In your journey of home-ownership, your number-one resource should be your real estate agent. No algorithm or clever interface can replace the experience and expertise of a real live human being. That said, any agent worth their salt will point you toward helpful tools to make your home buying or selling journey easier and more effective. There is an abundance of sites and apps for finding or listing homes, and a simple google search will get you there, but here are some more specific apps for narrowing down your choices or making listings more effective.
1. Magic Plan
Magic Plan is a powerful Augmented Reality tool that allows users to quickly and easily create a floor plan for any room using only their smartphone camera and gyroscope. The app uses your device’s sensors to measure and calculate the dimensions of your space, drawing lines as you point and tap on each corner. You can then fine-tune any dimension, add furniture, doors, and appliances.
Magic Plan is a simple, smart way to add value to your real estate listing. Square footage can often be confusing or hard to visualize, so including a floor plan with the dimensions of your house or apartment’s different areas can help potential buyers to know whether the space will accommodate their family, furniture, and their lifestyle. If you’re looking for a home, or especially an apartment, you may want to ask for a floor plan, or download the app and create your own when you tour the space. It beats bringing a tape measure!
Thinking about a big move, but not sure where to go? Dwellr, an app developed by the U.S. Census Bureau, might be able to help. Dwellr will ask you a series of questions about your age, stage of life, and interests, and then matches you with a list of cities that fit your preferences. Everything from city size, culture, and age demographics to climate and public transit comes into play, giving you a much better idea of what city or town should be your next home.
Blog articles and Pinterest boards can be biased and romanticized, creating one-sided or unrealistic expectations for those moving into new areas. Downloading Dwellr and answering a few questions is a great way to see if you’re moving to a city that really jives with your goals and priorities.
3. Walk Score
Once you’ve narrowed your search to a city or area, WalkScore.com will help you to choose a neighborhood with great “walkability.” Walk Score ranks neighborhoods based on their proximity to area resources and entertainment. If you want to be able to take the family out or have some weekend fun without loading up the station wagon, this often-overlooked criterion could have a huge impact on how much you enjoy your new home.
Walk Score’s map shows the kinds of establishments within walking distance from any given neighborhood or address. Depending on your stage of life, having access to parks, schools, coffee shops and grocery stores could end up being a deal-breaker, so be sure to use this quick tool to make sure you don’t have to drive across town to get to the places you love most.
4. Great Schools
Getting ready to move your family? It’s no mystery that all schools are not created equal. Set your children up for success by choosing a home where they can grow up in a high-quality learning environment. If you’re not familiar with the schools in the area, GreatSchools.org is a good first step. A Great Schools rating is based on Academics, Equity, and Environment and its scores are determined by comparing things like test scores and demographics to state averages. Based on where a school stands in relation to others in the city/state/country in each area, it is given a ranking between 1 and 10.
My recommendation is to dig a little deeper into the specifics before letting a low rating scare you away. Just like choosing a home, deciding where to send your kids is a complicated process. Take a look at each school’s strengths and weaknesses and read some of the user reviews to determine whether it will be a good fit for your family. A school may be weak in the arts, but strong in STEM, or vice-versa. Maybe a school has younger faculty, but has an ethnically diverse student body. Talk with your spouse and/or children about what you want in a school system and make an educated decision.
Once again, these tools can prove to be very helpful in buying or selling a home, but without an experienced and trustworthy agent, you may have a hard time finding the best blend of your most important criteria. Your agent can help you make sense of the many important factors in this big decision, making the process a little less stressful and a whole lot more rewarding.