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The home buying process starts with an app

A man uses a smartphone as he sits in Union Square on June 5, 2013 in San Francisco, Calif.

For more Americans, the process of buying a home starts with their phone.  There are apps galore for those on the house hunt. So, how do you decide which software will really help you in your search? Katie Roof, a business and technology journalist in New York, has test driven some of these real estate apps, and says the process of finding a home has gotten easier these days because of these apps.

"There's a lot of apps in the app store. You have the big ones like Zillow and Trulia. They each have four different apps that you can choose from. Some of them are for home buying. Some of them are for renting. You can use your location and it will help find listings near you. Then you can set your criteria," says Roof. "You can help find listings in your area that are suitable for you."

For example, you can look for houses near a certain school district or located within a specific zip code.

"A website out there that's good for that is BlockAvenue, which shows information about schools and crime and different neighborhood data that you might find interesting. Trulia and Zillow also have more detailed information on that on their websites. And some of them, like Lovely, will alert you. Once you've stored your preferences in there it will tell you when a home becomes available that meets your search criteria," says Roof. "Then there are others like Home Snap, where you can take a picture of a home that you see out there already and it will show you information about that home."

Homesnap has been called a Shazam for homes, and there's also a social component where you can get input from your friends on what they think of certain homes.


The best real estate apps out there right now, according to Roof:


Roof says her favorite app is Trulia because it has the best design and is pretty comprehensive nationally. Trulia also has another app, a mortgage calculator, which Roof likes. Zillow and Bankrate also have similar apps. Roof recommends taking a look at one of these mortgage calculator apps even before you begin house hunting.

"Even before you're looking actually, it could be good to take a look at these apps and say 'How much can I afford right now? This is how much I make. This is my credit score. This is the area I'm looking at, so what are the property taxes?' It will help you figure all of that out quickly and then it will help you find people that will help you find a loan at that rate," says Roof.

As for renters, Roof says Trulia and Zillow both have a separate app for people looking for rental listings.

About the author

Lizzie O'Leary is the new host of Marketplace Weekend.

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