How Technology and Social Media are Changing the Home Buying Process

By on January 14, 2018

What was house hunting like before the mass use of the internet in the 2000s? Cruising for hours in search of colorful “for sale” signs in someone’s front yard, working closely with a real estate agent, taking time to visit dozens of houses looking for that one perfect home; it was a lot of work. Home buying is still no easy task, but mobile and online technology have brought huge changes to industries the world over, and real estate is no exception.

Nowadays, there are now so many smartphone apps, websites and online tools to aid us in the house-hunting process, that we can complete much of the detailed work from home and browse for residences at our own time before sitting down with your real estate agent to review the homes you are serious about. Of course, different agents and cities may have their own uses of real estate technology and you might not always be able to find everything that exists, but chances are that as you shop for a home you will definitely see technology in various aspects of your transactions.

For example, you can find out all sorts of information about the value of your house and the neighboring houses by a quick online search. You can find out what the neighboring homes are worth, how much a home has recently sold for in your prospective area and the reasons why they are valued that way. This makes a huge difference in making smart decisions throughout the home buying process.

Having so many new options for home buying can seem a bit overwhelming. There are so many smartphone apps, social media platforms and websites out there that picking out the ones worth your time can be a challenge. Here are some of your best options for harnessing the power of modern technology to make your house-hunting expedition as comprehensive and painless as possible. Once you’ve done the legwork, you can lean on your trusted real estate agent to offer their expert opinion on your top choices and make financing to get your keys less stressful!

Tracking Down the Perfect Home

Listings are typically posted on the agent’s website and a few clicks of the mouse will give the prospective homebuyers all sorts of information about the home, its great features, special upgrades, offers, and possibly even financing possibilities. Some even have great virtual tours which allow you to walk through the home with videos or 3D models.

You can also use maps (such as Zillow, Google or Apple Maps) to look specifically at an address and see what a realistic price might be, or you can even just look at a neighborhood and see what property values are in that area. You can also look at street views of any homes you are considering through simple map applications or you can look at various real estate listings online to see what homes are for sale in a neighborhood that appeals to you. Additionally, you get a feel for the amenities, entertainment, school and churches to ensure you are making the best decision for your lifestyle.

Apps for Determining How Much Mortgage you can Afford

Crunching mortgage numbers on paper is no fun. There are a lot of big numbers involved: how much you plan to put down in cash, how long the mortgage will last (10, 20 or 30 years), what the interest rate will be, how much the house costs, expected inflation, possible closing costs. Why try to calculate it the hard way when there are applications built specifically to make mortgages easier to understand?

There are dozens of free, easy-to-use mortgage calculators on smartphone apps and websites that make mortgage calculation a snap. For example, the New York Times offers an extensive process for determining if you should buy or rent. The website calculates an expected mortgage (or rent) based on home prices, interest, inflation, deposits, utilities and so much more. If you are debating whether or not to buy, this is a great place to start.

Zillow offers a simple calculator to break your mortgage numbers down into tables, graphs charts and a summary showing just how much of the mortgage comes from principal and interest. Just remember to run the numbers again with your agent to ensure they are accurate given your personal financial situation and regional nuances.

Planning for Property Taxes

When calculating a new mortgage you CANNOT forget to account for your property taxes. Some mortgage calculators will help you figure out how much in taxes to expect from your new residence, others ignore them completely or want you to input the dollar amount manually, but how are you supposed to know what to input?

Paying taxes isn’t much fun, but it will be a big part of the home buying process you need to understand. Every state or county has a Department of Revenue or Assessor with tax records and a directory of property taxes information. Official property search tools can give you a detailed description of any address you plug in. Armed with tax information, mortgage calculators and a huge selection of realty search engines, it’s time to go out and find that perfect home.

Using Social Media to Buy a Real Estate

The use of social media in the buying process is increasing each year — in 2011 only half of buyers were using social media to survey homes and connect with agents, now it’s estimated to be three-quarters and soon 90 percent or more. Buyers primarily use social media for buying tips and suggestions from friends and family, acquiring useful neighborhood information, and to view their agents’ Facebook page.

The internet is now a normal part of our daily routine, so it is no surprise that it is an important tool to buyers in the home buying process. The apps and online space are there to make the process run smoother than ever, but they cannot take the place of your trusted real estate agent. Do your homework online, go to your trusted agent for advice when reviewing properties, understanding the condition of each home and search for the best financing options given your personal credit and money situation.

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