Gone are the days taking time off work and driving from home to home to home to see a possible house to buy. Online sites and handy apps have made it easier than ever for people to buy homes on the MLS (multiple listing service). In addition to purchasing homes, users can peek at interiors, check former sale prices, and find additional facts like architectural style and date of build.
While San Francisco home prices remain way out of reach for people making a modest to above-modest income (only the truly wealthy can afford to buy a home in this city), the following sites and their accompanying apps will help make the search easier. And for non-buyers who simply enjoy spending the day adrift in real estate fantasy, these are also surefire ways to get your imaginations ignited.
Redfin: Developed in Seattle and San Francisco, the app works in 83 major U.S. markets; wherever the Redfin brokerage operates. It’s always up to date, the easiest to use, and the most accurate. Here at Curbed SF, I use it find scour the listings for homes. And according to the The New York Times, Redfin has been dipping its toes further into the disruption waters by testing a feature that will allow people to place a bid on a property via the company’s website. Redfin offers mobile apps for iOS and Android.
Trulia: In addition to a slew of MLS listings, the site’s Trulia Neighborhoods lets buyers, and sellers to find information about a particular neighborhood and see what’s on offer. It also has a crime map feature, which uses data from CrimeReports.com and SpotCrime.com, to let users know about illegal shenanigans in a prospective neighborhood—which could be problematic!—as well as details about area schools and commute times. Based in San Francisco, the real estate site was purchased by Zillow for $3.5 billion in 2015. Truila offers mobile apps for iOS and Androids.
Zillow: Speaking of which, Seattle-based Zillow, founded in 2011, is one of the oldest online home listings sites. Similar to other listing sites, you can search via ZIP code or neighborhood. The site also offers calculators for mortgages and other financials; and a search engine for finding local agents. There are also Zillow apps for iOS and Android.
Realtor: This site does much of what the aforementioned ones do, pull listings from the MLS, group them by ZIP code or neighborhood, and show off images of interiors. It also comes with a mobile app for iOS and Android.
The Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development: Real talk: This site is a pain to navigate, but the city currently has three homebuyer programs for people who meet the income eligibility requirements and complete homebuyer education. It’s quite an arduous process, but worth it to find an affordable home in the country’s most pricey housing market. There’s also additional loan programs to help homebuyers. Curbed SF also has a below-market-rate housing guide that’s wildly helpful.
(Honorable mention) Houzz: Though not a homebuying app, Houzz is an architecture, interior design, and home improvement site that allows users design their homes post-purchase. The Palo Alto startup raised a staggering $400 million in venture capital funding in 2017. But take note that not everyone is pleased with Houzz—most notably, interior designers. According to Architectural Digest, an anonymous online petition railed the company for trying to remove the need to said designers entirely. “At the root of the petition is the belief that Houzz is eliminating the need for interior designers with its ‘visual match’ algorithm, which scans designer portfolio photos and tags them with links to similar-looking products that consumers can then purchase.” Designers can, however, opt out of this feature.