Whether you’re looking to buy or build a new home, just starting your home search, or deep in the process of finding your forever home, your phone can be a portal to all the information you need. From honing in on the perfect location to getting alerts when new listings hit the market, these tips for digital home searching can help you find your perfect home from the palm of your hand.
Determine Your Criteria
Before starting your search, decide which are the most important features for your next home. Price, location, square footage, and number of bedrooms and bathrooms should be your starting point, but what about that fenced-in yard for the dog or a three-car garage? Making a list of non-negotiables can make it a little easier to navigate your options.
Download A Home Search App
Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, and Owners.com are some of the most popular apps for house hunting, and the app you choose will likely depend on where you are looking and what type of property you want.
All the apps pull their data from the MLS service, so you’ll see the same properties listed. Download and test a few and choose the one that you find the easiest to navigate. That way, you can easily view listings, manage your favorites, and share properties as you begin your hunt.
App Features to Look For
As you explore each app, these features can help simplify your home search:
- Robust search filters
The ability to filter by number of bedrooms, square footage, taxes, exterior features, property type, distance from certain amenities, and any other factor that is important to you will help make the process easier. This way, you won’t waste your time looking at properties that don’t meet your criteria.
- Interactive map
The ability to zoom in and out on properties that interest you can help weed out any that are in an undesirable location (for example, right next to a parking lot or by a busy road) that might not be mentioned in the realtor’s description.
- Chat features
The ability to easily contact a realtor when you see a property you are interested in is helpful. Look for an app with a chat/text message option, which can be faster than email.
- GPS capability
GPS uses your phone’s location to show you homes for sale in your area, making it easier to search in your target neighborhoods.
- Listing alerts
These are key in a hot market. Once you’ve set your filters, you’ll get an alert as soon as a new property meeting your criteria hits the market.
- Easy-to-use sharing tools
Look for features that make it easy to “favorite” a property so you can return to it later. Options for sharing your favorites with family and friends via text messaging, email, and so on are important tools and help with the difficult decision-making process.
- Neighborhood information
Current and detailed information on local school ratings, crime reports, walkability scores, public transportation options, and other livability factors can help you narrow down the area you want to live in.
- Market value estimates
Zillow’s app offers a “Zestimate” feature that uses algorithms to determine home values in the area. It can be a great tool for negotiating and to ensure you’re paying fair market price.
- Mortgage calculator
Trulia’s mortgage calculator offers a full breakdown of buying costs, helping to eliminate any surprises once you’ve put an offer in.
- “Hot Home” feature
Redfin’s app has a feature that uses algorithms to determine if a home has an 80% chance of accepting an offer within two weeks of going on the market.
- “Snap & Search” feature
Some apps offer a time-saving feature that lets you take a photo of a property and get the details right away.
If You’re Building A Home
You can also find vacant land on the MLS system, so the apps above can help you find the perfect spot to build a home. Use the filters and GPS features to find the right location and lot size.
While you’re looking for the right location, you’ll also want to find the right house plan. The House Designers’ mobile search for house plans gives you full access to an array of plans that can be filtered to your own specifications. The filters include: foundation options, lot characteristics, architectural style, number of bathrooms and bedrooms, closet options, and more. But remember—it’s easier to match a house plan to the land than the other way around. Therefore, you should purchase your lot before buying blueprints. However excited you are to choose your dream home, it’s better to wait until you know where you’ll put it.
House hunting can be exciting—and stressful. As you continue your search, your cell phone can help you find (or build) the perfect home to fit your needs.
Jennifer Pattison Tuohy is a freelance writer and contributing writer for Xfinity Mobile. She writes about mobile phone technology, consumer tech, small businesses, and green living for a variety of newspapers, magazines, and online publications.