Tech Tools That Make Home Buying Easier

Buying a home can be stressful. There are so many questions to be answered and decisions to be made, such

Buying a home can be stressful. There are so many questions to be answered and decisions to be made, such as where you should live, what can you afford, and how do you find a real estate agent. Eventually, a whole new set of questions start coming, like, what color should you paint the kitchen? Thankfully, there are more tools than ever to help buyers answer these questions right from the get-go. To make your home shopping process, from shopping to moving in, easier and less stressful, follow these tips:

Personal Finances – Make sure you’re financially ready to take on home ownership before you meet with an agent or starting looking at homes. That means cleaning up your credit and saving enough money for a down payment (20 percent is ideal), and extra costs like home insurance, property taxes and closing fees. Boost your credit score with help from an app like BillTracker which helps you manage when your monthly bills are due.  A site like lets you create a budget with specific savings goals in mind, such as buying a house.

Where to Live – Before you start looking at specific homes, narrow down the neighborhoods you’d like to live in based on your lifestyle. Transit Score can help you understand your commuting options, Walk Score will show you how many amenities, like shops and restaurants, are within close proximity, and Zillow Real Estate Market Reports lets you compare what’s happening with home value trends in different neighborhoods. But, don’t stop there. Continue your research when you are driving around town, by using real estate apps for iPhone, BlackBerry or Android to get a sense for home prices in different areas.

Finding an Agent –  Hiring the right agent can be one of the most important decisions you will make during the home buying process. The right agent can save you precious time and money. So, in addition to following a recommendation from a friend or co-worker, check out local agent ratings and reviews.  It’s helpful to know the experiences that other people have had working with a particular agent.

What Can You Afford? – When you’re standing in the living room of your dream home it’s easy to get caught up in the emotions of such an important investment. Before that happens, get a financial reality check using an app like the Zillow Mortgage Marketplace iPhone App to help you figure out if you can afford the home and how the mortgage payment would affect your monthly budget. Once you’re ready, you can get personalized loan quotes and then contact a lender to start the pre-approval process right from your phone.

Moving – Nobody likes moving. It’s a never-ending process with so many details to tie up. Thankfully, apps like Moving List, (iPhone, iPad) Moving Checklist (BlackBerry) and Moving Planner (Android) can help you get organized. These apps come with pre-populated to-do lists that you can edit and organize by categories or dates. Some even help you decide what to pack and what to throw away.

Decorating – You’ve bought the house, the boxes are unpacked, and now comes the fun part  – decorating your house to reflect your personal style.  And do-it-yourself home decorating has never been easier. A site like Decomash allows you to take a photo of your living space with your iPhone and the app will find complementary artwork that matches your room. Sherwin Williams Color Snap enables you to capture real-world colors and match them to one of 1,500 Sherwin Williams paint colors.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest