The days when the only realistic course of action for prospective homebuyers was to scan localities and properties personally are over. Though personal inspection of short-listed options is obviously still de rigueur before the final purchase, the actual process of short-listing has become increasingly virtual.

Today, a significant section of Indian homebuyers launch their search by scanning available options listed on the Internet. It is only after this process has yielded enough prospects that they physically inspect properties. Certainly, there are a number of advantages to using the on-line approach in the initial stages of a home search. The Internet allows a prospective homebuyer to analyze the 'vital statistics' of an unlimited range of properties in the shortest possible time.

Online real estate listings often feature photographs, as well - this helps in the visual aspect of home selection. However, the hackneyed slew of artist's impressions certainly serves as no more than the roughest of yardsticks. In this respect, we are still a way off from more advanced Internet listing systems in the West, wherein buyers can inspect properties in 'surround-view' panoramic views.

Far more important than the often-misleading visual aspect, however, is the fact that real estate listings on the Internet describe at least some of the features of the locations in question. Indian property buyers are now highly attuned to the need of proximity to important features such as schools, places of religious worship, shopping centers, leisure facilities, public transport options and general connectivity to key areas within the city.

Nor does the Internet's utility in property location end with developer's listings, which will understandably not enumerate an area's drawbacks. Basic search engine skills suffice to establish almost any location's status in terms of traffic patterns, general property rates, incidence of crime, existing and potential hazards and the presence or absence of basic amenities.

The Internet is a very useful tool when it comes to eliminating properties and localities on the basis of personal preferences. No longer is a homebuyer limited to choosing from a handful of available options because of budget constraints
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