3 Free iOS Apps For The House Hunter

| Free on iTunes

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.

Zillow

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.

Realtor.com

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.

HUD Homes

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.

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Comments

wab95

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.

Vern:

I feel your pain. Hence, my purchase of a townhouse. Actually, not even my original idea, but that of a family friend who gave me some big-brotherly advice as I pondered my purchase on moving my family to the US. As I would be gone for much if not most of the year, leaving all of those outdoor chores to my wife (and then still early adolescent aged kids) was a non-starter. My wife, though American, knows enough of the American dream to be un-enamoured of the outdoor maintenance that goes with home ownership. She loves the townhouse, more so than do I (I really much prefer the farmhouse with sprawling spread in the country), but to quote Sting, “If it’s perfect for her, it’s perfect for me”.

That said, when I made that purchase, I went online (Safari that is), and did all my hunting that way. We had a broker, which I still think you need in many circumstances, but I could show her my list for the day (sent as a page snapshot with a link sent by email) and off we went. The broker had the advantage of knowing not only the market, but the neighbourhoods that we were going to visit, and developed an uncanny sense of what my wife, in particular, would like (yes, they conspired, and I was reduced to a minority opinion).

While I like the concept of Zillow, does it allow you go inside the home and ‘look’ around? Would that be add-on functionality? I could envision an iPad version that lets you do just that while out and about. Combined with realtime updates on pricing and availability, such an app would be a killer.

Think about that townhouse, if you really want to escape the yard work.

Intruder

@wab95: “While I like the concept of Zillow, does it allow you go inside the home and ?look? around? “

That depends on what has been uploaded by the seller. Most have photos of the inside. Some also have “virtual tours” that you can watch. These are usually automatic slide shows of the very same photos.

There is also an app from Trulia. I’ve found Trulia to be more accurate than Zillow. Zillow often shows homes that are sold as being available. Their “estimates” are also easily manipulated.

wab95

There is also an app from Trulia.


Many thanks, Intruder.

Cheers.

Vern Seward

I’m going to check out Trulia also. Thanks!

Wab95: I had a townhouse when I lived in VA and loved it. I was born and raise in a rowhouse in Baltimore so I know what urban living can be like and miss it.

On the other hand, I’ve grown use to having separation between me and my neighbors, even if that space is only a few feet of grass and brush. I like the privacy I can have outdoors, even if it’s just implied or imagined.

I’m not sure if there’s a place that offers both at a price I can afford, but then, ya never know.

Vern

Cre8tive Apps

Hey Vern, nice write up on the apps. The problem with search apps is they can’t give you the same insight about the neighborhoods, traffice, schools, etc.  that is where realtor expertise comes in. These apps can help narrow a list but they don’t give you the full picture.

Also, these are good for doing some initial searching. But what about when its time to start looking at the homes in person, capturing notes, pictures and other data?  What about something that can help evaluate and compare the homes to each other and against a wants/needs list?

You might want to look at House Hunter (our app).  It’s a tool for home buyers that helps them keep organized while they are searching for their next home. They can capture pictures and notes as they wal through homes, organize all their data easily and automatically so they will never forget which house had which feature. They can create prioitized feature lists and share them with their agent so their agent can help them identify house that best fit their needs.  They can use the app to evaluate/score homes based upon their feature list and then compare homes to each other.

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