Shopping for a house requires the organizational skills of a master planner. How do you remember every detail of the listing you just looked at—never mind the house from last week or last month?
It can be nerve wracking to say the least. So we’ve put together a list of iPhone apps to help you pull everything together (many are also available for Windows and Android). Arm yourself with these tools and you’ll never forget which charming 60’s ranch house has a water heater in the guest bedroom.
Do you have a favorite app? Let us know about it in the comments.
Snap it, measure it, look it up — owning these apps creates a library in your pocket.
The Real Estate Dictionary
Most real estate dictionaries cost between $4 and $10. Some are even $50. This bare-bones, no-cost app stands out among the free options.
Assets: It’s an easy to navigate and comprehensive dictionary of real estate terms—from construction to contract. When your home inspector is blathering on about a cracked collar beam, you can quickly discover just what that is.
Liabilities: There’s no search function, so users have to navigate to a letter tab and then scroll.
Mortgage Calculator Pro
There are a ton of free mortgage calculator apps out there, and you get what you pay for. This is the single non-free app in the survey, but it’s worth every penny of the 99 cents it costs.
Assets: Users can save various loans and loan configurations, so there’s no need to retype the information each time. This makes it easy to add or subtract variables, such as HOA fees, maintenance costs, different interests rates, and play with the numbers. Users can send loan info and amortization schedules to contacts via email. It also has features for auto and other kinds of loans, so it’s not a one-and-done purchase.
Liabilities: There’s no option for interest-only loans, it’s not free, and it’s brown … so much brown.
Homesnap is a little creepy. It lets users search a map of listings, just like the major listings-search apps below, but its main feature is to “snap” a photo of any house and dig up its county appraisal and recent sale info. Homesnap also has a “stealth” mode that identifies houses near the user’s GPS location and serves up the same kind of goods.
Assets: Immediately identify the tax appraisal and see other interesting info on homes surrounding any listing.
Liabilities: Immediately feel like a creep.
This app is so good that it should actually cost something. Magic Plan allows a user to capture the dimensions and features of any room in a house. The process is just like taking a series of photos. The app then returns room dimensions and door locations so users can easily determine whether or not they can wedge their grand piano in the study.
Assets: Create a floor plans for multiple houses quickly with photos and notes. Users can email room plans in pdf and jpg formats for free. The app also allows users to send the data to Home Depot flooring departments, share it on social media and more.
Liabilities: It can be difficult to use in narrow spaces like galley kitchens and other oddly shaped rooms.
While not specifically related to house hunting, Evernote is a do-it-all note-taking app that has uses even after the closing papers are signed.
Assets: Evernote is actually a suite of tools that lets users capture web pages, bundle photos, record voice notes, and just type plain old notes. Each can be organized into an individual notebook that can be synched among all of a user’s computers and devices, and shared with friends, whether they are Evernote users or not.
Liabilities: None. Download it now!
LISTINGS SEARCH APPS
These apps all do the same basic thing: They allow you look at homes on the market. Plug in a ZIP Code or a neighborhood, a price range, and parameters such as number of bedrooms and baths, and the apps display the results on a map or on a list. All have websites that synch with the user’s phone, so a search saved on a laptop shows up on the user’s mobile device. All have photo galleries, MLS information and agent info.
What makes one better than the other? Let’s plow through their strengths and weaknesses:
Assets: Like other apps of its ilk, realtor.com uses your phone’s GPS to display nearby properties. Its standout feature is that it allows the user to draw a circle, square or any other closed shape on the map and shows only listings within the boundary. Buyers can also share favorite properties and other information with their agent from within the app.
Liabilities: Searches for recently sold listings don’t show prices, but they do show the amount under or over the asking price for which the property sold. Users can’t save sold listings as favorites.
For Sale By Owner
Assets: This is the most useful app to find listings that aren’t on the MLS, and DIYers will find it intuitive to use. Its search results highlight pending sales, new listings and regular sales, and it keeps a history of results, which is handy if you forget to save a favorite.
Liabilities: There is limited information on each property and there are fewer properties to view than on the MLS. The app also doesn’t offer links to schools, tax information or similarly helpful info.
Assets: Trulia’s best feature is its ability to plot neighborhood amenities on a map. Buyers can see the nearest grocery stores, parks, gas stations banks with ratings and reviews from Yelp. Users can also toggle map overlays for information on crime, flooding, earthquakes and more.
Liabilities: Trulia app doesn’t default to residential property searches, so the user will want to dial in specific settings—unless they just happen to like looking at vacant industrial lots. Map overlays for crime are very general “heat maps” and don’t display information on number or type of criminal activities.
Assets: This app includes decent mortgage calculator that allows a user quickly summarize monthly ownership costs, including insurance, taxes, and bills. It also provides the most detailed information on sold properties in its class, including prices. Users can take notes and add their own photos to favorite properties.
Liabilities: Agent features work only with Redfin agents.
Assets: Zillow presents clear, easy-to-skim listing info with multiple graphs and charts that summarize financing estimates and the home’s position on the market, including Zillow’s own estimate of its worth. There are direct links to a property’s listing on the county tax sites, and summary of its tax history in the app. The app also allows users to get custom mortgage quotes from online brokers.
Liabilities: Map icons are subtle and can be difficult differentiate from one another. There is no rental search.
Marc Lee is a freelance writer and film buff who loves real estate almost as much as Candy herself. He lives in Dallas. Contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.