It’s time for you to buy a house, and between the financial questions (how much will you need for closing costs? what’s considered “overpaying” on a house?) and the questions about how to even find a house (do you have to wait until it’s been listed on the MLS, or is there a better way?) — you’re already overwhelmed. And probably more than tempted to ask Siri if there’s an app to help solve this modern mental quagmire.
Buying a house is still one of the most stressful and time-consuming processes in the modern world, even with the advent of technology. But the latest home search apps can help fill in the knowledge gap by addressing everything you need to know in the home buying process, from mortgage payments to maintenance.
Many buyers feel comfortable searching the multiple listing service (MLS) online by way of well-known sites and apps, such as realtor.com, Zillow, and Trulia. Beyond standard MLS listings, home search apps can offer a deep dive into data to help you research, bid, buy, finance, insure, and even renovate your new home.
We put together a list of top picks in this fast-evolving home search app universe to help you click, read, and lead your way to your dream home.
The top home search apps in 2022
Brandie Kittle, a real estate agent in Montana who sells 81% more single-family homes than the average agent in her area, recommends the Homesnap app because it functions as a virtual open house, broadcasting live.
“This worked very well during COVID lockdown, and now that so many people are familiar with it, Homesnap is becoming more mainstream,” says Kittle.
Homesnap uses real-time data intelligence to connect residential real estate agents with consumers. The platform leverages AI, machine learning, and data from more than 500 data sources and over 250 properties from the MLS.
One unique feature gives buyers the ability to upload a photo of a home, and Homesnap will search and match the image to its real estate data.
Homes.com is a sister company to Homesnap, both owned by CoStar Group. Homes.com provides MLS listings and resources to research home property values, neighborhoods, schools, and other relevant data.
Apartments.com, another CoStar Group company, is the go-to site for rental searches.
Zillow is one of the best-known apps for homebuying and selling with its sister companies, including Trulia, Out East, StreetEasy, HotPads, and ShowingTime. Zillow features include a Homes to Compare tool that lets shoppers choose and evaluate as many as five saved properties side by side, all on one page.
The platform also has virtual 3D home tours and interactive floor plans for an immersive experience of a home for sale.
Realtor.com, another well-known portal, enhances its MLS listings with a feature allowing buyers to take a picture of the “For Sale” sign to access listing details.
Type in your address on the site to estimate your home’s value, track equity, calculate potential home sale profit, and view local market trends.
Redfin offers a website and mobile apps to customize your home search by neighborhood, ZIP code, school, walk score, or other amenities. The site recently rolled out a rental home search nationwide. The full-service real estate brokerage employs local agents to help customers buy, sell and book a home tour with Redfin’s “Book It Now” feature.
“We offer unique data to give consumers insight into the housing market, including our Hot Homes algorithm that lets you know if a home is likely to sell quickly, and offer Insights that inform you about what it takes to win an offer based on real experiences from our local agents,” says Alina Ptaszynski, Redfin’s Communications Manager.
In addition, you can check out your home’s resale value with the Redfin Estimate. On most home listings, Redfin also publishes the commission offered to the buyer’s agent, giving consumers more transparency about the fees associated with a sale.
Estately pulls data from the MLS searchable by a wide range of criteria, including price, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, lot size, year built, and home type. If you find a property you want to visit, the app can connect you with an area agent who will show you the property.
Estately also shows you how many hours the property has been on the site for its newest listings.
HomesearchNow is an app that allows you to customize your search criteria, save your property searches, and contact an agent.
MarketWatch provides a home search app on the site and covers real estate topics, such as reviewing and ranking the best home warranty coverages for homeowners.
ForSaleByOwner.com says it offers an exclusive inventory of homes for sale by owner, and it also provides assistance in selling your home. The site is a sister company to Rocket Homes.com, which provides homes for sale represented by real estate agents.
Social media apps
In addition to MLS-powered home search apps, many homebuyers turn to social networks and local communities for information and advice on homeownership.
Nextdoor.com has an app that functions as a community bulletin board, connecting you with neighbors and nearby neighborhoods.
“Nextdoor aims to provide trusted information and help users give and get help, get things done, and build connections with those nearby neighbors, businesses, and public services,” explains Shannon Toliver, Nextdoor spokesperson.
The platform interfaces with more than 285,000 neighborhoods nationwide and partners with realtor.com to bring you nearby homes for sale, pending, or recently sold homes. You can filter your search by price, find open houses, and research current home values.
Each real estate listing on Nextdoor.com includes a description, photos, the listing agent’s contact information, and often a value estimate and forecast. Buyers and sellers can direct message any questions to a network of agents and brokers who sponsor the real estate content.
Properties for sale or rent by owner can be challenging to find since they don’t appear on many well-known online sites and home search apps. Facebook Marketplace is a solid starting point to search for these listings.
Facebook Marketplace has listings for home sales and property rentals that users can search for available apartments, condos, townhomes, and single-family homes, using filters to customize by criteria.
