Happy New Year! You’re probably tired of hearing that and all but ‘through’ with the holiday thing, however, here we are several days into the new 2013 year with all sorts of financial and otherwise turmoil going on with our State and Federal governments. But, life goes on and maybe you have some plans in the works that includes moving and purchasing a new, or at least a new to you home. Your timing to purchase probably couldn’t be better seeing that there is a pretty fair amount of homes on the market for sale and the prices are exceptionally reasonable, plus interest rates on home loans are the lowest I’ve ever seen. If you are like many people today you’ll probably start the whole process by doing a little dreaming and begin cruising various realtor and other web sites looking at what homes/properties are out there in the area you plan to move to, and to get a feel for prices and what will fit into your budget. But, this is exactly where I want to throw up the first caution flag. What you see and read on those web sites concerning the properties up for sale may well not be what they actually are ‘in real person’. Seriously, the Internet has transformed the process of buying or selling a home in wonderful ways, but it has also increased the opportunities for mischief. With digital color pictures, videos, interactive photos and floor plans, and even some homes with their own YouTube sites, it’s easier now than ever to get you ‘drooling’ over all the amenities like gourmet kitchens with Viking ranges, sparkling pools and dazzling landscaped yards with lush green lawns. The problem is, that an, well let’s call it ‘overly enthusiastic’, seller or realtor can easily Photoshop photos and edit videos to make a house and its neighborhood seem far more attractive than they actually are. Some sellers have been known to post kitchens and gardens that you won’t actually find in the actual property. Videos get color-corrected so that grass, flowers and trees look fresh and alive. A house may appear to be freshly painted, but the picture was actually taken five years ago. I think that you get the idea…use the Internet information, but don’t get to excited and in love with the property until you’ve actually taken the time to go and see it in person. The financials concerning the property that may have caught your eye is another area that you have to be particularly careful and do some extra ‘foot work’, especially if you are inclined to visit sites like Zillow, CyberHomes or Realtor.com. These sites can have vastly different valuations, and I can’t give you an answer why, but they do many times. So, the best bet is to get out of the virtual world and into the real world. The only way to get an accurate property valuation is to hire an Appraiser, which I don’t really recommend as their fee is $350+ and the bank will want one of their own (that you will be charged for) to make the loan, so if you are considering buying a home, consult a realtor that has ‘worked’ the area for years if not decades as they will know the realistic values of the particular neighborhoods. If you are selling a home, consider inviting several realtors to walk through your home and analyze its value based on recent comparable sales. I could go on and on with warnings and examples of pit falls, but the bottom line as far as I’m concerned is to use the Internet up to a point, but then do your own legwork and check everything out for yourself and use a realtor you have vetted and trust explicitly.