Real Estate in the Digital Age
If you’re like me, you like your smartphone, and you use it for a variety of tasks. When it comes to real estate, people are using the internet, especially their phones and tablets, more than ever!
In fact, a recent American study found that over 75% of all buyers found their home on a mobile device. Here in Canada, we like our technology too. And we use it. All. The. Time.
Your realtor is still your go-to for information about the community, the local real estate market, and the buying process, but have a go with some of these apps. They’ll get you started on the real estate journey.
Useful Real Estate Apps
These helpful apps will support you in all the stages of getting ready to buy a home, from budgeting, to finding your dream home, to signing the papers, to making your house a home.
All these apps are available in the Google and Apple stores, for free.
Getting Ready to Buy
- Real Estate Dictionary – Are you a first-time buyer, or has it been a long time since you’ve been through the process? There are so many acronyms and industry-specific terms to know. This app will help you learn some of the terms you’ll see in listings and contracts. This one is American though. If you have any questions, just ask your realtor.
- Bank-Specific Spending Apps – All the Canadian big banks have apps to help you track your spending and analyse your habits. This will help you figure out where your money is going so you can start saving for your down payment. Look in the app store for your bank’s version. For example, TD MySpend, or RBC myFinance Tracker.
- Budgeting Apps – Try You Need a Budget (YNAB), EveryDollar, or Mint, to help you organize your budget. These apps are especially helpful if you’re trying to pay down debts or save for your down payment. If you’re almost ready to buy, remember to include home ownership costs like municipal taxes, utilities, and home maintenance categories.
- Credit Karma – Canada’s two main consumer reporting agencies, Equifax and TransUnion, can give us really important information about our credit history and our credit score, but neither one of them have developed mobile apps. It’s a good idea to send for, or download our reports once or twice a year. That way, you can check the accuracy and prevent identity theft. In the meantime, try apps like Credit Karma, Borrowell, or your own bank’s app, to keep tabs on your credit for free.
Organizing Your Financing
- Canadian Mortgage App – If you are starting to look for houses, it’s really important to talk to your bank or a mortgage broker. They’ll help you get everything you need in place, to get a mortgage. If you’re not quite there yet, the mortgage app can give you an idea of what you can afford. It’ll also tell you how much more you need to earn to buy the house you want, and the current interest rates. Enter the purchase price and your down payment amount, to see how much you need to save for closing costs, mortgage insurance, and land transfer taxes. Fill in the amount of debt you carry to see the debt service ratios lenders will look at when qualifying you for financing. Again, your best option is to get pre-approved by a mortgage professional, before you start looking at houses.
- Clear Scanner – Lenders are asking for more and more information all the time. Chances are, your mortgage pro will request documents to verify your income, employment, taxes and more. Usually, you can send these through email or upload them to a secure digital portal for review. Scanning apps allow you to take photos and covert them to pdf documents (minus the camera shadows).
Finding Your Home
Perhaps the most useful real estate apps are the ones that help you find you new home. Remember, your realtor will get wind of new listings before they become public, so keep in touch, even when you’re searching on your own.
- Realtor.ca – While all the above are useful apps for getting things in order, before purchasing real estate, this one is probably the most fun. Now that you’ve got your budget and financing ducks in a row, you can really start dreaming. With this app, you can search your neighbourhood to see what homes are for sale, contact a realtor (if you haven’t already), and start setting up appointments to view homes. You can track new listings in your area, search for specific features, save houses you like, and email listings to your realtor or family members. There’s even a mortgage calculator to help you see if you can afford it, though hopefully, if you’re at this stage, you’ve already been in touch with a mortgage broker.
- Google Maps or Apple Maps – Almost everyone is familiar with these, as they come pre-loaded on most phones. Use maps to find the property you’re scheduled to view and provide you with info about the neighbourhood and amenities. Using the satellite view, you can even see if there’s a hot tub in the back yard, (and ask if the sellers will leave for you).
- Social Media Apps – I’m thinking Facebook Marketplace here. People often advertise homes for sale, and you’ll find loads of buyers for your stuff as you purge and pack for your move. Of course, Marketplace is a great place to find things to put in your new home too!
- IKEA Room Planner – Maybe this is the best part. While you wait for your transaction to close, you can go to town, planning how you are going to personalize your new home. Your realtor should have room measurements, so you can have a blast, testing your furniture layouts and plan your purchases before you move in.
Your Realtor and Mortgage Professional are Using Apps Too
In our Covid-impacted world, digital transactions have become much more common. That means the professionals you work with are using apps too, from communication tools, to social media, to closing the deal. Your realtor and mortgage pro will likely put these useful real estate apps to use, when you purchase your home:
- Digital Signatures – The professionals you’re dealing with will probably request your e-signatures, using apps like DocuSign or Adobe Sign.
- Virtual Meeting – If you need any help figuring out technology, you need to look at documents together, or you just want to have that face-to-face communication, your pros will be glad to invite you to an online meeting using apps like Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet.
Do you have a favourite real estate app that we missed? Toss it in the comment section below.
Real Estate in a Digital Age, 2019 Report – National Association of Realtors Research Group