You can search by price, distance, and date listed for home sales. You use additional search filters for property rentals, including the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, and rental type. Listings also include useful information such as the area’s walkable score, nearby schools, and map locations.
If you are in the market to purchase an investment, several apps and sites connect you with distressed properties, foreclosures, and properties up for auction.
Auction.com calls itself the nation’s largest online auction marketplace for foreclosure and bank-owned properties. Buyers bid and purchase properties in live events and online. They can even bid on select foreclosure properties using proprietary remote bidding technology.
“Remote bidding technology offers a powerful and still-transparent alternative to online auctions in states that still require in-person foreclosure auctions, except Ohio and Florida. States are taking advantage of digital technology for distressed properties,” notes Diane Nesheiwat, Vice President of Marketing, Auction.com.
“Remote bidding technology allows bidders to participate in select live, in-person foreclosure auctions remotely in real-time through a mobile app interface where sales have traditionally been limited to in-person venues.”
You can sign up for a free account on Auction.com, then search by property type, condition, and auction type, filter out other preferences, and sign up for email alerts for available properties that meet your criteria. The site contains property information, exclusive inventory, personalized property matches, and customer support, including a contracting and closing team to guide you through the closing process.
“In the distressed market, which makes up anywhere from 5% to 15% of US housing sales each year, more properties will gradually make it to foreclosure in 2022 due to the nationwide foreclosure and eviction moratoriums expiration. Auction.com is forecasting foreclosure volume to nearly double in 2022 compared to 2021, but still land at about 33% below 2019 levels,” notes Nesheiwat.
The site also offers resources to assist in your due diligence, including the property details page with title information that discloses any known title liens, a property information report including deed history, comparable sales, school ratings, data to determine the property’s value, and sample contacts.
Xome.com provides a listing of foreclosure sales events and offers home auctions and traditional real estate listings. The site provides “investor-grade valuation” data to assess your home’s market worth and can connect you with real estate agents.
Apps that assist the homebuying process
Apps that educate homebuyers on financing, insurance, and maintenance costs can improve the home purchase process.
Mortgage websites and apps can help strengthen a buyer’s offer by preapproving them for a mortgage, as opposed to a pre-qualification. When you’re preapproved for a mortgage, your proof of income and assets, as well as any debts and liens, have all been verified by the mortgage lender. Buyers can also use online mortgage calculators to estimate their mortgage payment, including principal and interest, plus estimates for PMI, property taxes, home insurance, and HOA fees.
Home insurance portals
Insurify.com can help you research, compare, and calculate homeowner insurance rates. The site offers home insurance quote comparisons and produces reports on national developments in real estate, including the latest home buying trends, the best cities for new homebuyers, and the most affordable cities to buy a house.
“Since mortgage lenders require that signees also purchase homeowners insurance, Insurify experts provide guides to understanding the home insurance landscape in every state,” explains Molly Hammond, Insurify spokesperson.
“When shopping for home insurance the traditional way, homeowners often encounter complex insurance industry jargon, confusing coverage limits, and unclear pricing structures. They have to fill out multiple forms and spend hours online and on the phone. Insurify is an insurance comparison platform, which means that users can view real, personalized quotes from multiple home insurance providers all in one place.”
The site offers homeowners’ insurance quotes, compiles data regarding home repair costs, and offers insight on renovations and DIY projects.
Home maintenance and repairs
Unforeseen maintenance costs can stress the household budget. To reduce costs with do-it-yourself home improvement projects, several apps connect you with information and resources, including Bestapp.com, which ranks and lists relevant apps, like best DIY home improvement apps.
Revise Homes inspires and helps homebuyers envision renovating a home needing a makeover. The site offers “reimagined” homes that can be updated to match your desires, wants, and needs.
“We revisualize ideas for your own home, fixer-uppers, or even low-cost homes that may need a little work by showcasing some before and after design concepts to create the home of your dreams,” says Hunter S. Park, Revise Homes spokesperson.
We’ve also ranked our picks for best home maintenance apps including resources for budgeting repairs and finding service professionals.
Here’s a look at apps that rank high in the top three categories of home improvement resources — inspiration, service professionals, and digital tools.
For design ideas and inspiration, Houzz ranks as the most popular site to peruse photos of home interiors, organized by room and style. Photos often contain information about vendors and contractors who created the spaces.
To find qualified service professionals, Angi, formerly known as Angie’s List, ranks as a top resource because it vets contractors, repair people, painters, cleaners, and others who have passed a background check, have insurance, and come with recommendations. Angi also allows you to compare quotes from contractors and manage your project from its platform.
Have a home improvement project you need to complete? iHandy offers digital tools to use in such tasks, for example, a surface level and plumbing bob.
Home search apps, when paired with an experienced real estate agent, can empower you to find the ideal neighborhood and home that fits your lifestyle, needs, and budget.
Header Image Source: (LinkedIn Sales Solutions / Unsplash)