If you’ve been thinking about buying a home for a while, you may have marked your calendar back in the winter to start your house hunt right about now. After all, spring typically kicks off the busiest home-buying period of the year. But what a difference a few months make! Now, the coronavirus pandemic probably has you worried about how to safely check out homes without risking infection.

Our new series, “Home Buying in the Age of Coronavirus,” aims to help you stay safe if you want to continue your home search, because now may just be the perfect time to buy.

“For buyers that are in typically lower-inventory, high-priced markets, there has never been a more opportune time to take advantage of favorable interest rates and less competition,” says Cara Ameer, an agent with Coldwell Banker who is licensed in California and Florida.

So if you are in a position to buy, the third installment of our series explains how to conduct a virtual house hunt and how to protect yourself if you do visit a home in person.

By Margaret Heidenry | April 8, 2020

Learn how to read an online listing and find out what it’s hiding: “My advice to buyers is to parse listing photos to determine whether something is a good enough candidate to consider a more in-depth tour,” says Kate Ziegler, a real estate professional with Arborview Realty in Boston.

An agent will help you get into the nitty-gritty of an online listing. But here are some red flags to look for as you click through pictures that may not always show the true details of a property:

  • Are there more photos of the exterior than the interior? The inside might need work.
  • Closed curtains and blinds in a photo are usually hiding a bad view.
  • If a picture of a bathroom focuses on a sink, it can mean the bathroom is painfully small.
  • If photos look stretched out, the seller or agent is trying to make a room appear bigger.
  • Some listing terms are red flags as well. A “fixer-upper” can mean a great investment or a money pit, and “cozy” generally means the home is small.

Squeeze the most out of virtual tours: the real estate industry is adapting quickly to the coronavirus outbreak, with many agents adding video tours to their listing photos. (Look for the virtual tour icon on the bottom of the listing page.)

“If you’re interested in a property with a video, ask the agent if they have more footage,” advises Ryan Serhant of Nest Seekers & Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York.”

Sometimes parts of the house are left on the editing room floor to keep the video short and dynamic.

You can also make a FaceTime (audio and visual) call during which your agent walks through a home, sharing footage of the features. You can also direct your agent to show you what you want to see and uncover any blind spots in the original video.

Continue to Realtor.com for the full article.