Do you need a new place to live? Purchasing a house is both an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. Buying a home is likely the greatest financial transaction most people will ever do, and it can quickly go from being a pleasant daydream to a stressful, sleep-deprived nightmare.
Thankfully, the tools we have at our disposal now make this task easier than ever. You don’t even have to get out of bed or off the couch to do your daily tasks.
Below you’ll find 17 no-cost tools that might assist you in your search for a house. Have no fear; mastery of each is not required. Several of them are similar, so you may enjoy the ones you like and disregard the rest.
Finding Homes and Learning About Home Values
The first things that come to mind when people think of home buying tools are websites and smartphone applications where you can look through listings and learn about house sales in the area.
There are several of them, and they all have their advantages. Listed below are a handful of the top options, each with its own set of advantages and idiosyncrasies.
Zillow is the most well-known real estate search website, and you’ve certainly used it at least once. There’s a good reason they’ve dominated the real estate industry: their platform is the most powerful available.
Sure, they publish ads for houses available for purchase or lease. However, they also keep track of a huge amount of data about previously listed homes, including sales and rental pricing from the past, as well as detailed information on the number of bedrooms, baths, features, and images. Their data trove allows them to produce the widely-known Zestimates of property prices, which, although being inflated to begin with, improve in accuracy each year.
Zillow has robust filtering tools that aren’t overbearing while searching through available houses. To narrow your search for a house, you may use filters for things like price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, property type, and square footage. You may further narrow your results by selecting other criteria to filter by, such as HOA fees, garage space, a swimming pool, central air conditioning, a basement, a floor plan with no more than one level, a certain view, or even unique keywords like “hardwood floors.” You can locate every item you would need.
The market statistics overviews provided by Zillow are also quite good. Market snapshots at the city or neighborhood level are available, and they may be seen to see past house appreciation, rentals, and projected future appreciation, among other things.
Plus, they also include Auction.com auction listings, which is a great touch. Soon to follow: more on them.
Trulia was formerly seen as Zillow’s biggest rival and danger. In 2015, Zillow sent a check to acquire Trulia, which put an end to the issue. As a consequence, both systems may leverage the information and capabilities of the other. Unlike Zillow, which attempts to handle everything, Trulia is focused on matching homebuyers with their ideal property.
The system is less complicated than its predecessor yet just as powerful. Information such as crime maps, school district maps, commute times, tax assessment numbers, and past sales figures are included in the listings.
Trulia’s affordability calculator is a standout feature. Trulia’s mortgage calculator goes above and beyond what’s offered by other online real estate sites by factoring in things like property taxes, insurance, HOA fees, and mortgage insurance. It’s a great tool for ensuring that first-time homeowners don’t make the common error of spending more than they can afford.
Even if it’s only to send you to their affiliate partners, Trulia will remind you to budget for things like Internet, cable TV, and landline phone service. If you prefer an easy-to-use interface over a plethora of extra features, Trulia is a fantastic alternative. For more information on Trulia, please read our in-depth assessment.
Redfin is a real estate agency in addition to providing access to property listings. This offers it an edge over competing properties in the eyes of potential purchasers.
Since Redfin is a broker, it has access to nearly real-time listing data from the MLS. With an update frequency of once every five minutes, they are able to get new listings up and running far more quickly than sites like Zillow and Trulia.
Redfin is a brokerage that also provides online scheduling of showings for prospective purchasers. To contrast, Zillow and Trulia only let consumers contact the listing agent.
You can get a “Redfin Refund” if you hire a buyer’s agent via Redfin. The firm claims that the typical buyer receives $1,700 in rebates at closing since they rebate a portion of the agent charge. In the same vein as Trulia, Redfin has a superb affordability calculator.
Realtor.com’s strong suit is in its user-friendly representation of data.
Similarly to the aforementioned selections, they do provide listings and filters. Since it is the official site of the National Association of Realtors, Realtor.com has a more direct connection to the multiple listing service (MLS) than its competitors Zillow and Trulia, and hence its listings are updated more often.
