Home ownership really isn’t everything I’ve been led to believe it is. There’s a lot of work involved in maintaining the place where you decide to hang your hat.
For instance, there’s the weekly maintenance that includes (depending on where you live and the time of year) mowing the lawn, raking leaves, shoveling snow, landscaping, sweeping the walkway, weeding, and a long list of other chores. And that’s just the outside of the house! The American Dream can be a nightmare!
I guess if your pockets are deep enough you can hire someone to do much of that stuff for you, but if you’re sa simple man (or woman) of even simpler means then the rake, shovel, and broom are your weekend companions.
I love the outdoors, but I hate yard work. I can think of other things to do with my time other than getting all hot, sweaty, and bug-bit while polluting the air with the exhaust from a gas push mower to shorten grass that I fertilize and water to make grown. I feel like a gerbil in one of those wire wheels, no matter how fast I run, or in my case, push that mower, I am going nowhere.
On the other hand, I can’t deny that after the mowing and edging and trimming and sweeping and blowing and bagging my place looks good from the curb. And I do like the azaleas and crepe myrtles when they bloom, and the shade from the trees during the summer is welcomed.
I guess it’s back to the wire wheel for me.
Lately, however, I’ve been seriously thinking about downsizing, finding a much smaller place with a much smaller yard to deal with. This is actually not a bad time to think about these things because mortgage interest rates are low (averaging around 4% for most folks) and while the cost of new and existing homes are increasing, they are still pretty low. I’m thinking that maybe I should put my house on the market and use the proceeds and find a nice little bungalow or small light industrial building that I can fix up. Maybe setup a photography studio. Ahh, that would be the life!
If I want to do that I need to know what the housing market looks like in my area, and there are many free iOS apps that will let me do just that and more.
Take Zillow for instance. Here’s an a realtor agnostic app that lets you check out all of the listed homes on the market in any area of the U.S. you’re interested in living in. This is really a cool app! Define your search using parameters such as cost, number of bed and bathrooms, size and more and you can see all of the hit laid out on a map. In the iPad version the map is accompanied by a list of the mostly likely search hits, complete with a brief description and photo! That list is just a finger swipe away on the iPhone.
And here’s the coolest feature of all; you can limit your search to a particular area on the map simply by drawing a circle around it with your finger! You can then save your searches or send them through your social media of choice.
Zillow lists places for rent or purchase, and can even give you an estimate of how much your current home will list for. If you’re thinking about buying, selling, or renting grab Zillow first.
It’s always good to get a second opinion and you can do that easily enough when searching for a new home by grabbing another app. Realtor.com’s app is free and offers many of the same features Zillow does including the circle-the-area-of-interest search. It will also keep track of where you are and update the local listings on the map to show homes for sale in your immediate area. That’s pretty cool.
I’m not a fan of how it list homes, however. You don’t have the option to set your search parameters for homes between $50k and $200k, for instance, it only offers “Up to $200k”. You then have to adjust your sort order and go through the list to find the price range you want. You can hit the “Show more listings” button to get more listings as well. A bit cumbersome, but it works and it’s free.
The current state of the real estate market is a mixed bag. There are new listings for homes for sale and, unfortunately, foreclosures every day. What may be a misfortune for one person might be a great opportunity for another, and having a list of foreclosed homes in an area could reveal that opportunity to you. That’s why you might want to get the HUD Homes app.
HUD (Housing and Urban Development) is the government agency that underwrote many homes that are now ownerless and this app provides a listing of those dwellings in your area.
The app is pretty basic. Load in a search area by city, state, zip code and other parameters then the app will pinpoint the homes on a map meeting your criteria. Often the listings don’t have photos associated with them, and you have to get a free account to learn more about a place of interest.
The problem is that when you get that account someone will likely start bugging you about your home buying interests. Note that this is NOT a government sponsored app and the company behind it is NOT associated with the government agency called HUD.
If you really are interested in foreclosed homes then this is where you likely should start your search, just make sure that when you register for an account you provide email addresses that you don’t mind getting junk mail sent to and phone numbers that you don’t mind getting random and unsolicited calls on.
Happy house hunting.
That’s a wrap for this week. More free real estate related apps below with direct links.