Viewing Houses Online Versus In Person

In today’s age, you can see homes listed on from left to right in the convenience of your home. Browsing on MLS listings is a great first step to begin figuring out what you like, what you need, and what’s in your price range.

Viewing homes online is also helpful in narrowing down the list of homes your visiting, and it can save you time by not viewing properties that do not meet most of your criteria.

However, viewing online is like looking at the menus of restaurants. You get an idea of what’s being offered but just like in a restaurant what you get may be vastly different. Sometimes the images or description just doesn’t do a home justice.  Although it’d be great if all real estate agents hired professional photographers many don’t and opt to take the pictures themselves. Other times what you see if far better than what you get.  With post-processing editing and wide angle lenses, homes may appear larger and more spacious than they are.

Somethings are still best done the old fashion way. If you are only casually looking try attending an open house in person. This process may be time-consuming, but it’s an excellent, no-pressure way to get a feel a property.

Here are examples that can be misled by looking online:

The Size of the Property

When agents post online photos of a property, they may be images provided by professional photographers. They know how to make space look larger by adjusting lenses and using the latest imaging software.

A good photographer will lay down and crouch in order to get a view that will make the ceilings look higher thus making a room seem larger.

Remember, you can’t trust every image you see online to convey the true size of each room, however, the agent may have provided the room dimensions within the listing description.

The Condition of the Property

It’s difficult to tell the condition of the house based on images alone. With HR image processing every room can be made to sparkle. Online images won’t show the stain on a ceiling, the need to refinish floors or the wood rot at the entryway. It also may not accurately display so key selling points like the layout on the main level, the depth of the walk-in closet, or the way the sunlight illuminates the whole house.

The Smell of the Property

Here’s the scenario. You’ve been looking for your dream home for over a month, and it seems like it is impossible to find the one you like. You’ve got a message from your agent saying there’s a new listing in the market. You saw the photos and immediately fall in love with the property.

You cancel all your plans and rush to see the property, and as soon as you open the door your face with an unimaginable smell, maybe the scent of overpowering food or cigarette smoke. Some owners may advertise that they are offering to have the home treated to alleviate any smells but many will not. Afterall, advertising a defect would be a sure way to discourage showings.

The Neighborhood

When looking at a home online you have no idea what’s happening in the neighborhood. If you are looking in an area you aren’t familiar with there could be any number of things that could turn you off in person.

The house could be over improved in comparison to neighboring homes.

Maybe the house is in the middle of an industrial park.

Would you still be interested if you knew the house was next to a power plant or landfill?

Experts say that it is best to drive around the neighborhood at different times of day if you seriously want to purchase a property in the area. It is important that you access whether the area is a good fit for you or not.


The first step for successful searching online for a home is hiring a competent and trustworthy real estate agent that can schedule tours of the properties you like. When you hire an agent they’ll conduct a buyers consultation which will help them narrow down the homes that will best suit your needs.

Browsing online for a property is a lot of fun because you can do it in the comfort of your bed. However, once you are serious about buying a home, it is essential to conduct in-person visits before making an offer.

So, are you thinking about buying a home soon? Check out our Steps to Buying a Home Guide. Feel free to give me a call at 703-539-2053 or email [email protected] to schedule a private showing of this or any other property.

About the Author

The above article was written by Abraham Walker, Your Northern Virginia Real Estate Agent, helping clients market their homes to achieve high sales with a quick closing time is my main priority.  He’s the co-founder of Ask A Walker and can be found on YouTube, Facebook, and HERE on this blog.

I help people sell and buy real estate in the following Northern Virginia area cities & neighborhoods: Kingstowne, Island Creek, Cameron Station, Overlook, Alexandria, Old Town, Belle Haven, Fort Hunt, Mount Vernon, Springfield, West Springfield, Burke, Lorton, Woodbridge, Lake Ridge, Manassas, Annandale, Fairfax, Arlington, McLean, Reston, Herndon and of course Vienna.

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