Web eases vacation home buying
In the 1980s, Diane Saatchi was a real estate agent
who worked out of an office without a fax machine. Her company didn't
make overnight mail available to agents. She was the first in the
office to get one of those blocky, newfangled cell phones.
Now the fax machine and overnight mail have fallen
out of favor at Saatchi's office at the Corcoran Group in the tony
Hamptons of Long Island, having yielded to e-mail and the Web. Saatchi
e-mails purchase contracts and photos of houses to clients, and
those potential buyers conduct much of their research on the Web.
And if they have some quick questions to ask, they
e-mail them to Saatchi's Blackberry wireless device (so addictive
that she calls it the "Crackberry").
Vacation season is the time of year when tourists
fall in love with their destinations. They begin to dream of buying
beach bungalows or mountain hideaways. They don't want to disrupt
their vacations with days of house hunting. So they turn to technology.
The Web and e-mail make it easier for people to shop for vacation
Wise use of technology is a necessity to reach some
home buyers. Karen Hoth, a school librarian in Marathon, Fla., says
she does a lot of online research before she and her husband, Gary
Dickinson, buy property. When they peruse real estate Web sites,
they tend to skip over the listings that offer little information.
"In the new Internet age, I think a lot
of people have trouble understanding that you have to be very forthcoming
on your Web site information for people to think it's worth their
time to get more information," she says.
In 2003, Hoth and her husband bought a house in Spring
Hill, Fla., north of Tampa, as an investment property. Now they
are buying a condominium in Fort Myers, on Florida's Gulf Coast
about a four-hour drive from their home in the Keys. Both times
the Web played a large role.
They searched for potential properties on the Web
(Hoth's favorite site was Realtor.com because it gives a lot of
information) and e-mailed a bunch of real estate agents, then communicated
with the agents by e-mail and phone. By the time they drove up to
meet the agents, they knew specifically which properties they were
going to look at so they wouldn't waste time.
Hoth was familiar with Spring Hill because her parents
had bought a house there in 1998 and she visits it two or three
times a year. But she and her husband knew little about the Fort
Myers area when they started looking for a place that they could
rent out for part of the year and use as a getaway in summer, when
school is out and the Keys are sweltering. They started researching
Fort Myers on the Web, determining which neighborhoods they might
be interested in.
When they found the condo they eventually decided
to buy, the real estate agent was getting ready to take some photos
to e-mail to them when they found an online virtual tour of an identical
unit. That sold them on buying the condo unit.