Nowadays, when you’re ready to buy a home, your first step isn’t to wander neighborhoods hoping to come upon a sale sign. Now, it’s much simpler and a thousand times more convenient — you simply go online.
While house hunting online is immensely user-friendly and easy, there’s still a lot of information to sift through and it can be hard to know where to start your search or how much you can truly rely on the data you find.
To help you navigate the online world of house hunting, here are seven excellent and informative websites that will give you the data and details you need to start your home buying process.
Zillow is one of the most popular real estate sites out there — and it’s easy to see why. Zillow allows you to easily search for homes using specialized filters that you can adjust for your specific needs, whether you’re looking for a three-bedroom home or one that has an ocean view.
Additionally, Zillow provides a Zestimate or rather, an estimate on the home’s value. You can see if the house has gone up in value as well as details like if the sales price of the home has dropped or increased and what you can expect to pay in taxes and in your monthly mortgage.
This site is also great for learning about your market’s trends. You can see the general housing fluctuations throughout the neighborhood you’re looking at as well as compare the home price and value to other homes in the area.
Another great site that may not be on your radar is GreatSchools.org. Assessing the types and quality of schools in the area that your house hunting in can give you a good indicator of the neighborhood as well as the value of homes in that location.
For instance, in areas with great schools, you can expect that your home will go up in value and see a good price on the market if you ever decide to sell.
Additionally, if you do have kids, sending them to excellent schools is likely a priority.
GreatSchools.org scores each school on a scale from one to ten, taking into account everything from test scores and college readiness, to discipline issues and teacher-to-student ratios.
This information can help you make an informed choice about where to put down roots and start a family, though you’ll want to visit the actual school’s websites in order to get more details on school district boundaries or if there’s a lottery system to attend a particular school.
When looking for a new home, cable and internet may be the last thing on your mind. You’re most likely focused on qualifying for a mortgage or finding a home close to work.
However, you should keep in mind the hurdles and extra costs that comes with getting cable, internet, and phone services. You want to make sure your carrier covers the area that you’re moving to.
BroadbandNow.com allows you to search zip codes and your location to see which providers and services are in your area. They include detailed information such as pricing, coverage, set up fees, termination fees, and help you compare one service provider against another.
When determining your monthly budget for your new home, be sure to factor in internet, cable, and phone costs, as spending an additional $60 each month can really add up quickly when you’re strapped for cash.
Similar to Zillow, Trulia can help you find and compare homes easily. You can use filters such as how many bedrooms, price range, and type of home. The site is simple to navigate and gives you a general overview of the surrounding neighborhood and other homes in the area.
One unique and helpful tool Trulia offers, is an interactive map feature where you can view the neighborhood through different filters. For instance, when you click on the ‘crime filter’ you can see where crime is highest or lowest in the neighborhood.
Additional map filters include how long your commute will be, schools, median ages, affordability of homes, and where the restaurants and shops are located throughout the community.
Realtor.com is another great resource to help you search homes. However, what sets this site apart is its attention to detailed statistics and data.
You’ll find information regarding data on home values, the neighborhood and city’s housing market forecast, details on the best schools and businesses in the area as well as crime rates and commute times.
The site also offers additional support and tips about buying homes, how to calculate your mortgage payments, and help you determine how much you can afford when buying a new home.
Homes.com gathers its information from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) as well as from other real estate websites. The site provides a good platform for you to compare homes in your area and allows you to look at the property’s past value history.
With this information you can gain a sense of the neighborhood’s home value trends and whether your home will appreciate in value in the future.
Unlike other sites however, one cool feature you can utilize is Homes.com’s Snap & Search tool. With Snap & Search, if you see a home you love, simply take a picture, and the site will find similar homes in your area that match the features and type of home in the picture.
7. Google Maps
While technically not a real estate website, Google Maps can give you a great sense of homes and neighborhoods you want to buy a home in. You can get a 3D, street view of any home and of businesses and other nearby amenities.
Additionally, with Google Maps you can easily figure out your commute time to work, school, restaurants, friends’ homes, and grocery stores to see how long it will usually take you on a certain day and time.
With these details, you can decide if the area is actually too far — you may not be willing to drive an hour to work and back every single day.
Connect with a Local Real Estate Agent
All of these sites can help you narrow down your search and give you a good sense of what kind of homes and neighborhoods are out there.
However, it’s best when you begin your search in earnest to partner with an experienced, local agent who can help you navigate the housing market and use their expertise and network to find you an affordable home that you love.