How to Buy a Home in the 21st Century (with New Tech)

Kali Hawlk Unison 2 Comments

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While some aspects of home buying remain the same today as they did a few decades ago, much has changed in how we look for and purchase real estate.

New technologies give home buyers improved access to data and rapid responses to searches, inquiries, and loan applications. All you need is a smartphone to make yourself an exponentially more informed house hunter in the 21st century.

That ability to more closely manage each step in your home-buying journey means you can make better decisions, find the right home, and take advantage of resources that make financing the home easier.

Here are a few of the tools and apps that can help you along every step of the journey that it takes to buy a house in today’s online, digital world.

Find, Sort, and Save House Listings Online

Looking for potential homes to buy used to involve checking newspaper ads, driving through neighborhoods, or waiting for a real estate agent to share information about houses listed on a multiple listing service (MLS).

That started to change about ten years ago. New online-based tools allowed real estate agents and interested home buyers to view home listings both nearby and across the country.

ZillowTrulia and Realtor.com let you browse for houses from its database of over 110 million U.S. homes, research prices, and even learn about the home purchasing process. You can search homes available for purchase and rent, and you can even view homes that aren’t on the market. Each of these websites allow you to create accounts and even share your favorite listings with your spouse or partner to help you track the information and listings you’ve viewed. They also provide estimates of home values.

These sites allow you to learn more about the surrounding area and characteristics of a home that is for sale that you might want to buy. And these websites allow users to gauge the market price of a home without having to call a broker.

Get More Help with Your Home Buying Experience

Redfin and OpenListings allow you to browse listings and look up information about properties and the surrounding area, too. But they take things a step further than sites like Zillow and Trulia. These two sites also help home buyers make an actual purchase. You can use either one of these services to work with an agent, who can then assist you in closing on the home you want.

The advantage of online real estate companies like these? Both Redfin and OpenListings offer savings over traditional full-commission transactions.

Discover New Neighborhoods and Get to Know New Cities Without Leaving Your Desk

Need to find additional information about the neighborhoods in which the homes you’re interested in are located? Try using the Nearby Schools tab on a Zillow house listing. That opens a display with the area schools’ Greatschools.org rating.

Or do some digging on your own. Google Maps is a great tool to learn more about the amenities available in a selected neighborhood.

You can use Google Maps’ various features to locate public transportation routes, parks and recreation areas, restaurants, grocery stores, and more.

Both Google Maps and Trulia offer options to help you calculate potential commute times, too. Researching your drive time and access to services in advance can save you the heartache of falling in love with a home that is too far from the amenities your family needs.

Want to dig a little deeper to find information about your potential new neighborhood? Check out Moving.com and Neighborhood Scout.

These two sites provide visitors with access to  demographic and economic data, crime statistics, and school quality reports from neighborhoods across the U.S.

Use Apps to Get a Handle on Your Finances and Your Credit Score

Buying a house in the 21st century will likely require some financing. Your credit score can have a significant impact on just what type of financing is available to you.

Get a free estimate of your credit score and find out where you stand by visiting Credit Karma, Credit.com, or Credit Sesame. All three sites offer tools and resources to help you understand your credit score and the lending process.

Note that these sites don’t give you your FICO score, which is the credit score most lenders use. (Yes, you have more than one!) Each of the 3 credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion also issues you a credit score, which is what sites like Credit Karma provide for you.

To get your FICO score, check out your credit card statement. More and more cards provide you with an updated FICO score each month. Or ask your bank if they can provide it for you for free as long as they don’t do a hard pull on your credit.

If you see your credit report you can go to AnnualCreditReport.com and get a copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three major bureaus.

Finally, to manage your budget and start saving up for that down payment, services like Mint and YNAB can help keep you on track.

These integrated money management services not only track your current bills and payments, but also allow you to plan a budget based on your post-home purchase expenses. You can plan ahead and set a savings goal for your down payment via a single app.

How to Find the Best Financing For Your Home Purchase in the 21st Century

Once you find your ideal neighborhood and determine your credit score, you’ll need financing to buy a house in the 21st century.

Get pre-approved for the loan you want–having a loan commitment in hand lets you act quickly once you’ve found the perfect home.

This used to mean making a trip to a local bank or working with a local mortgage broker. But one of the perks of 21st century home buying is that the process of getting the mortgage or financing you need can be started or done entirely online.

To make sure you’re in a good position to buy, check out Better.com. The site promises to provide potential homebuyers pre-approval in just 3 minutes (assuming your situation does mean you can be pre-approved, of course!).

Fortunately, 21st century homebuyers aren’t limited to just loans for home financing. The Unison HomeBuyer program partners with prospective home buyers to provide up to half the cost of their down payment.

Through the program, Unison contributes up to an additional 12.5 percent, receiving a share in the home’s future change in value in return.

Using an innovative program like Unison HomeBuyer allows consumers to become homeowners even in regions where housing prices make saving for a down payment a real challenge.

With More Options Than Ever, It’s a Great Time to Buy a Home

As in many other industries, the 21st century has brought big changes to the real estate market. New technologies, services, and apps allow prospective home buyers to control the process from start to finish, with improved access to information and innovative financing options.

If you’ve been thinking about purchasing a new home, all it takes to get started is to have a seat at your desk and fire up your laptop — or grab your smartphone wherever you are. Either way, you’ll have the tools you need to employ the technology at your fingertips to find the home of your dreams.


Share you comment below: “Have you used any of the websites or tools above? Which ones did you like or not like?”

About the Author

Kali Hawlk

Staff Writer

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Kali is a writer, content strategist, and consultant. She has many years of experience writing about personal finance and real estate. She appreciates the chance to educate people about home-buying.

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