Janis Peterson, GRI, ABR, CSP Realtor®
Philadelphia Main Line Homes and Real Estate
Montgomery, Delaware, and Chester Counties
Relocation Specialist
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Telephone: (610) 642-3744 Pure Gold Award Real Estate Web Page e-certified Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors Real Estate
Fax: (610) 658-0267
E-mail: jp4re@pahomes.com
Home page: www.pahomes.com

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Subject: Is It Safe To Buy Real Estate Over The Internet?  

While you can buy almost anything online, you cannot really buy a home on the Internet – yet. You can definitely shop for a home online. Detailed property information and virtual tours are available. You can take the first steps to obtain a home loan over the Internet and you can even obtain an appraisal. You can exchange information with your real estate professional via e-mail. But the actual closing of your home will require real signatures, at least for now.

For those elements of the transaction that can be performed online, you should take steps to insure that your experience protects your privacy and valuable assets while avoiding errors. Consider taking these steps to make your online real estate transactions simple and stress-free:

Work with reputable companies known to you. Almost anyone with an e-mail address can set up a web page on the Internet. By working through a solid and reliable company, you reduce your chances of being exposed to questionable business practices or shoddy Internet security procedures.

Use an established Internet browser software. Programs like Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Communicator incorporate state-of-the-art data-encryption capability. This means that web pages supporting secure communications can receive and send information to you in a manner that is extremely difficult for anyone else to see. Extremely difficult. The encryption technology used is similar to that used in the International Banking System.

Not only is your privacy protected when using a secure Internet page and browser, your information is protected from piracy while in transmission. No system is foolproof. Dishonest employees at the other end could conceivably misuse your information, but that is true of any confidential information you exchange in a real estate transaction.

Keep a paper trail. Even in situations where you feel confident that the information is safely stored on a computer somewhere, a paper trail is a good idea. Obtaining access to information you send in an HTML form may prove difficult once you have pressed the send button. By selecting the print option immediately before submitting a form or sending an e-mail, you can keep a printed record of your transaction.

Follow established backup procedures. Many home computer users do not follow established procedures. That may be acceptable if you only use your computer to play games. But if your computer is now storing important household records, it is imperative that you learn to backup that information. A variety of good software applications are available that will manage this process for you. Once backed up, try storing a copy of your data on disk or tape in your safety deposit box, just like you would with other important household or financial documents.

If it seems too good to be true… Remember the old adage, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Use caution when dealing with people you have never met and whose home or office you have never seen. Ask questions until you are satisfied with the answers. And then get the advice of someone on your side, a real estate professional and an attorney.

Your best bet today for use of the Internet in real estate is to use it as a property search tool. The Internet will save you a lot of time and present you with more and better-defined choices than you might have had in the past. It will empower you in many ways by giving you information that was once accessed by professionals only. Everything from locator maps to community information may be accessed to help you make the best decisions possible. This is unquestionably a positive development for consumers and for the real estate industry. Nevertheless, common sense and simple precautions will help assure that you do not get into trouble with that information when conducting portions of your real estate transaction on the Internet.

"Real Service in Real Estate." For a personal consultation on buying or selling real estate, Janis Peterson, GRI, ABR, CSP Realtor® can be reached at (610) 642-3744, e-mail: jp4re@pahomes.com. Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors® is an independently owned and operated member of The Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc.

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