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North Hills Monthly

Live hAPPily Ever After: Real Estate Apps Provide Information Right at Your Fingertips

Sep 01, 2017 08:30AM ● By Jennifer Monahan

Considering a move? According to North Hills’ real estate agents, the local housing market is hot right now. Through the magic of the Internet, buyers and sellers have more information at their fingertips than ever before. For consumers on the go, smart phone real estate apps provide helpful tools to inform the home buying or selling process.

Although is ultimately a way to connect consumers with mortgage lenders, the LendingTree Mortgage Calculator app has an array of useful tools for anyone interested in buying a home—regardless of whether home buyers plan to use the app to seek out loans. The rent vs. buy feature helps potential homeowners determine whether buying is a sound financial decision, factoring in the local housing and renting markets and intended duration of stay. The app’s home affordability feature provides a detailed report that first considers the user’s income, down payment, debt, income tax and how conservative or aggressive the potential homeowner wants to be in estimating affordability. The monthly mortgage payment calculator is another great tool, especially for first-time homebuyers who may not realize that property taxes, homeowners’ insurance, homeowners’ association (HOA) dues and private mortgage insurance (PMI) can significantly drive up monthly house payments. [Free; available on iOS and Android]

The Zillow Real Estate app does it all. Users can browse rentals as well as homes for sale, access Zillow’s estimate for the home’s market value, receive updates when homes hit the market or drop in price and check out the ratings and reviews for local schools. Users praise the app’s functionality and ease of use. As with the website, consumers can filter searches on the app by price, location, and number of bedrooms or bathrooms. Buyers may connect with local agents, shop mortgage rates and view market trends. The app offers handy payment and affordability calculators that can take some of the guesswork out of whether a home is truly within the buyer’s price range. The Redfin and Trulia apps are two solid alternatives with similar functionality. Trulia has a fantastic mortgage calculator, but beware of the “what’s my home worth” tool; the only way to get the results is by agreeing to have a real estate agent contact you directly. [Each of these apps is free and available on iOS and Android]

The Real Estate app allows users to search for homes by a particular school or district, and it syncs with a user’s online profile to access saved listings, searches and favorites. The app has an informative “news and insights” feature that contains articles on topics like the top 10 affordable towns with the best schools or what luxury home builders consider worth the splurge. While the app is clunkier than Zillow and has fewer nifty tools, it provides a helpful mobile version of the website. Bottom line: as a way to augment the website, the app is fantastic. As a stand-alone app, it may not be worth the effort—stick with Zillow. [Free; available on iOS and Android]

House hunters all have different approaches. For people just starting to get a feel for the local market, Howard Hanna’s Open Houses app can be a great resource. The app lets users search for upcoming open houses by date in a particular area, then save them to a personal itinerary. Search parameters include zip code or city, minimum and maximum price range and number of bedrooms and bathrooms. The app allows home buyers to break a potentially overwhelming process down into manageable chunks, e.g., making a plan to check out three or four open houses in one afternoon. [Free; available on iOS and Android]

For anyone who has fallen in love with a house while driving by, the Homesnap app is a must. It allows users to snap a photo of a home for sale and instantly pull up the listing price, details about the number of bathrooms and bedrooms, and even property tax records. [Free; available on iOS and Android]

Dwellr from the U.S. Census Bureau is a fun tool to help individuals dream about the best place to live, specific to each person’s desires. The app matches U.S. Census Bureau statistics with the user’s preferences. Dwellr is easy to use and helpfully allows more than one answer to questions about whether the individual sees herself living in a small town, suburb, small city or big city. It also considers questions about careers, commuting preferences and levels of education. Upon completion of the original brief set of questions, users rank how important each answer is and then receive a list of the 25 best matches. Click on any one of the results to find out more about the city’s population and relevant statistics. [Free; available on iOS and Android]

Whether you are actively searching for a new home or just dreaming about the best place to relocate, real estate and home buying apps can help streamline the search process.