With winter in the rear view mirror, we can expect much more activity in the real estate markets in the next few months. However, the process of finding the perfect home for you can be an overwhelming one. How do you find your "style"? How do you sort through the thousands of homes on the market? Finding the perfect house might seem like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Fortunately, technology has made the process much easier, and there are some simple ways to make the buying process go much more smoothly.
First, make sure your finances are in order
Before you even think about buying a house, you need to start saving for your down payment. Most lenders want 20% down in order to offer the best rates and to avoid mortgage insurance. The average selling price of a home in the U.S. is just under $190,000, which translates to a down payment of about $38,000.
This is quite a bit of money for many younger homebuyers, and it takes a certain amount of discipline to be able to set it aside. To make it happen, you need to establish savings goals and keep your spending in check.
One app that lets you do all of this is Mint, which lets you put your financial life in one place. You can monitor what's happening with all of your accounts at once, so you can get an instant overview of your financial situation without logging into each account individually.
You can also track your spending by category, which is very useful in breaking bad habits. Do you like to go out to eat a lot? You may be surprised how much it's costing you every month! Use this information to budget your money and track the progress toward your savings goals.
Then, figure out what you're looking for
If you're a first-time home buyer, the sheer volume of choices may be overwhelming to you. As a renter, most of the "customization" choices are already made for you. On the other hand, when you're buying a house you can decide between many different architectural styles, floorplans, and more. Once you find a home, how are you going to decorate it?
Check out the app from Houzz, which has the largest database of home photos and ideas in the world. With Houzz, you can find pictures to help you communicate what you want to your real estate agent. You can also source products, get advice, and find professionals to help find your personal "style".
Finally, go find it!
Once you have the money and know you can afford it, the time has come to get serious. However, the days of driving around neighborhoods all day looking for "for sale" signs are in the past. Thanks to technology you can find houses meeting your criteria right from your phone or tablet.
Trulia's app allows users to enter the criteria for the type of home they're looking for (price range, bedrooms, etc.), and the app gives them a map of nearby houses matching their criteria. The app also saves and constantly updates search results, notifies users of nearby open houses, and can put them in touch with real estate professionals.
The home buying process doesn't have to be scary
With today's mobile technology; there is no need for you to feel overwhelmed during your home search. However, the decision to buy a home should not be taken lightly, and you need to do your homework. The apps mentioned here can make the entire process, from saving for your down payment to making an offer on a home, as fun, easy, and effective as possible.
Do you pay too much in taxes?
Recent tax increases have affected nearly every American taxpayer. But with the right planning, you can take steps to take control of your taxes and potentially even lower your tax bill. In our brand-new special report "The IRS Is Daring You to Make This Investment Now!," you'll learn about the simple strategy to take advantage of a little-known IRS rule. Don't miss out on advice that could help you cut taxes for decades to come. Click here to learn more.