Every piece of tech deserves a good home. It used to be that your realtor would ask you what you're looking for and then present you with a list of houses to check out. While it may still happen that way, there's plenty you can do with little effort on your own to improve your chances of finding that perfect place. There are many online and mobile app resources available nowadays that make it easier than ever to go house hunting. We review several great ways to leverage the power of the web to help you find the home of your dreams.
It all starts with the search. Most real estate sites allow you to perform basic searches by location, price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms. You can narrow your search with advanced options such as square footage, age, parking, etc. You're then presented with a map or list of results which you can browse through for descriptions, photos, and a bounty of helpful information such as how much property taxes cost and whether there are any homeowners association fees.
A very nice feature these sites all provide is the ability to view which properties have upcoming open houses or are new to the market within a few days. This lets you pop in and immediately see what's new without having to filter through listings you've already seen before. You can also see recent sales prices to get a sense of what houses are going for on the market.
A few great websites that we use are Zillow, Trulia, and Redfin. The differences are subtle and it may come down to unique features and preferred user interfaces. Zillows's unique Make Me Move feature allows potential sellers to set a "dream" price for their home without actually putting it on the market. Their Zestimate also provides a computerized guess at what each property is worth based on what's around it. Trulia has a nice option that shows you listings that have been recently reduced, perhaps giving you that extra bit of leverage. Most of these sites provide iPhone and Android apps as well, allowing you to drive around and look up listings while on the move.
After looking at beautiful photos of the home of your dreams, it helps to know more about the neighborhood you'll be living in. Property descriptions will happily explain the benefits of a house, but sellers agents wouldn't be very good at their job if they told you about all the negatives. Using tools such as Google Street View or Bing Maps' bird's eye view mode you can take a peek from your computer. You can find out if a multi-million dollar house sits across the street from an ugly apartment building or the great restaurant next door also keeps a dumpster next to your driveway. Your local newspaper's website may have hyperlocal neighborhood information as well, such as The Washington Post's Neighborhoods tool for the DC/MD/VA area.
All of these are great tools to help you become a more educated home buyer. Finally there's no excuse to delay buying all those fun tech toys to put together your dream home theater system or home office.