There are a lot of tools and applications you can use when searching for a home. With the right combination, the entire process can be easy and less stressful than you might expect. In this article, we looked summarizing some of our favorite tools that our home buyers take advantage of.
For what it’s worth, many of these tools we discuss are ones that we use ourselves to run our business!
Let’s check out some of these handy tools, and exactly how they can fit into the process of searching for a home.
This might be my favorite app for note taking and organization. I think of Evernote as a souped up productivity machine that I personally and professionally couldn’t live without. We even dedicated an entire article to using Evernote in your home search.
Evernote is available via a web browser (Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer etc…), or as an application on almost every smartphone or tablet device. This is an awesome benefit because I may need to reference my notes at any given time, and it is convenient to do so regardless of the device I am using. That instant access to all my notes and clips is invaluable.
Create a free Evernote account, and make your life easier when hunting for a home. You can store notes for the homes you see, whether you do it via text, voice, photo, or a clip from the web. If you are out looking at homes without your realtor, you can easily share these notes off to their email so they can be step-by-step with you.
This might seem super 2005, but those email alerts are handy! Searching for a home can be an exhausting and difficult process. That means that sometimes it can be challenging to stay really on top of what hits the market. Right now at the time of this article, our local market in the Walnut Creek, CA area is experiencing a “sellers’ market.” Homes come on the market, and they are off almost immediately. That makes it hard for a buyer to have the opportunity just to compete for a home.
Having some search parameters set up to hit your email inbox every morning is crucial. This will help you stay on top of what comes to market, so that anything of interest to you can be communicated to your agent immediately. While we always recommend working with a realtor, be sure to choose one with an adequate MLS section of their website for this. Have them help you set up the parameters you want.
Why are we saying this instead of using Zillow? Easy! Realtor websites tend to use quality “IDX” software that funnels listings to their site directly from the MLS. This means the highest level of accuracy in terms of home information, and if still on the market. Just recently Zillow showed a home as still available for sale, even after being in contract for 3 weeks!
This is huge in a seller’s market. This might be odd at first to see in this post, as the two items above are electronic/app based. But as I mentioned in the Email Alerts section, a seller’s market moves extremely fast. A home can come on the market, and they will receive offers within a couple days. If you’re going to have to act fast, it is crucial to have a pre-approval letter from a lender ready.
What we do with our buyer clients is when they make that decision to go after a home, we carefully craft their offer. A key component of their offer having attractive terms, is the inclusion of a pre-approval letter. This document from your lender/mortgage broker helps let the seller of a home know that you are serious about the purchase, and that you have the credit/funds to back it up. Sellers want more than just a lucrative sale. They want a seamless and easy transition in their sale and move. A pre-approval letter can help play a big role in this, especially since it is not a practice done by everybody.
There are a million calendar applications out there, but Google Calendar is a great one to lean on. Easy to invite others (spouse, realtor, lender) to events/google hangouts. This can often be an overlooked tool, as we all tend to think we can just remember everything. (I think my wife just glared at me as I said that!).
It is still a ridiculously convenient tool to make sure you and your realtor/team stay on the same page as you go throughout the house hunting process.
To be honest, it is a still that helps us realtors a lot as well. When helping home buyers find a home, we often set up tours where we can all go out together and see a chunk of homes. In many cases, this requires a lot of scheduling work on our part if the homes are tenant occupied, or can only be shown at certain times, etc… A calendar tool with reminders is great so that no one forgets about the tour, and all of that scheduling work is gone. There can often be cases where we can only physically go see a home on…let’s say Thursday evenings at 5:15PM as an example.
This portion is going to highlight a few communication apps, as everybody has their own preference. I’m excited about this part because I love mobile technology, and using tools to make communication easier and more effective.
Texting is probably the most common medium for communicating without being on the phone. Most of our clients have used this method when working with our team, and for the most part it works. However, SMS is becoming an outdated and unreliable technology. Sometimes, especially in group messaging…messages are lost, or media like photos aren’t able to download and more. So we have seen an increase in other apps being used.
