The old-fashioned method of driving around to check out homes and neighborhoods hasn’t entirely disappeared, but it’s definitely received a 21st-century makeover with the introduction of mobile apps.
A variety of apps are available to help potential buyers look for a home, check out the neighborhood and local schools and connect with a Realtor from their mobile devices. In addition, home buyers and homeowners who intend to upgrade their dwellings can rely on apps to help their renovation plans.
“What I like about this app is that it gives you all the nearby rentals [and nearby for-sale properties] based on your location,” says Sheena Price, 29, who uses an app created by Avery-Hess Realtors. Price and her husband, Frank, have been searching for properties to either rent or buy.
“Once you click on nearby sales, you get a list of properties, photos and it tells you how much they are,” Price adds.
According to “The Digital House Hunt: Consumer and Market Trends in Real Estate,” a 2013 study by the National Association of Realtors and Google, 89 percent of home buyers use a mobile search engine and 68 percent use a mobile app at the onset and throughout their home search.
If you’re a buyer, it can be tough to decide which app to download onto your smartphone, but here are a few that are useful at different points during the home-buying process:
Apps for buyersDoorsteps Swipe:
“The goal of Doorsteps overall is to turn a curious buyer into a confident buyer,” Serro says. Many apps for buyers can be overwhelming, so Swipes is geared to people early in the process who want to look at homes in their location or in a specific area. They only get the photo and address and then swipe left or right to show whether they like the house. After they save five listings, they receive a summary of information about what they have said they liked.
“It’s designed to be fun yet educational, like wrapping a textbook in a piece of chocolate cake,” Serro says.
After two months or so, Serro says, Swipe customers are ready to graduate to the Realtor.com app for more information.Homesnap:
“You can use it for something as casual as snapping a photo of a friend’s house to see what he paid for his new home or more seriously when you’re looking for a home,” says Guy Wolcott, chief executive of Homesnap. “You can use it collaboratively and send the photo and data with your mobile device to your brother, your wife or your real estate agent.”
Wolcott says real estate agents are also using the app to interact with their buyers or to get information on a property. Buyers can see the same information as agents, such as photos; how long a property has been on the market; and school information, including ratings.
Matthew Rathbun, a Realtor and executive vice president with Coldwell Banker Elite in Fredericksburg, Va., uses Homesnap to find out the history of homes.
Avery-Hess Realtors’ agents use personally branded apps that include data updated directly from the local Multiple Listing Service.
“Buyers get an edge over the competition for homes because they can click on a house that’s for sale and get all the available information instantly,” says Amy Cherry Taylor, an associate broker with Avery-Hess Realtors in Fredericksburg. “Buyers can hit ‘share’ to send to their Realtor, spouse or anyone else or hit ‘contact’ to get in touch with their buyers’ agent.”
This app, like most mobile apps, functions with your smartphone’s GPS navigator so you can find properties at any time near where you’re driving or walking. Buyers can get e-mail alerts through the app for new listings that meet their search criteria and also use the app for regular property searches when they’re at home.Sitegeist: iPMT:
“The app can help you decide to rent or buy and can demonstrate the tax savings if you buy and bring up a 30-year amortization schedule,” Rathbun says. “It’s great, too, because if you make an offer and the sellers want you to counter with $10,000 more, you can instantly use the calculator to see how little difference that may make in your monthly payment.”Close It!:
Sellers can use the app, too, to calculate their net proceeds based on the sales price and the property jurisdiction. The app allows users to modify the details of each transaction for individual accuracy.
APPS FOR RENOVATIONSHouzz: iScape: HomeZada: EasyMeasure: MagicPlan: Handy Man DIY:
Whether you’re a buyer or a homeowner, your mobile device can provide the information you need to make smarter decisions.