Useful Apps and Websites When House Hunting for the First Time
When we started getting serious in looking for a home to buy, I started by educating myself, reading blogs about buying a home, watching YouTube videos, and asked friends who have purchased their homes.
Here’s the list of websites, apps, and resources for house hunting that I used in preparing for and looking for a home to buy. Quick disclaimer, some of these information may pertain to money and finances. I am not a financial planner and this blog post is not meant to be taken as financial advice, but only provided for educational and informational purposes.
Best Apps and Websites for House Hunting
Sign up for CreditKarma.com to check your credit score. Before you can apply for a mortgage loan, you will need to check your credit score. Most lenders will only let you borrow money if you have a good credit score: higher is better. Some lenders will still give you a chance with a credit score in the low 600s, but you will have better interest rate and chances if your credit score is at least 720.
CreditKarma will also give you several options for mortgage loans based on your credit score and eligibility. Another helpful feature of this website is on the “Home” tab where they provide your “home buying power” based on your monthly or annual income and the amount of debt that you have. It might not be the same amount you’d pre-qualify for, but it can provide a good benchmark for how much home you can afford.
I also purchased an online course that helped me understand the home-buying process. The one we bought is entitled “How to buy your first house and save thousands of dollars.” You can check it out here: https://www.udemy.com/course/how-to-save-thousands-of-dollars-buying-your-first-home.
It was a helpful course and helped us understand the end-to-end process of home buying from the preparation stage to the process of securing mortgage, what to watch out for and what pitfalls to avoid! It was priced at under $30 and totally worth it!
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3. Real Estate websites.
Even before we felt we had enough savings for our downpayment, I started looking at home listings at top real estate websites. Just to get a feel for what we can afford, how much the payment was going to be and where we might want to explore buying a home.
Most real estate websites have the same functionalities, although some of them will have additional ones that made me rely on them more. Some common features include listing all the homes available in an area, photos of the house, school ratings, crime and safety, price, and other features. If you know the features that you want from a home, then you can set filters and it will only show the houses that fit your criteria.
The top two websites I used are Realtor.com and ComeHome.com.
I loved Realtor.com’s interface and great filter system. It is better than Zillow’s or Trulia’s. I can specify filters such as the following:
- Property type: Single family home
- No. of bedrooms: at least 3, preferably 4
- No. of bathrooms: at least 2
- Home size: at least 2,250 sq. ft.
- Lot size: at least 5,000 sq. ft.
- Stories: Multi, we wanted a two-story house
The only thing missing here is our preference for school ratings. We wanted schools that would have a rating of at least 5/10, or what can be considered as average.
Thankfully, I discovered ComeHome.com. It also has a good interface and could filter school ratings, but not for the number of stories.
A big part of the house-buying process is securing pre-approval for a mortgage loan. We did that through RocketMortgage first and then a few months later, when we got serious in searching, we also went to LendingTree.com to explore our mortgage options. This website will ask questions about where you are in the home-buying process, what your financial situation is like, and will run a soft pull of your credit score. If you pass their requirements, they will issue a pre-approval letter, which you could then use to search for and buy a home.
Technology is awesome, but home buying is still an elaborate, complicated process.
Thanks to technology, it has become way easier to look for homes to buy even when you are far away from the property you’re considering. From what I’ve heard in the old days, you will need to rely almost solely on your realtor in looking for a property to buy. Now, with the help of real estate websites for house hunting, buyers can be more engaged and more active in searching for a home that they will stay in for a long time! Still, there is no substitute for diligence and care in searching for a home, assessing your options, and eventually making a decision toward purchase.