MONEY

iPhone app makes homebuying easier

Shopping for a house? If you’re one of the few people out there actually looking for a new home (okay, I live in South Florida, so I’m bitter), Realtor.com introduced a cool new iPhone app on Wednesday .



I’ve used Realtor.com’s main website before, plugging in my zip code and a bunch of characteristics to see what homes are selling for in my neighborhood. This free iPhone app, called Home Search, uses GPS to produce a map of houses for sale near wherever you are with your phone — a map which you can refine based on distance, type of house, price range and other criteria. It can also display results of the searches you’ve saved on the main website under your log in. (To find the app in your iPhone’s app store, look for “Home Search.”)

Home Search is by no means the first app of its kind; Trulia launched one in 2008. But Trulia’s listings aren’t as up-to-date as Realtor.com’s, which pulls data from nearly all the nation’s 933 Multiple Listing Services and has agreements to allow for rapid-fire updates. So a house near me was listed at its just-reduced price of $349,000 on the Realtor.com app, while Trulia still had the price as $399,000. If you’re out viewing homes, and you want to see what’s available near you, even a couple hours of lag in price updates can make a difference.

Realtor.com’s app also allows you to enter in notes and assign the property a star rating, which it saves for you – a nice assist when the average home search takes 12 weeks and involves as many as 16 homes.

I do like the fact that Trulia’s app offers a category for Price Reduced, so you can search specifically for homes where sellers have cut prices. (Realtor.com’s Julie Reynolds says more features will be added this year.) Personally, if I were seriously shopping, I’d use both apps.

Bottom line is, technology that puts more information about properties in the hands of consumers — and gets that information there faster — is a good thing. But I was interested to read an agent’s blog post about Realtor.com’s app that suggested some real estate brokers are concerned they’ll lose business if home shoppers can learn more from their phone without contacting agents. Some brokers also harrumphed that Realtor.com will just have more leverage to force agents to pay for “enhanced listing” packages that give more details about the house and better contact info for the listing agents. Other commenters jumped in to say that things are better off with better-informed consumers.

Amen to that.

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