You peel yourself out of bed at 8:30 — earlier than your usual Saturday wake-up time. You shower, dress, have breakfast and coffee, and punch the address into your smartphone GPS.
Then you make your way to a neighboring suburb for a 10 a.m. open house. The place looks good on paper: solid construction, ample square footage, and convenient to work, shopping, and nightlife. Its also zoned for good schools.
Unfortunately, in person it doesn’t pass muster. The layout is awkward and space-inefficient, there isn’t enough natural light, and the kitchen is smaller than the online photos made it look.
But that was then…
Twenty years ago, the wasted Saturday morning and burning of fossil fuels was a typical home search exercise. But with the technology you have at your disposal in 2014, you’re just getting started.
You pull out the same smartphone, go to a reputable real estate web site, draw out your target area on one of their fancy maps, input your price range and other desired criteria, and voila, you have 13 other properties to see in this neck of the woods.
Using the MLS app on her smartphone, your agent quickly obtains lockbox codes and showing instructions for the properties you want to see. You happily move from house to house, discussing the pros and cons of each.
Then it happens: You pull up to the perfect house. Everything about it is perfect, from the in-ground pool around back to the to the trash cans perched beside the garage door. You tell your agent you want to make an offer on the spot.
Once again, technology is your best friend. Your agent contacts the seller’s agent, and they hammer out the details. The paperwork is emailed over, and you e-sign it on your agent’s tablet.
She uses the tablet to email everything back to the seller and his agent. The house — your future home — is now under contract. The entire process took less than thirty minutes, and not a single tree was toppled for the paperwork.
Technology is an indispensable component of an efficient real estate search. Below are the tools you’ll need for your next home search:
- Smartphone. This is an obvious one. You can receive alerts the second a new property meeting your search criteria hits the market, keep in touch with your agent 24/7, conduct real estate searches with mobile-friendly apps, and much more.
- GPS. Chances are, this is integrated into your smartphone. If not, get on eBay and pick up a good used Garmin or Tomtom. You don’t realize until you’re waist-deep in a search how often you end up checking out houses spontaneously. You’re driving home from the gym and you get a text from your agent or a friend who saw a house you might like. It’s much easier — and safer — to input the address and receive verbalized turn-by-turn directions than it is to fumble with a city map while you’re driving.
- Tablet. Your agent should have one of these if he or she is technologically up to speed. But doesn’t hurt to have one of your own as well. A good tablet is like an entire portable office, except it doesn’t take up much more room than a slice of ciabatta. The last thing you want is to have your dream house bought out from under you by Slick Rick with the iPad while you’re on your way to Kinkos to print out your paper documents.