One of the biggest and most expensive items many people will ever buy is their home. Despite the property slump that occurred in some countries as a result of the recent recession, and the huge number of home foreclosures, real estate as an industry still thrives because everyone needs a place to live. In fact, a career in real estate is being seen in 2014 as one of the better job options, and it's certainly true that we rely on realtors to do many things for us when we are house hunting.
This year, real estate industry experts in the US have forecast that home prices are likely to rise in 2014, but at a slower, steadier pace than past trends. On average, it is expected that home prices nationally will go up by three to five percent, according to Clear Capital, and Kiplinger suggests that figure will probably be four percent. Certainly, foreclosures have hit hard and it may take time – perhaps until 2015 – before things improve. The Canadian Real Estate Association's chief economist has pretty much concurred, saying that house prices in Canada will also probably rise nationally, remaining steady across the country, because the economy is strong and there is still a demand for single-family homes.
So there is optimism that, with the economy in many countries slowly expanding, realtors will be busy. Many house hunters will be those who have been renting or perhaps have been forced to stay at home with their parents and now, as Spring arrives, will be looking to purchase their first home.
There are numerous online websites that will point house hunters in the right direction to assist their search or to find a realtor to work with. In today's mobile world, however, speed is important with some listings, and being able to access information at any time is often vital to securing the house you want. House hunting is also not just about looking for houses, but also about researching mortgages, financing, amenities, and planning the move, so it's important to be prepared. Mobile devices have great on-the-go tools when looking for houses and, even if you're still renting, there are apps for everyone that will make the process much easier.
Here are 10 popular real estate apps to check out before you get started.
10 Zillow Mortgage Marketplace
Zillow is a key US real estate player, with a database comprising over 110 million homes and a suite of related apps. One of its apps is Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, which lets users review real-time mortgage rates, calculates how much home they can afford, how much the payments will be, and whether refinancing is an option. It's possible to review different mortgage scenarios and have direct anonymous access to lenders.
The app also contains interactive sliders, data input fields, and interactive rate graphs, letting users customize according to various criteria. Zillow Mortgage Marketplace is available on the iOS and Android platforms.
Created specifically for renters, Lovely is a relatively new app that offers a number of tools to help search for a home or apartment to rent. Now designed for iOs 7 and available on Android too, the app aggregates data from other services. Users can be notified of new listings based on search criteria, and contact landlords directly about appealing rentals.
For pet lovers, there's even an option to search for places that are pet friendly. A great new feature is the ability to pay rent directly to a landlord with a single tap of your mobile device.
8 Walk Score®
Some house hunters today want to live in neighbourhoods that are easy to walk, saving on gas and commute times to work or perhaps simply saving the planet through being environmentally friendly. The Walk Score® app is designed to supply house seekers with this information. Validated by leading academic researchers and using proprietary methodology, the app shows over 13 million scores, indicating how easy it is to walk a neighbourhood, and also ease of public transit and biking use.
Companies such as Trulia and Zillow are among 30,000 services that use Walk Score's app for real estate professionals. The Walk Score® app is available on iOS and Android platforms.
With over 90 million homes to choose from, Homesnap's real estate app is a popular choice for house hunters. Users walking down the street who see an available house they like, can use the app to snap a photo, which will instantly provide the user with all the property's details and pricing information.
Friends and family can be added in, allowing quick and convenient input on homes being searched for, making it dead simple to discuss a home's investment and appreciation potential. The Anywhere Access option allows for information to be synced across all of a person’s devices. Homesnap can be used on the iOS and Android platforms.
Created by Montréal-based company Sensopia, MagicPlan was aimed primarily at real estate and other property professionals, but has proved to be very popular with ordinary consumers. Without needing to measure or draw anything, this app works by measuring the rooms in a home and drawing a floor plan automatically.
Using a mobile device, users can simply take a photo of the room's corners, review the created plan and make any adjustments, and print or save in a variety of formats. MagicPlan can be downloaded on iTunes or Google Play, and note there are some in-app options available for a fee.
5 Rental ROI Plus
For those thinking about becoming a rental property owner, then Rental ROI Plus might be a great choice for an app. Whether users have one or more properties, Rental ROI Plus will estimate yearly ROI calculations, up to 30 years, based on specific inputs such as purchase price, down payment, improvements, appreciation and other annual expenses.
The app can also be used to calculate closing costs, total out of pocket expenses, annual cash flow, accumulated equity, and other similar elements. All calculations can be saved, edited, deleted and emailed. This app is available on iOS devices.
4 Zoocasa Real Estate
Zoocasa is a newer player to the Canadian property market and is a rival to Realtor.ca. Its mobile app, Zoocasa Real Estate, mostly focuses on listings in Toronto, Victoria and Vancouver. As with other apps, this one is easy to use, shows photo-rich listings and can connect users with local realtors.
There is also a feature called Zoopraisal which offers a no-cost estimate of a home's value, and if users buy or sell with a preferred Zoocasa agent, they are eligible for a cash rebate which can be calculated in the app in advance. Zoocasa Real Estate app is available for iPhone and iPad.
State Farm Insurance might not be the first company that people would think of that offers mobile apps, but its MoveTools app for iPad is useful for making all the arrangements needed to move successfully, and with as little hassle as possible. Offering a week-by-week checklist of moving tasks, it's easy to keep track of everything that needs to be organized.
An interactive packing screen lets users go room-by-room to virtually pack up items, and an inventory of all possessions and their value can be created. The app even offers smart labels with unique QR codes for use on the moving boxes, so meaning people can see what's inside without even opening them.
2 Trulia Real Estate
Just relaunched, Trulia's Real Estate mobile app has been redesigned with an emphasis on photo listings, and is available on both the iOS and Android systems. Alongside the standard filters for listings, the app utilizes GPS to find available homes, can indicate which are having Open Houses, and offer price history.
There are 3D Crime Maps to show crime statistics for the area, real-time alerts for changes in house prices, amenities information, and the ability to save prospective homes. As with Zillow, Trulia offers a suite of mobile apps for house hunters, including apps for mortgage and rental information.
1 Realtor Real Estate
Most house hunters will likely review Realtor.com's Real Estate app when starting out. It's popular, and the listings are considered especially accurate, with over 90% of listings updated every 15 minutes daily. This app contains both rental and home purchase listings, together with the usual photo and feature information.
Realtor.com’s Real Estate app also includes a home's sale history and property tax details as well as information about area schools. Area Scout is a feature that lets users see results and updates average values as they move. Saved listings can be synced from a mobile device to the realtor.com website. Find the Realtor Real Estate app on Google Play or iTunes only.