Plus, they provide a sleek, user-friendly interface for checking out crime statistics, school zones, and public transportation options in your area via handy overlay maps. If you activate the crime view, for instance, a heat map depicting crime rates will appear on top of your listing search. You can view real-time traffic data, public transit routes, or even bike lanes overlaid on your map. It’s a cool and practical addition.
As could be expected, they also provide a top-notch matching service to assist you choose the best real estate agent for your needs. Affordability calculators, rent vs. purchase calculators, “Price Perfect” buying power calculators, and an easy mortgage comparison shopping platform are just some of the numerous free services available.
Simply put, the Homesnap app allows users to upload photos of themselves in front of houses they like that are currently on the market. Homesnap makes it simple to access listing information, property details, photos, sales history, and agent profiles. All it takes to book a showing is a click of a button, and your agent will get the message.
To put it another way, its features are comparable to those of sites like Zillow, Trulia, and Redfin. You may access several tools such as locations, listings, bookmarked searches, and new listing alerts.
Homesnap is distinguished from other similar services since it gives users instantaneous access to MLS listing data and is utilized by a large number of real estate professionals. This eliminates the need to hold out on scheduling showings or making offers while waiting for fresh listings or updates, providing you a possible advantage over other homebuyers.
Homesnap can assist you in finding a real estate agent if you do not already have one.
Photos and status updates may be sent directly from your mobile device using Homesnap to your real estate agent.
Want to find a good deal? Foreclosure auctions, bank-owned properties (often known as “REOs” in the real estate industry), and auctions by individual owners may all be found on Auction.com. The company claims to be the largest online real estate auction platform in the United States, with over 30,000 such houses listed for sale at any given moment.
Remember that these houses usually need some TLC on your part. Alterations, or even a complete overhaul in rare situations.
Foreclosure auctions require extra caution. Before placing a bid on a foreclosed home, you often won’t have access to the inside, leaving you in the dark about the property’s condition. Do not try to handle a foreclosure on your own.
REOs and auctions when the owner is selling voluntarily can be good places to locate deals. As soon as you win an auction, you must pay immediately or lose your deposit, so be sure you have the funds available before you bid.
Xome, a relative newcomer to the internet real estate market, also offers a broad variety of houses for auction.
However, they take a somewhat different tack, proposing to act as a one-stop shop for the homebuying process. Xome, like Redfin, is a full-fledged brokerage that can put you in touch with a local expert to help you buy or sell a home. Through their connections with direct lenders, they may also assist you in getting a loan.
In addition to facilitating the ordering of a house inspection and appraisal, Xome also handles the settlement of a property purchase through its website. However, not everyone is happy to trust such a large portion of the process to a single, virtual corporation. However, for some, the prospect of having a single business take care of every aspect of the home-buying process is a dream come true.
Just so there’s no confusion, Roofstock is not meant for anyone looking to purchase a house. The target audience consists of property investors.
This implies that purchasers may get great offers and discounts on turnkey real estate projects on Roofstock. You won’t need to do any major work to make a turnkey property livable, but as the new owner, you’ll likely want to make a few cosmetic changes.
Roofstock provides a plethora of information relevant to the property and surrounding area.
Along with the normal images, amenities, and listing data, you can generally also examine a home inspection report for the property. And with the efficiency of an investor, Roofstock weighs the neighborhood’s benefits and drawbacks.
City and Neighborhood Study
While most of the aforementioned tools do provide information on the housing market as a whole, their primary purpose is to facilitate the search for and evaluation of individual listings.
The following tools can assist you in your quest for the ideal city and area. They provide a variety of information, all of it free of charge, including economic statistics like unemployment rates and demographic data like population growth.
Home buyers and sellers may use NeighborhoodScout’s heat maps, population and crime statistics, and information about area schools. A city, postal code, or full street address can be entered to find a specific location. Violent and property crimes, as well as crime rates per 1,000 population and comparisons to state and national averages, may all be viewed. Crime rate mapping is another feature of the site.
NeighborhoodScout provides in-depth demographic data for each given region, including its population, age distribution, educational attainment, median income statistics, top employer industries, ethnicity data, common ancestries, and languages spoken. Data about schools and their finances, as well as demographics like enrollment and average class size, are all available.
