Priscilla Toomey: What the Internet Doesn't Tell You When You Search for Real Estate Print

Aug. 27, 2014:  These days an overwhelming percentage of buyers begin their search for real estate on the Internet. They may put a key word or phrase into Google and they may use Zillow, Trulia, or Realtor.com to get started.

With so much reliance on technology today, many people assume it tells them what they need to know. In fact, it only tells part of the story.

Most people don't realize that search engines like Zillow and Trulia are "lead generators." They are less concerned about the accuracy of information than they are about whether the people searching on their site contact them so they can sell that "lead" to a real estate agent. In reality, neither the lead nor the agent is "scrubbed," or screened.

As a result, there is no way to tell if a cliff drops off behind the house, or if the house is located near a noisy, busy highway or railroad. Although the photos may not be Photoshopped, a good stager and photographer can improve the "natural" looks of a house considerably. Moreover, the house is likely to appear larger than it is when you see it in person. HGTV is there to create the same illusions. They all do it very well.

The question is: How do you, the consumer, find out what you want to know about the "reality" of the house?

The best way is to look upon a home search as an interactive process. Find a good real estate agent to work with, get advice to focus your search, and be an enthusiastic and very interactive participant in the process of finding a home that fits you or that you can change to "fit you to a t."

The Internet is a very useful tool to help you focus on what neighborhood, schools, and amenities are important and affordable to your particular family and circumstances.  After that, it's an interactive process--a live human being who knows the area and the houses in it well and will work with you in a team effort to accomplish your home finding dreams.

Pictured here:  Priscilla Toomey, associate broker, JD, ABR, Top5, certified EcoBroker, SRES with Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty; cell, 914-559-8084; email, CLOAKING .

Photo courtesy Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty