Western Washington is one of the hottest real estate markets in the country, with homes selling within days or even hours. Here are some great online tools that will help you find your dream home before somebody else does.
Finding the right neighborhood
Zillow estimates property values in a neighborhood and has an easy-to-use map tool that shows which homes are currently for sale. The site also describes how hot or cold the selling market is in a neighborhood, as well as the general number of foreclosures. If you’re looking to sell your home, Zillow will give a “zestimate” of your property’s value. Keep in mind that this number is a starting point and you still will need an official appraisal.
Trulia offers a nice snapshot of a neighborhood, including general ratings for local schools and businesses. If you’re worried about safety, Trulia has a map tool that shows which areas have higher rates of reported crimes.
Getting a jump on new listings
In a hot market, you will want to know the minute a new house goes up for sale. Check out Redfin and Realtor.com to find the most up-to-date listings. Both sites offer virtual tours of homes, list upcoming open houses, and make it easy to contact the selling agent. Redfin’s scheduling tool lets you request a home tour. Zillow and Redfin have been battling it out as to which company offers the most accurate home estimates. Use both as a resource.
Speeding toward pre-approval
Perhaps the best way to get an edge on the homebuyer competition is to get pre-approved. I tested out Rocket Mortgage and Better Mortgage (better.com) to see how easy it is to get an online home loan. Both sites were user-friendly and provided an estimated loan amount and rate in just a few minutes. The Rocket Mortgage process felt more streamlined, making it attractive to first-time homebuyers. However, I liked how Better Mortgage offered more pricing options and provided a “pre-approval” letter. Even if you prefer to go with a traditional lender, both sites can at least give you an idea of how much you can borrow with minimal hassle.
Apps and websites can be helpful resources, but when it comes down to making the biggest financing and buying decisions of your life (for most of us, that is purchasing a home) its best to rely on a local real estate and lending professional when its time to get serious. They will help guide you through the process and answer questions.