Technology For Home Hunters

Technology has added a new and exciting element to the home buying experience. These advancements have removed many of the old constraints on home hunting. It is now easier than ever to find and evaluate real estate using smart phones and tablets.

As traditional media like newspapers and magazines become less effective, Internet‐based marketing has driven the development of new applications for mobile devices. Using technology…

  • Video tours of homes are available on YouTube
  • See pictures of the outside and inside of the homes you’re interested in
  • You can research real estate trends
  • With Google Earth and Google Maps, you can drive down the street and look at the surrounding
    homes without leaving your living room
  • Instantly obtain detailed information about homes for sale

According to recent industry figures, it takes an average of 12 weeks and visits to 16 houses before home shoppers find the house they want

The way people search for and buy a home is rapidly evolving. With an ever‐growing list of new tools that save time and increase eciency, buyers and agents can quickly trade information with the click of a button.

There’s An App for That!

There are now more people who own a cell phone than those who own a computer. Mobile devices are more than a cool novelty; they are making a fundamental shift in how we communicate.

Smart phone applications (commonly referred to as “apps”) enable realtors to update home listings, prices, and even share neighborhood information about schools, parks, medical facilities, and recreation.

One of the more revolutionary features in property apps is their ability to detect location by using either GPS technology or a system that determines position relative to WiFi hotspots. You can access information about your immediate surroundings in real time ‐ while you are there ‐ without having to find a computer, set up a laptop, or even type out an address or zip code.

With this technology, you are able to study more than just the MLS data. The process of buying a home goes well beyond the basics of searching for the perfect one, getting a mortgage, and handling the logistics of moving. It also involves some of the most basic decisions in people’s lives.

After all, it’s not just real estate that you are acquiring ‐ it’s a place to live.

The choice you make won’t just determine where you live. It’s where you shop, where your kids will go to school, how long your commute to work will be, and a myriad of other factors that will add to or detract from your quality of life.

Today there are many popular apps, available as free downloads, that can help sort out some of these intangible aspects. Here are a few to check out:

Walk Score ‐ this site helps find “walkable” places to live by displaying a map of what’s nearby (schools, groceries, entertainment, etc.) and provides a score for any address to help determine how “car‐dependent” a resident would be if they bought a home in that area. Go to

Green Space Map ‐ It used to take a lot of time and research to find information about how close a property may be located to a known EPA site. But now that information is available in just moments, plotted on an interactive map. The Green Space Map app provides you with immediate answers about incidents or problems as reported by the Environmental Protection Agency by showing a property’s proximity to reported sites within a 20‐mile radius.

Crime Reports ‐ Another factor that heavily influences a buying decision is neighborhood safety. An app called Crime Reports arms you with crime statistics and provides a national crime map that pinpoints a location using GPS technology. You can see crime data and sex offender addresses plotted on the map for any property you might consider buying.

Criminal Spot ‐ A virtual version of traditional neighborhood watch programs that is an interactive platform where users update the information. If someone sees suspicious activity in an area, they can report it on Criminal Spot.

Social Media That Matters

If Social media is all about connecting people, then how it’s used for home hunting is like a virtual version of old‐fashioned “word‐of‐mouth.”By leveraging the millions of connections between people, sites like Facebook and Twitter provide lightning fast dissemination of new listings, trends, and information.

Facebook – Currently there are more than 500 million active users on Facebook, and the average user has 130 friends. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world with more people than the United States, Canada, and Great Britain combined. YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine, and Twitter has 200 million users.

These sites and other social media sites include search engines so you can search other members for information that could be helpful to you.

Type “homes for sale” or “real estate agent” into the search field in Facebook, and dozens of hits will come up, each with a list of people who have ‘liked’ it. These lists can be pure gold for you; they include lists of people to connect with who may have a home for sale, recommendations for a good real estate broker, and useful information that could impact their decision to buy in a specific region or neighborhood.

Facebook even has its own marketplace to buy and sell almost anything imaginable, including real estate. The Marketplace application page displays the most recent listings and provides easy ways to filter the search to tailor results to individual needs. It’s easy to browse real estate by several different categories, and search for listings from all Marketplace users or by people in a particular social network. It’s not hard to see the power of social media, or the burst of speed it can bring to the real estate market.

Foursquare ‐ The line between online games and serious applications is blurring, and Foursquare is at the forefront of social media tools that are integrated with GPS technology.It’s a fun location‐based app that has over 6 million users worldwide and enables you to find a map of open houses and listings, and even see what else is nearby a property they’re currently visiting. You can also “check in” at various homes you visit, earn “badges” and post comments for other visitors and feedback for sellers.

Foursquare currently has apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Palm phones, and more are being developed. Go to

QR Codes

Try scanning the code to the left and see where it takes you.

These 2D bar codes are popping up everywhere from retail stores, to airline boarding passes, to real estate. The “QR” stands for Quick Response and they create a bridge between the virtual world and reality.

In real estate, they’re found on lawn signs, in print media, websites, billboards, and business cards. To read them, download a QR reader on your mobile phone. Scanning the code gives you information about a particular property, a brochure with color photos, and full details about a listing, an open house schedule, a Realtor®, or a website with additional information. Not all QR reader apps are compatible with all phones. A quick Internet search will pull up a list of the dierent QR readers available and the mobile devices they work on.

Texting is Still King

The typical mobile phone user initiates more text messages than phone calls. And 73% of new mobile phone buyers say that text messaging is the most important feature on their phone. It’s easy to see why SMS short codes have popped up on real estate signs everywhere.

No longer tied to a laptop computer, you can now turn to your smart phone or tablet for information. For you, this is another innovation that gives instant access to photos, pricing, and flyers containing additional information. Some providers even have a click‐through to a Mobile Optimized Virtual Tour. Successful marketing is all about convenience and making it easy for you and sellers to get information on your own terms delivered the way you want it.

Tools, apps, and internet sites are changing all the time, and new ones are created every day. Some things about buying a home will never change, but as technology advances, the way we go about buying them will continue to evolve.

Alright. You’ve now been armed with technology at your fingertips, but there is still such a thing as setting expectations – both you as the buyer and also from a seller’s point of view. Next month we’ll talk about some of those expectations.

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