Buying a home is one of the biggest investments—and one of the most exciting decisions—you’re ever going to make. And thanks to today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to get the information you need to make an intelligent decision—and one you can feel comfortable with.
Younger adults (i.e., millennials) don’t prioritize home ownership as much as previous generations have, but their familiarity with modern technology puts them in a good decision to make smarter real estate decisions. So how can an unfamiliar, and possibly uninterested first-time homebuyer use their smartphone to their advantage when getting their first home?
The quality of your decision will partially depend on its intrinsic monetary return, as well as your ability to pay for the home over an extended period of time. Using an online mortgage calculator or mortgage-related app, you can plug in various figures and get a much better feel for what you can afford.
If you’re also using a budgeting app like Mint or Acorns, you’ll be able to get a much better feel for how much you can reasonably spend on housing. As a general rule, you don’t want to dedicate more than 30 or 35 percent of your total budget on housing—so make sure you’re comparing your total mortgage, property tax, and insurance costs to your total available spend. This should give you a realistic picture of what you can afford.
Next, you can use one of several apps to search for properties available in your target area. Zillow and Redfin are top names here, but it’s important to branch out and use many different search engines, since different homeowners may have different listing preferences.
While you’re at it, try to work with a real estate agent, so you can gain access to more properties than are listed publicly, and get curated results that meet your wants and needs. Because the buying agent is working in your best interest, and because agent fees are paid by the seller, there’s virtually no downside.
Scout and Explore
Smartphones are also incredibly useful for exploring and taking virtual tours of properties that aren’t easy to access. If you’re looking at buying a home down the street, you can easily pop over and take a personal tour, but if you’re viewing properties across the country, you’ll need to use your smartphone to get a better view, especially during the early stages. Some real estate agents now offer virtual tours regularly (even though the technology is still in its infancy), and if not, you can use almost any video chat app to walk through the home from a great distance.
Let’s not forget the primary purpose of smartphones: communication. With a smartphone, you’ll have access to phone calls, emails, text messages, and practically every type of communication imaginable. When you’re working closely with a real estate agent, a spouse or partner, and eventually a seller, you’ll need to use that constant communication to your advantage. Getting to jump on a deal quickly and/or make fast decisions can make a big difference in the home you’re eventually able to land.
You can greatly improve your real estate buying decision by utilizing your smartphone for all it can do. In the months preceding your decision, start downloading the right apps—for budgeting, for running calculations, and of course, for scouting homes. Immerse yourself in the buying decision, and do as much research as you can; with more information and more communicative potential, it’s hard to make a “wrong” decision.