Email is an extremely common form of communication since it is easy to back up those conversations. Your realtor, and yourself should be archiving all communications incase they are needed in the future.
Google Hangouts is an awesome tool for messaging, and can be used for group video calls as well. Sometimes that face to face medium is the best way to communicate with others, and this enables that when you can’t be physically together. You have to have a GMail/Google account, which most people do.
What About BBM, Whatsapp, and Slack?
They are all great! My personal favorites are BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) and Slack. And yes, BBM is available on all smartphones, so have at it. I like that BBM has the most accurate “Delivered,” & “Read,” receipts, as well as the fastest delivery. Their group chat functionality is fantastic as well. BBM was built as a mobile first experience, so if you are always communicating on your phone…it beats SMS by far. Plus, whatsapp does not do full “Read,” receipts. Whatsapp also has a tendency to go crazy accessing all of the data on your phone.
BBM is also great for crystal clear HD voice calls, and video calls. There is another feature where while on a video call, you can share the screen of your phone with other person. I like this when a client wants to show a home they are looking at on their phone/tablet. It’s as if we are hanging out together
I like Slack for the same reason I love Evernote…conversations in Slack Channels are seamless between computer and mobile devices. So if you leave your computer, the same conversation is on your phone. Slack can just be…a little more complicated to get set up.
The point is, there needs to be constant and fluid communication with your realtor. There is a stigma that we never answer our phones (except our team!), so it is crucial to have some method of communication that works for you.
Have a conversation with your realtor about communication, and find some common ground on what will work best for your situation. Explore the different options I outlined above, and I’m sure you will find something that you like.
In your house-hunting journey, you will likely find something that you want to get an offer in on quick. Docusign is an amazing tool that should be used by any realtor (or they will use something similar).
Once you let your realtor know that you want to submit an offer on a property, they can get the documents created. If you are not there to sign them personally, your realtor can send an email to you that has a link. Docusign will walk you step-by-step in signing the documents. Once complete, it will send the completed docs to your realtor who can submit the offer. There are other programs just like this one out there, so it is possible a Realtor you work with uses something different.
Pinterest For House Hunting
This one is usually at both ends of the spectrum. What I mean by that is some people will think “Duh! Of course Pinterest is helpful in my home search!” Other people may think “Hmm, that is a different idea.”
Pinterest is a social network where you can create virtual “boards,” and “pin,” certain items. The pins are typically organized on multiple boards pertaining to certain subjects.
For example, look at our Pinterest Page for the Steve Quanstrom Group. You will find boards about individual listings, tips for home buyers, tips for home sellers, and boards about our local communities. Inside each board are a variety of “pins,” that link to more information.
Using Pinterest in your home search is a great way to give yourself a visual grasp on what you are looking for. But we must throw out a warning, be realistic! It is very easy to get wrapped up in the overly amazing visuals you will find on Pinterest. And before you know it, you will thinking you are trying to find a mediterranean villa that is also a cabin in the woods with beach views… that can get a little challenging!
Search for terms that are specific to the kind of space you want to live in. But remember to use this as a guideline. You will find a lot of amazing kitchen ideas on Pinterest, but very few homes will come on the market that will have those kitchens ready to go. You want to look at the space needed, and find a home that has a kitchen you can execute those ideas in.
As you collect a lot of ideas of what you are looking for, you can share your “home search” board with your realtor. It can take time for a Realtor to truly know what you want/need. This can help expedite that process as you progress in your home search.
Hopefully this article is helpful to you and your family and friends. We wanted to put together a resource that can give home buyers ideas to make their process easier and more convenient. I am a huge fan of Evernote and Pinterest, which we discuss above. I think those are fantastic tools for getting inspiration and organizing your home search. Remember to try and not get too fancy with communication tools. Find something that works for you and your agent, and stick with that. Sometimes I have seen married or engaged couples create an email account specifically for this process. That way they each have the account on their phones, and everyone is in sync with something that is easier to back up than texting.
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