they dated or recently remodeled?). You can also include items such as which direction the home faces, how wide is the street, what do the neighbor’s homes look like (are they vacant or in disrepair?), and whether there is any major construction on the street.
These questions can generally be answered by looking at listing photos, using the map feature to zoom in on the house and its surroundings, and typing words into a keyword search (for example, a search of “craftsman” narrowed my list of 36 three-bed, three-bath homes in Seattle down to just two).
PI Tip: Locating all types of records (birth, death, marriage, property) is a daunting task - that's why hiring a professional is a wise investment.
Home Search Tip:
Today, there is more information people willingly share about themselves on social media than ever before, and many public records are online. The amount of relevant information you can find online regarding a home is even more incredibly vast, and the biggest challenge in tapping into that data is just managing the sheer number of different sites that it is spread across.
The best home search sites attempt to pull all that data from across the web and distill it into one location. The top home search sites either get their basic data from an MLS (multiple listing service; a database kept by brokers to share data on homes in order to facilitate connections between buyers and sellers) or directly from listing agents and homeowners. However, sites vary in terms of what data they provide beyond the typical MLS information. Here, we provide a list of key data to incorporate in your online home search that might not always be included on the listing page of your favorite online real estate portal.
10. How traffic is locally: Environmental Protection Agency.
11. Is it noisy: Department of Transportation's Noise Map.
13. Does the neighborhood have a Facebook group?
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Does this Fairfax home have amenities and is it located in a place that emphasizes peace and quiet?
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