Clearing the Cache

House Buying Tools

We made an offer on a house today! When our realtor called us last night that the seller verbally accepted our offer, it sounded like she was more excited than we were. I think we were excited as well, but it’s almost unreal. We bought a house

Granted there’s still a lot ahead of us (inspections, paperwork, negotiations, paperwork, paperwork… did I mention paperwork?), we are hoping to move in next month!

Since I’m a geek at heart, I couldn’t share the good news without writing about the tools we used in our house hunting. Hopefully, someone else will find our corner of the internet and get some tips on their home search. Otherwise, this will be a mental note of what I used for the next time I go house hunting (hopefully not for another decade!).

I got a few web site tips from a Lifehacker.com post, but not all the tools mentioned there were beneficial to us. Some of the links provided outdated information or not obvious on how to get the information I was seeking.

There were three primary sites I used to search for a home:

www.trulia.com
Trulia gave the most accurate results and allowed me to filter results not only by specifics (price, bedrooms, etc), but also filter based on the map area I was viewing. I found the map view useful because we were trying to stay close to the MAX train. We only own 1 car, so I’ll need to be able use the MAX train often without walking long distances to get to a stop. I also liked that they used an embedded Google Map. Some other sites use their own maps which don’t have mass transit information.

www.zillow.com
Zillow provided some properties that Trulia did not. Their interface was as usable as Trulia’s, they also provided lots of statistics and trends information just like Trulia, and they had lots of articles on home buying. I can’t say I used all that they offered, I mainly came back because I would get different search results. While their map view was usable, I found it lacking in providing mass transit information and showing nearby parks.

www.hotpads.com
HotPads was my third go-to web site to find houses for sale. Again, the main attraction was that it found results that Trulia did not. Their user interface isn’t as slick as the aforementioned sites, but I liked that it can do a “buy vs. rent” comparison. Their flash interface was a bit sluggish. One nitpick is their price range selector was hard to get it to where I want without a few tries. They also used their own maps, so I’d always have to refer to a Google Map to see where the MAX line was nearby the search results.

There were two tools I despised because they provided outdated results, giving false hopes and wasting time. Google real estate search and Yahoo Real Estate were utterly useless.

Google My Maps was a great tool for mapping out our future neighborhood and focusing on homes in an area. I used placemarks to indicate the stores we frequent (Costco, Fred Meyer, and WinCo), potential homes we were considering, and all the nearby MAX stations.

I also used the Google My Map to estimate travel times to work from various properties. When I searched for directions from a house to my work, I switched the results to using public transportation, and voila! And I can allow Jenni to collaborate on the map (but it was too geeky for her).


View Larger Map

So what’s next? I’ve thought about using Google SketchUp to make a model of our future home so we can start planning out where we’re going to place furniture and give virtual tours. But by the time I build the model, we’ll probably be moved in and getting settled. I should get ready for big changes on the other side of the computer screen.

Like letting Kadie to help with the home inspections…

One Response to “House Buying Tools”

  1. Sarrah says:

    Congratulations!!! That is so exciting, and we can’t wait to hear all about it! We miss you at YM – so hopefully we’ll see you next week? If not, we’ll have to get together soon to catch up.

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