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Using Technology To Help Find A Home
Searching for a home can be a challenge. However, thanks to modern technology, and dedicated real estate agents, it’s a little easier now than it used to be. Here are some creative ways that you and your agent can incorporate technology to help you purchase the right home. Some of these tools can make a world of difference if you’re house hunting from afar and not able to travel but can be used for any shopper near or far.
For the most accurate data and up-to-date pricing or status info, your agent’s Multiple Listing Service (or MLS) search page will be the best resource. The MLS is the database used by real estate agents. When new homes are listed for sale, the data is entered directly into the MLS and then fed out to other websites from there. Many agencies have developed their own apps that feed from MLS databases for convenience. You may feel like you’re getting more options on popular consumer home search websites, but unfortunately, many of those homes may already have contracts or even have sold. Consumer websites don’t update data as often, and since their business income comes from website traffic, they don’t care much if a stale listing brought you to their site. The one caveat to this is that consumer-driven websites allow input from anyone, so homeowners can list their own homes for sale by owner. Unfortunately, because anyone can add a listing, fraudulent listings have been a problem. Criminals have entered fake listings for real homes to phish information from unsuspecting home buyers. If you’re seeing something on a third-party site, but not your agent’s page, ask your agent about the listing. They can check to see if the home has sold, is still available, and verify the accuracy of the information if it is listed by owner.
There are some excellent virtual tour programs around that listing agents can use. Some look as if you’re viewing each room in the house from above, without the roof. However, they’re a little too pricey for a buyer’s agent or buyer to invest in for each potential home on your list. If you’re buying from a distance, or out of town when a great home comes on the market, and a listing doesn’t have a true virtual tour, the next best thing is a video showing. Because let’s face it, photos don’t show everything and even the best can still make it tough to discern a home’s layout. Video showings can be conducted live using a program or app like FaceTime, Skype, etc., or they can be recorded and sent to view at your leisure. During a video tour, your agent can describe what they see, smell, and hear. They can point out things that might have been missed by photographers and can bring along a tape measure to show you how close or far various items are from each other. Still want a floor plan? Yes, there’s an app for that, too. Magicplan, or similar apps, use the GPS location to measure rooms as you or your agent walk the perimeter of each room, to create a floor plan.
Want to explore the area with out physically going there? Use Google Earth, or a similar satellite map program, to see what the neighborhood around potential homes is like. Keep in mind that images might be a few years old, so the neighbor’s overgrown landscaping might have been trimmed, but this should give you a good feel for the community and discover how close places like schools and grocery stores are. If you’re touring homes via video, be sure to ask your agent to include some neighborhood and street view shots in addition to the home.
Need a place to store all those MLS info sheets, disclosures, maps, and notes? Apps like Evernote are designed to work somewhat like a virtual binder or file cabinet. You can create a folder for each neighborhood or house to help keep everything organized without cluttering up your car or wasting paper. You can save photos and videos here, too. When buying or selling a home, you’re likely to accumulate a great deal of business cards, too. Your agent’s, lenders, title companies, inspectors, contractors, insurance brokers…. the list goes on and on. There are a handful of business card apps as well, to serve as a virtual Rolodex. Some will scan the card, via your phone or tablet’s camera, and add the information directly to your contacts. As an added bonus, you can access your notes any time, from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection.
No time to meet your agent to sign paperwork? No problem! Electronic signature programs make it simple for people to sign documents from anywhere, again, if you have an internet connection. If you and a co-buyer are in different locations, you can each sign quickly with a few clicks of a mouse. Most closings still require physical signatures, but electronic closings are coming down the line before long. If you’re unable to sign in the title office, don’t fret. Remote notary services are available for a small fee and documents can be sent back using overnight shipping.
Once you’ve chosen a home, inspectors use technology to thoroughly investigate the home’s condition. Infrared cameras can spot hot and cold spots on walls, which may signal problems with insulation, air flow, or wiring. Altimeter tools can be used to measure foundation levels and detect potential settling problems. Moisture meters can detect where water is getting into a home or soaking in to building materials, and receptacle testers will discover which outlets need repair. Drones can be used to safely view the surface on a tall home’s roof.
Enlist these tools, and others, during your next home search to save time, money, and gas! Contact a GroupWatson Agent TODAY for Professional Advice & Expert Direction.
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Christy grew up in West Texas and is a graduate of Texas Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in Family Studies. She and her family have been residents of The Colony, TX for 3 years and are very....