Most homebuyers think that the most difficult part of the homebuying process is finding the right property. That’s right—it’s not paying for the property or even completing the tedious paperwork that comes with it. The hardest part is just finding a residence you love.
Why are we having this problem in the age of digital revolution? In the end, it all comes down to the tools available to homebuyers.
Most home search web apps simply aren’t programmed to consider your individual life routine, style preferences, budget, and commute. They can’t think outside the box to find your best-matched home. Without this capability, homebuyers have to spend extra time completing unnecessary manual legwork to find the home of their dreams.
Trapped In A Filter Bubble
Think about the filters you come across in most home buying web apps.
Once you select a certain number of bedrooms for your search, other homes that have one less or one extra bedroom but may be otherwise perfect will be excluded from your consideration. You can make the same observation about every single filter toggle, like zip code, price, and number of baths. This brings us to what I like to call the filter bubble dilemma.
Does that term sound familiar? It should.
“Filter bubble” is the term that analysts—in magazines from Wired to The Cut—used to explain why, in a certain recent election, the losing political party was confident in a win and why they were shocked by their loss. The term was coined by Eli Pariser in 2011, but made a household term after the infamous 2016 election.
The idea is simple. Social networking site algorithms weren’t showing people a variety of ideas and opinions; algorithms showed select ideas and opinions based on very specific data like past clicks and search history. People weren’t able to see essential information right outside those filter bubbles, like the fact that so many people preferred a certain candidate.
What on earth does that have to do with real estate? A lot: the rigid data structures and interfaces of home-search apps force you to search for homes within strict filter bubbles, preventing you from finding suitable homes right outside their reach.
Let’s think about one of the first choices a web app gives you—zip codes. Web apps ask you to choose a zip code, then show you the available homes in that area. However, what if your ideal home lies mere minutes outside the zip code you chose? Most web apps, guided by strict filter bubbles, will ignore it.
The same goes for any of the other filter choices. If you choose to search for a home with three bathrooms that was built after 1950, there may be a stunning two and a half bathroom home built in 1949 available, but filter bubbles hide it from you.
The same goes for searching for certain house prices, which is a more complex process. What if you haven’t gone through mortgage prequalification already? How do you know what you can afford? You may choose to search for homes from $400,000–$500,000 without knowing you can afford $500,000–$600,000 homes. Most web apps won’t tell you what prices are reasonable for your situation. There’s the other side of the coin, too: what you search for $400,000–$600,000 homes, but the perfect Georgian house is available for $399,000?
These filter bubbles result in more work for you and the possibility that you won’t ever be able to circle in on the right home. Now does it make sense why so many people consider finding the right home the most difficult step in the process?
There is a way to skirt around the filter bubble, but the manual process is far slower and less reliable than having a quick search option would be.
Slowed Down By The Manual Work-Around
You can, of course, tell your agent about the kind of home you’d like and what factors are more or less important, but since nearly 100% of homebuyers start their search online, that’s not likely to be your first step. Plus, agents traditionally specialize in certain zip codes and neighborhoods, which adds another wrinkle if you want to explore multiple neighborhoods simultaneously.
You can also manually search for specific home styles through existing web apps with their filter bubbles—but that’s no walk in the park. First, you need to search for the different zip codes that will work for you (and your significant other, if you are buying a home with a partner), taking into consideration commutes and neighborhood personalities.
Don’t forget price! You need to complete the mortgage prequalification process or talk with your bank to figure out what you can afford.
Then, you need to review individual home listings, which feature about 28 photos and 180 words each. If you visit ten homes before you find the one, you’ll spend over three hours staring at images. If you decide to review the 180-word descriptions, too? That’s ten whole hours spent on manual legwork.
Instead, you could spend an entire day binge-watching Netflix shows, go on a day trip—the possibilities are endless.
Streamline Your Path To The Perfect Property
You don’t want to start talking to realtors already (or at all), filter bubbles are constraining your online search, and you don’t have time to manually sidestep filter bubbles. Inventory is lower than ever and real estate construction is slowing, which means you have to search quickly to find your home before someone else snaps it up. So what can you do?
Let home buying intelligent assistants like me help you with the search.
I can review relevant listings to find homes that feature each preference you crave, narrowing results based on factors from location to closet size, but always considering out-of-the-filter options. I can even make an educated guess about price based on your income, reducing required manual legwork even further.
Start a conversation with me, and you’ll quickly find yourself on a tour of a home that aligns with each and every one of your unique preferences.
Dream home, here you come.