Searching for a new home, whether to rent or buy, has changed so much now that we have the internet to help. It does help a lot as long as you keep in mind the limitations.
When you are in the market for a new home or you are just vaguely thinking of moving down the street or across to the other side of the country, the first thing many of us do is to get online to see what we can get for our money. Before you know it you have probably spent an hour or two surfing real estate listings and getting an idea of where you can afford to live.
The best bits about using the internet to help you search include:
- most rental properties and homes for sale are listed online. You no longer need to contact individual real estate agencies to talk to them about what they have.
- you can mostly go to an aggregated listing site (like www.realestate.com.au) rather than visit the sites of each real estate agent in your target area. This will save you time.
- the listing will include photos, a location map, a description and possibly a floor plan.
- Google Maps and street view can give you some information about facilities nearby and what the street and neighbours look like.
- you can undertake some general online research on the area you are moving to by visiting local blogs (like this one for Tasmania), checking out the tourism websites, local government resources and searching for the activities and facilities that you would like to have access to.
The downside of relying on an internet listing include:
- the description and photos for a property will generally only focus on the positive. The goal of the listing is to get you to an inspection.
- a listing may include errors in key search parameters such as number of bedrooms, bathrooms or parking which means you may not find them. I see this all the time. If you are listing your place for sale or rent, take responsibility to check that the listing is accurate
- some of the photos may be digitally altered to erase some negatives (see article below). If not to that degree then photos are generally taken with a wide angle lens which fits a lot in but can make rooms appear a lot larger. Check out kitchen photos and see how wide the microwave or fridge appears!
- if a floor plan is not provided it can be difficult to know if the layout will work for how you want to live
What you can’t do online is:
- get a real sense of the feel of the house and layout. Nothing beats inspecting the house or have someone inspect it for you. Buying or renting based on only the online photos may be something you regret.
- get a real sense of the local area, both suburb and street. It is nice to know exactly what shops and facilities are nearby and if they are of the quality you need.
- check some properties against your search criteria as the listing may not include the details you need. You will still end up calling a lot of real estate agents to ask questions and wait for them to find the answers.
- nothing beats inspecting the house yourself or having someone who knows what you want inspecting properties for you. Photos and words can only tell you so much.
If you are moving to Tasmania and can’t get here to inspect properties yourself, then we can do that for you. If you are planning to rent then most property managers will not allow you to apply unless someone has inspected the property on your behalf. If you are planning to buy then having someone look at lots of properties in the first instance will help get you to a shortlist that best meets your criteria. You may then choose to travel to Tassie to inspect that list.
Below is an article that appears in The Age newspaper a little while ago about the practice of photos in real listing listings being photoshopped. Very interesting when they get caught out!
Photoshopped to lure home buyers
Some estate agents are flouting consumer laws and risking up to $220,000 or more in penalties by Photoshopping their advertising images.
A powerline disappears from the landscape, imaginary trees disguise neighbouring flats and the purple sunset would look more at home in the tropical Maldives.
Retouched real – estate advertisements can have Melbourne house hunters playing a game of spot the difference. Some estate agents are flouting consumer laws and risking up to $220,000 or more in penalties by Photoshopping their advertising images, observers warn. Fairfax Media has found multiple examples of listings where furniture and tiles were distorted by the stretching of rooms, greenery was filled in and colours were so vivid they appeared like a Disney cartoon.A powerline on the Brighton Esplanade was almost invisible in depictions of the views of two neighbouring properties, listed by separate agencies. Kay and Burton in Brighton and Marshall White in Armadale said the photos are genuine and the single power line that runs along the foreshore blended into the background colours. “It’s a dusk shot, with long exposure and there’s a deep, dark sky behind the black powerline,” photographer Gerard Warrener, who produced the Marshall White shot, said. “Then you look at it low-resolution on the web. “Everything is retouched, colours are always enhanced and darkened and lightened but we don’t do it to hide powerlines. It’s illegal. You do it so the photos look lovely.”
Independent property advisor Mark Armstrong said real estate photos were being manipulated, including unnatural light in every corner, in an attempt to get potential buyers to visit the properties. “Photos sell property online, the text doesn’t,” the director of iProperty Plan said. “The main photo, the hero shot, is the difference between getting someone to click onto your property and ignoring it.” However, he said the hours spent creating the perfect image could backfire once potential buyers saw the reality. “You cross the line into art or fantasy by trying to hide things and if anything you’ll turn buyers off.”
Buyers advocate David Morrell said such manipulation had worsened now the internet was the dominant way to market houses. “It’s misleading, deceptive and it’s a fraud,” he said. “They can make a cave look like it’s got a northerly aspect.” Buyers would do better to look at Google Streetview for a more realistic look at the property, he said.
Consumer Affairs Victoria said photographs that are “digitally or otherwise enhanced to hide undesirable features or promote other features” should not be used. The maximum penalty is $220,000 for an individual and civil penalties for the same amount apply.
Director of Kay and Burton’s Brighton agency, Stewart Lopez, said the company would never instruct a photographer to digitally remove a powerline.
The Real Estate Institute of Victoria said most agents complied with Australian consumer law that requires marketing photos to be a “true and accurate” representation of the property. Spokesman Robert Larocca said no photograph could perfectly represent a property and encouraged consumers to visit during the open inspections. “The displaying and advertising of property can be a little subjective and of course everyone wants to portray the property in the best light possible,” Mr Larocca said. Agents were not supposed to add or subtract things from a property, but could play with light and lens angles to make it look more attractive, he said. “You can put a nice blue sky behind the property because you are not selling a permanent blue sky, I think that’s understood.”
This article was published in The Age and can be found here.