We are buying a house online.
Here is our process:
First, find a property online that is the right price, has enough bedrooms (well, there is no such thing as enough bedrooms for a family of our size in our price range, but even we have limits), has a yard and is not falling down.
Second, look at the house and neighborhood on Google Earth. Try to get a basic feel for the lay of the land and the neighbors.
Third, check the sex offender registry. There is a sex offender on every street in America, but try to at least not land in a part of the map that is wallpapered with red flags.
Fourth, ask the realtor to find out answers to questions raised by the one sentence description. You would think that if you only had one sentence to sell a house, you would give good information. Not so. About 97% of realtors need to be versed in the value of selling to the more and more buyers who are searching online.
Fifth, have your Mom and Sister go to the narrowed-down properties and take a zillion pictures. Have your mother boldly go and ask the neighbors about the neighborhood. (Okay, I didn't ask her to do that, she is just that woman . . . thank goodness.) Have them listen for the sounds of the freeway and the railroad. Give them the charge to count neighbors sitting on a couch on the front porch. Rocking chairs are okay, couches make me nervous. Overall, get a sense of the location and a feel for the house. It took them a little while to get over the fact that all of these places are trashed. All are foreclosures and the previous owners, in some cases, were MAD so they destroyed some things. In most cases, the properties are neglected and overgrown. They are having to learn to see these places the way I see them in my mind's eye: In the after pictures.
And then promise all of your assets through a series of emails, signings and scannings. After you close, then you get to see the house. Yes, we will get an inspection and make sure the place is eligible for insurance.
It's kind of like arranged marriages because once you've picked your partner, you just have to figure out how to love them!
I'll keep you updated on this crazy shopping trip.