You should know that some features of NeighborhoodScout are only accessible after paying a fee. Examining standardized test results or house value trends at the district level, for instance, can set you back some cash. Still, it’s a terrific place to begin exploring a new region because it provides a lot of details about any town or neighborhood for no cost at all.
AreaVibes is an advanced platform that provides extra information for no extra cost. Instead of charging for access to some content, they rely on advertising and affiliate sales to stay afloat.
Consequently, the website doesn’t scrimp on detail despite its aesthetically cluttered and oftentimes overpowering design. AreaVibes aims to provide comprehensive information about a neighborhood, including its demographics, real estate and housing market statistics, income distribution, crime rates, educational institutions, and climate. They are often successful, too.
In particular, the use of letter grades is helpful. On a scale from A to F, they evaluate factors including livability, amenities, cost of living, crime, jobs, housing, schools, and weather to determine a community’s overall grade. If you want additional information about a certain community, you can always click on its name.
DataUSA.io, as the name implies, is a wealth of information for your ongoing study. They provide a wealth of statistics about a town, including its median age, median income, median home value, and median number of people working there.
Want to discover how much each ethnic group in a given city earns on average for different kinds of jobs? In terms of gender, perhaps? Alternatively, by census tract. The services provided by DataUSA are comprehensive and cost nothing.
Insurance coverage, average health care spending, mental health, and patient-doctor ratios are just a few of the local health patterns that may be gleaned from this data. All of them have visual representations of the data for easier understanding.
DataUSA provides a plethora of extra details not seen on NeighborhoodScout, but the sheer volume of information may prove to be too much to digest in a single sitting. However, the content is well-structured, allowing quick access to topics including the economy, health, diversity, education, and housing & living.
When deciding on a city, area, and property, parents often place a premium on the quality of the local schools. All of the aforementioned options provide some sort of school information, but GreatSchools.org does it with greater precision and style than the others.
Using this non-profit website, parents may view a map of schools and districts, and rate each school on a scale from 1 to 10. You may select from public or private institutions, and then narrow your results by grade level.
The GreatSchools website provides a wealth of information on each school, including teacher-student ratios, student demographics, the percentage of instructors with at least three years of experience, and student progress scores. The results are separated into English, Mathematics, and Science categories.
The best part is that they compile honest feedback from genuine moms and dads and make it available to the public. Finding the correct school is now a breeze, and the site even includes a searchable database of available homes in each school district.
- Walk Score
To have a high level of walkability, a neighborhood must be close to many different types of services. In a good area, you can walk to everything you need in as little as five or ten minutes, including restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, grocery stores, movie theaters, art galleries, and public transit.
You may save the average of $9,300 per year on gas and maintenance for your automobile by not having to own one, as reported by AAA.
For your kids, a walkable neighborhood means not having to rely on you to go about. They can ride bikes to their karate class or to school.
Step in Walk Score. They rank the walkability of a location relative to surrounding facilities, as the name indicates. Also available are maps showing nearby conveniences and information on travel times to and from a specified location.
A higher rate of savings and a higher quality of life are two benefits you may get from relocating to a highly walkable community. And when the time comes to consider staying put as you age, you won’t need a car to get about as you might otherwise.
- Google Maps
Google Maps is not new information to you. You might not expect it, but it can be a great help when learning about a new area. Possible routes to work may be plotted, along with estimated wait times for the busiest times of day. You may use it to find retailers and services like supermarkets and eating establishments in your immediate area.
Google’s Street View may help you get a feel for a place before you visit. You may make more informed selections and choose the finest place to settle in a new city if you take the time to familiarize yourself with its topography and its aesthetics.
Feeling a little overloaded by the above list, and the prospect of house hunting in general? There’s no need to worry. There’s no need to learn how to use each and every one of these gadgets.
Consider using a few of the resources for learning about the area, the same number of tools for locating a property, and the same number of tools for obtaining a mortgage and credit.
You shouldn’t make a choice on purchasing a property too quickly. Your home is likely to be the single largest asset you ever own, and it will likely remain in your possession for many years to come. Spend no more than you can comfortably afford and take your time doing so.
Have fun looking for a home!