People have had to deal with a lot in the last year or so, to say the least. The coronavirus pandemic put everyone through difficult times, but people naturally found ways to cope. In isolation, a new alternative to doomscrolling has been on the rise: Zillow surfing. If you’ve found that researching home sales in the suburbs has become a new favorite pastime, you’re not alone. The Saturday Night Live cast even did a skit about Zillow surfing and how millennials love to fantasize about living in houses they can’t afford.
So why is this happening? People have been isolated for the last year and a half and eventually, they started to dream of the future. For many, surfing real estate listings is a fun way to unwind from the difficult reality of the pandemic, using Zillow and similar sites like Redfin as a form of escapism. Zillow surfers are even forming online communities where they can share their experiences with Zillow surfing. For instance, Curbed, a website focusing on real estate, design, and city life now has a column dubbed My Week in Zillow Saves. The column highlights the Zillow saves that users shared that week. According to a Taylor Lorenz article in the New York Times, sharing experiences via chats and on a Zillow group helps people bond.
But beyond just escapism, isolation gave people the space to assess their life and goals. In some cases, reconsidering where they see themselves living in the future. It’s evident that Zillow surfing is about more than just dreaming, people want to make it a reality. While the housing market was significantly affected during the Covid era, it’s not due to a lack of desire to buy houses.
Your Zillow dreams don’t have to remain just dreams! We may not all be like the House Hunters couples who work quirky odd jobs, but still afford multi-million dollar houses through mysterious means, but your dream of being a homeowner is still attainable. And you might even be able to use Zillow as a tool to get closer to buying your dream home.
Tips for a Better Zillow Surfing Experience
Here are some trips for making your Zillow experience better:
Use the Draw Function: Zillow has a draw function that allows you to draw boundaries for your home search using your finger. This feature allows you to focus your search on specific areas. If you save such searches, you will receive notifications when listings in that area are posted. Another way to use this function is to draw multiple boundaries for non-connected areas.
Comprehensive Search Features: Don’t overlook the search filters on Zillow. Beyond narrowing down your searches based on the number of bedrooms, pools, and other general amenities, you can be very specific with what you want. This includes filtering your house search based on the type of view, ambiance, and filtering out listings that you’re not interested in.
3D Homes Only: Whether you want to buy a house or just looking to escape reality for a moment, there’s no better way to view a house than from the inside. Even if you’re not physically inside, you can still experience the house more realistically through Zillow’s immersive 3D home tour. You can even filter your listings to only those that offer 3D tours.
How to Go Beyond the Zillow Surfing Stage
The house you want doesn’t have to remain just a Zillow surfing dream. As you view sale listings, you’ll get a better understanding of the real estate market and get ideas for your must-haves in a house. But eventually, you have to go beyond Zillow and put that dream into action.
If you’re a first-time homebuyer and don’t know where to start, take the following steps (or check out our detailed Home Buyer’s Guide)
1. Make the Decision to Buy a Home
Buying a home is a decision that will have a significant impact on your life. For most, it involves taking up a mortgage, so it’s not a decision you can rush into. As you make this decision, also consider other financial obligations you may have in the future. If you decide that it’s the right time to own a house, look for what suits your needs and is within your budget.
2. Find a Realtor
Although it’s possible to do it yourself, bringing on an expert to assist you in buying a house is highly recommended. With the help of an experienced real estate broker, you’ll know how best to conduct your homeownership efforts. Your ideal location should also be in their practice area because you want a realtor who is familiar with the local housing market.
3. Get Mortgage Pre-Approval
One of the key things to settle on before you begin your search for a house is the price range, which means you must get a mortgage pre-approval from your lender. Visit their office and speak to a mortgage professional. After reviewing your financial information and credit history, they’ll tell you how much they can lend you.
With this information, you can narrow down your search to houses that are within your budget. In some cases, you may be pre-approved for an amount that exceeds your initial budget. If so, it’s best to stick to your original budget. This is because banks will offer you as much as is deductible in your income, but it does not account for your future financial needs.
5. Begin Searching for Properties
Searching for properties is the homebuying stage most people look forward to. However, without guidance it becomes a frustrating experience for first-time buyers. This is where having a great real estate agent is beneficial. With a clear picture of the features you want in a house, including the floor plan, they will initiate the search. A good realtor will guide you in the direction of the best listings for your budget because they have a better understanding of their market and have networks in the industry.
6. Visit Ideal Listings
The house viewing phase is an essential part of finding your home. You may learn a lot from pictures, but you have to be inside a house to know if it’s right for you. House-hunting is fun, so during these visits it’s easy to get caught up in the positive qualities of a house. But remember to be mindful of indicators that the house will need any modifications or renovations. Your realtor will also help you identify potential issues and determine the associated costs. These details will play a significant role during negotiations.
7. Have the House Inspected
Some houses might need repairs that are not easily discernible. Should you purchase a house that needs some work, you’ll inevitably incur additional costs. This is why having the house inspected is essential before proceeding with the purchase. With the inspection report, you’ll be in a better position to decide how to proceed.
8. Make an Offer for Your New House
If the property still feels like a worthwhile investment after the inspection report and the house feels right, now is the time to make an offer. With your realtor, consider the price of similar properties in the area and the renovations necessary when making the offer. Other factors that will influence the price include the demand for that particular listing. If the house has been listed for a long time, the seller will be more likely to be flexible with the price.
Get Your Suburban Dream House
When it comes to buying a home, it’s not just about the property itself, but also the location. Homes in the Western suburban area of Chicago are presently in high demand for several reasons. But purchasing your ideal suburban home here is not an unattainable goal, especially if you have a realtor who knows the area well.
Scout Real Estate Partners is dedicated to making your Zillow surfing dreams a reality. Contact us today to get a step closer to owning a home in the western suburbs of Chicago.