If you're looking to purchase your first home -- or are simply trading one home for another -- you may feel overwhelmed by the thought of taking weeks or months to peruse listings, visit open houses, and secure financing for your next home. Even after you've found the right home, you'll still have to undergo inspections and appraisals to ensure your financing will remain solid. However, recent advances in technology have made the home selection process substantially easier, even for those with on-the-go lifestyles. Read on to learn more about how these technological developments are revolutionizing the way real estate is purchased, sold, and inspected.
Since the advent of smartphones, potential buyers -- and sellers -- have been able to view photos of a home, look up comparable properties, and even access past tax records and previous sale prices from their mobile device.
However, there are now a series of smartphone apps that go even further. For example, several apps will pinpoint your geographic location through the global positioning system (GPS) on your phone and provide you with nearby home listings -- perfect if you're browsing for a home in a specific neighborhood or area. This feature can also come in handy if you'd like to view several open houses one day without traveling far from your base.
When house hunting, you can also use these apps to update you on new listings in your region. You can be as broad or specific as you'd like -- viewing only homes with a certain number of bedrooms or square footage, or simply being notified when any homes in a certain area or zip code come on the market. In some hot areas, homes may go under contract the same day they're listed (and often for higher than the asking price). If your market is hopping and you'd like a shot at purchasing, you need to be instantly notified when a property has gone on the market.
In the past, real estate listings were generally posted only in the local newspaper. Even the first internet real estate listings rarely included more information than the property address, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and perhaps a photo or two. Most homeowners browsed properties primarily by working through a real estate agent who would be able to match listings with the buyer's preferences.
Today's listings have become much more interactive -- with viewers now able to take "virtual tours" of the home through video technology. These "tours" are relatively easy to produce by taking a series of panoramic photos that allow the user to make a 360-degree turn throughout the room.
These advances provide benefits to both the buyer and seller. Buyers are able to avoid the frustration of taking time to visit a property that looked great from outdoor photos, but was significantly smaller or more run-down in person, while sellers can use these virtual tours to highlight features of the home (such as large rooms that may photograph "small" when not in panoramic form).
Another innovative and increasingly popular way to highlight unique features of a home is the use of an aerial drone to create photographs and videos. Because many features of a property don't always translate well to still photographs (or even ground-level videos or panoramic photos), capturing an aerial view of the home or neighborhood from a flying drone can help target a home to its ideal owner.
Although these drones are generally used only to market high-dollar properties or those that have some unusual features that might make the selling process difficult, some experts expect that the use of drones may soon be the norm when it comes to real estate marketing. This (along with the previously discussed panoramic tours and GPS-targeted search results) can allow potential buyers to truly get the look and feel of any properties they wish to view before arranging an in-person tour -- helping narrow the selection and streamline the process.
Drones can also help when it comes to inspecting your potential home. In many cases, the cursory house inspection that the bank undertakes won't involve a contractor climbing up to inspect the roof or the inside of a chimney. Instead, you'll be able to use a drone to obtain a video feed of these hard-to-reach or hard-to-view areas at a much lower cost than that of paying someone to personally inspect it.