Buying A House Online: Is It Possible?
Victoria Araj8-minute read
August 31, 2022
It’s now possible to buy nearly anything you can dream of online, from clothing to groceries and even cars. But is it possible to go through the steps of buying a house from the comfort of your couch?
Yes, you can buy a home online – and in some circumstances, it makes a lot of sense. Let’s say you’re moving far away from your current residence. Buying a home online can allow you to find a new place to live without making lots of trips between your current and future towns.
We’ll walk you through some of the basic steps of online home buying. We’ll also introduce you to a few online real estate databases you can use to begin your home search.
Where To Search For Your Online Home
The internet has radically changed the way we buy and search for homes. You don’t have to just rely on real estate agents, for-sale signs and newspaper ads to see which homes are for sale. Now, you can take a complete virtual tour of a home that’s up on the market from the comfort of your bedroom or office.
Ready to start exploring homes in a different part of the country? Use one of these websites – or their respective house hunting apps – to begin your new homeowner search.
Zillow is one of the internet’s most trusted real estate database websites. Zillow contains a vast amount of information and enables you to quickly compare homes. You can search by ZIP code or city, set parameters on the types of homes you want to see and view photos uploaded by the seller.
Many homes also include virtual tours, a digital tool that gives you a 360-degree view of the interior of the home. Zillow’s database even estimates what you’ll pay in property taxes and interest on your loan. This allows you to quickly decide whether you can afford a particular property.
Zillow is also available as an app.
Trulia is another real estate database listing site that allows you to shop for homes. You can sort homes listed on Trulia in similar ways as Zillow – using price, ZIP code, square footage and more.
However, Trulia also offers a few unique search features you might find useful:
- Foreclosure type: There are multiple types of foreclosures. The way that a home goes into foreclosure can affect its condition – which is especially important if you buy a home online. You can sort by homes already owned by a real estate company, those that go to auction and those on notice of default with Trulia.
- Type of listing: Trulia allows you to search for homes based on how long they’ve been on the market and recent price reductions.
- Keywords: Trulia allows you to search for listings by keyword inclusion. For example, you can search for listings that include the word “modern” in the home description if you’re looking for a modern-style home.
Trulia also has an app available.
Rocket Homes® Real Estate LLC
The most unique feature is the Home Information section on Rocket Homes®. You can find ratings of nearby schools, public data that’s available about neighbors living in the area and popular places near the property you’re interested in.
Rocket Homes also offers free access to TransUnion credit reports on a weekly basis. This allows home shoppers to keep an eye on their credit score. You can view accurate home listings online, read through the Housing Market report and even match with an agent.
Rocket Homes has an app as well.
How To Buy A House Online
Now that you know where to search for a home, let’s take a look at the process you’ll go through when buying a house on the internet.
Step 1: Get A Mortgage Preapproval
The first step to getting a mortgage is to find a lender who can qualify you for a loan. If you want an online lender, remember to search for one who allows you to submit documents and sign agreements over the internet.
A mortgage preapproval is a letter from a lender that tells you how much money you can expect to get for a loan. Preapprovals are important because they give you a rough idea of how much you can afford to spend on a home.
These letters also show real estate agents and sellers that you’re serious about buying a home. Your preapproval letter will be a crucial asset as you look for sellers and agents who are willing to work with you online.
Typically, your lender will ask you to submit some financial documentation when you apply for a preapproval. Having this information on hand and ready to scan can speed up the preapproval process. You’ll usually need the following:
- At least 2 months of bank statements
- Your last two W-2s
- Your two most recent pay stubs
Rocket Mortgage® makes the documentation process easy by allowing you to automatically share your financial information, which speeds up the process. However, you may need to submit more information if you’re self-employed.
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Step 2: Find A Real Estate Agent
A real estate agent or REALTOR® is absolutely indispensable for online home buyers. Real estate agents are housing market professionals, and each one specializes in a different area. Your agent can help you navigate the market, learn about different neighborhoods, school ratings, property taxes and more.
Your agent can also act as your “eyes and ears” on the ground. They can tour homes on your behalf and send you pictures or show you homes via video call to fill in the gaps left by online listings.
Not only does working with an agent help with home tours from a distance, but they can be crucial in the real estate transaction process. Many agents have access to remote online notarizations or are able to arrange an in-home notary visit to sign closing documents.
Not sure how to choose a real estate agent? Partner with a Rocket Homes agent in all 50 states and you can quickly get in touch with an agent to help you shop. All Rocket Homes partners are held to strict requirements and must have an average client satisfaction rating of at least 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Step 3: Shop For Homes
Once you’ve linked up with an agent you trust, you can begin shopping for homes. You can start your search with an online listing site, but you should also ask your agent for input. Create a list of all the ideal qualities you’re searching for in a home. You might want to consider:
- The house style and type
- Number of bedrooms
- Types of appliances
- Local school district ratings
- Local property taxes
- Home’s distance to public transportation (if you don’t drive) or available parking (if you do)
- Whether the home has a pool, jacuzzi or spa
- The home’s overall condition (do you need a turnkey property or are you open to making repairs?)
Give this list to your agent and ask if they know of any properties that might work for you. Many real estate agents have access to a multiple listing service (MLS) that isn’t available to the public and can show you homes that don’t appear on websites like Zillow or Trulia. You can also ask your agent to attend showings on your behalf and document any issues they find.
Unlike buying a sweater or pair of shoes, you can’t easily return a home you buy online if it isn’t a good fit. Don’t submit an offer for a home unless you’re 100% positive that you want to buy it.
Step 4: Submit An Offer Letter
Congrats – you’ve found a home you love! Now it’s time to submit an offer letter. This will indicate to the seller that you want to buy their home, and under what conditions you’ll agree to the sale. You can also include details on any repairs that you want made to the property in your offer letter, as well as any concessions for closing costs you need.
Though you can write your offer letter yourself, it’s wise to let your real estate agent handle this for you. Your agent knows how to communicate with the seller in a way that puts your interests first. They also know when they need to use legal terminology that makes the contract binding. Work alongside your agent and submit an offer letter that fits your needs.
From here, your seller has three options. They can:
- Accept your offer: The seller can accept the offer as-is with no changes to the sale’s terms.
- Reject your offer: The seller can outright reject your offer. In this case, you’ll need to submit a new offer or move on to a different property.
- Give you a counteroffer: The seller can counter your offer with a new one. In this case, it’s up to you to continue negotiations, accept the offer or move on.
Negotiating your home price can be a stressful and emotional process. Consult with your agent regularly for assistance and advice on how to negotiate.
Step 5: Prepare To Close
It’s time to proceed to closing once you and your seller reach an agreement. Here’s what you can expect.
- Appraisal: Your mortgage company will assist you in scheduling an An appraisal is a professional estimate of how much your home is worth. Appraisals are important because they tell the mortgage company they aren’t loaning you more money than your home is worth.
- Underwriting: Your mortgage company will also finish underwriting your loan and verifying your financial information. This usually won’t involve you at all, but your lender might occasionally need to contact you for more information or documentation. Respond to these inquiries as quickly as possible to keep your closing on track.
- Home inspection: You should schedule a home inspection before you commit to closing. A home inspection is not the same thing as an appraisal. An inspection tells you specifically what’s wrong with your home and what needs to be repaired. The inspection is crucial for online buyers because it tells you exactly what you’re getting into when you move in. Ask your agent to forward inspection results to you via email and review them before closing.
Step 6: Close On Your Loan
All that’s left to do is close on your loan and take control of your new home. Your lender will send you a document called a Closing Disclosure that lists the final terms of your loan. Review your disclosure, then proceed to closing.
The online closing process will vary from lender to lender. Some lenders may allow you to sign documents online and submit identifying information via email. Consult with your specific lender before closing to learn about what you’ll need to do to finalize your sale and get your keys.
The Bottom Line On Buying A House Online
Buying a home online can be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. First, you’ll want to find a lender who services mortgage loans online and get a preapproval. Then, get in contact with a trustworthy and reliable real estate agent based out of the area you want to move to. Shop for homes both online and through your agent.
Make sure you’re 100% ready to commit to a home before you make an offer. Your real estate agent can help you draw up a solid offer letter and negotiate with your seller. Follow the specific instructions from your lender to close remotely.
Ready to get started on your house hunt from your couch? Get approved today online with Rocket Mortgage!
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