Tools That Made Our House Hunting Easier

When we were in the market for our first house six years ago, we pretty much relied on our realtor for everything: She found listings for us and she took us to see the houses. This time around, things are a lot different than last time. Though we still relied on our agent to take us to the houses, we told him which house we wanted to see instead. In fact, in the past three months, there was only once that our agent showed us a house first.

If you have bought a house before or are in the market now just like us a couple of weeks ago, you must know very well the stress of house hunting, especially when the process drags on for months.  For us, it was kind of lucky because it *only* took us about three months to find the house we bought :)

While house hunting is exciting (well, at least initially), it’s not always an easy process. There are a couple of online tools that help us make the process somewhat manageable.

The first is Redfin.com. I first learned the website from Jim when he talked about his house buying experience using Redfin. Immediately after I tried it, I liked it very much and it became the indispensable tool for our house hunting. What I like the most about Redfin is that it shows houses on Google Map (meaning you have all the features of Google Map such as map view and satellite view, etc. ), so you know where the house is, whether it’s in the area you are interested in or not. All other listing websites I used usually display a very small view of the map with the location of the house. Unless you are very familiar with the street, you probably won’t have any idea where exactly the house is until you zoom out. The way Redfin shows houses currently on the market is much better than the more traditional way on other listing websites.

Redfin

Once getting into the details of a listing, there are also many other features on Redfin that you probably won’t find on other listing websites. For example, in addition to all the standard information about the property, Redfin also shows listing history of the property, public data of the house (taxable value), home value estimates from Zillow.com, eppraisal.com and cyberhomes.com, market trend of that area (history of list and sold prices), and similar listings and sales in the neighborhood. I especially like the listing history that shows price changes and market trend which gives me an idea of the general market condition

Redfin is a basically our choice for online research because of the rich information it provides and the way the information is presented to users.  Unfortunately, right now Redfin is available only in limited areas. If you want to search houses in metro areas such as DC, NY, LA, Boston, or Chicago, I am sure you will also find Redfin is an excellent tool.  It also has an iPhone App to make research even easier if you have an iPhone.

Another tool is listingbook.com. I didn’t use it to research listings like I use Redfin. Rather, I use it to send me daily alerts when there were new listings on the market. At listingbook.com, I can enter criteria for the kinds of houses I am looking for. Every morning, it will send me a report of new listings from the day before as well as price changes. I am not sure about other websites, but listingbook.com lets me enter multiple locations, so I can have the houses for sales in the areas I am interested in on one single page, which is quite convenient.

What tools are you using for house hunting?

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This post was written by Sun You can find out more about Sun and his activities on Facebook , or follow him on Twitter .

6 Responses to “Tools That Made Our House Hunting Easier”

  1. Michael the Dumb Tech Geek |  Mar 26, 2010 at 11:16 am

    My job is moving to Indianapolis next year. I was lucky enough to stumble on a site called mswoods.com. The unfortunate bit is I think they’re only in the Indy area. But they do show the home’s location on Google Maps, have a ton of filtering criteria you can use like school district or hardwood flooring. They also send me daily emails when a new house meets my search criteria or one that I’ve seen before has a price change.

  2. John Whitcomb |  Mar 29, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    None of these tools work out of the major metro areas. Don’t you know of any tools for rural areas as well?

    • Sun |  Mar 29, 2010 at 11:11 pm

      You may want to check your local realtors’ websites. They usually have listings for local areas. I found a few local agents whose websites provide quite comprehensive listings.

  3. Noz |  Sep 09, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Redfin are bunch of jackasses….other than being useless agents that do NO work for you, their forums are riddled with idiots and biased, unfair moderators who think being attacked by other posters and trying to defend yourself is inappropriate. Don’t waste your time using this service or website….go to a real agency and get a real agent…you get what you pay for…..using discount garbage to get a home is NOT a wise thing to do.

  4. Joe Fletcher |  Sep 22, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Although you used Redfin, did you use a different agent to complete the purchase or did you use a Redfin agent? What were some of your considerations in either using a traditional agent, using a Redfin agent, or going without an agent?