David Charron, president and chief executive of Rockville-based multiple-listing service MRIS, writes an occasional column about the Washington-area real estate market.
Real estate technology has grown exponentially since the first Internet boom, and with every passing year the pace seems to accelerate even more.
This summer, I attended multiple real estate conferences around the country and learned about a bunch of new technology that can help renters, home buyers and sellers at every stage of the process. Here’s a round-up of some of the tech that I’ve been keeping an eye on:
RadPad is a popular site for renters in search of their next apartment, condo, house or roommate. It shows how many people have clicked on a listing so potential renters can get an idea of how much interest there is for a specific property.
Another popular feature from RadPad is the ability for renters to pay their rent with a credit or debit card to any landlord in the country. Renters simply pay RadPad directly and the company sends a check to the landlord. This feature is ideal for millennials still renting, because once the check is cashed, they will receive a text confirming that the rent has been paid. It is free if you use a debit card, but there is a small fee for credit card payments.
Mozaic is a new mobile-optimized social platform that connects buyers and their real estate agents directly to listings in the multi-listing service (MLS) database. It is currently available in Washington and its surrounding markets (i.e. all of the areas served by our MLS for the Mid-Atlantic).
Mozaic’s easy-to-use and collaborative home search enables buyers to share, comment on, select favorites and review homes they are interested in. Buyers can also invite up to 10 friends or family members to join the conversation, share instant feedback and suggest properties.
If buyers are looking for a fixer-upper, for example, and have an experienced carpenter in their social circle, they can invite that person to see their saved listings and share their thoughts about how feasible each project is to take on.
For mortgage shoppers:
Fannie Mae jumped into the app development world with HOME, which pulls together mortgage related features usually found on different sites and puts them all in one place.
HOME comes with several calculators — a monthly mortgage estimator, a savings calculator to determine how much to plan for a down payment and an extra-payment calculator to help with the math on reducing the number of years on a mortgage.
There is also a built-in data dictionary and educational resources about home buying. HOME can also connect users directly to HUD-approved housing counseling agencies.
For people making an offer on a home:
After a mortgage, utility expenses are often the next highest cost of living in a home. Now with Enerscore anyone can find out more about the total monthly cost for a home before they move in, even before they make an offer on the property.
Enerscore uses public records to make up a profile of a home and then determines an energy performance rating. Using this information, the site estimates the monthly utility costs based on local rates for that neighborhood.
For recent home buyers:
MagicPlan is a smartphone app that lets you create a floor plan of any room just by walking its perimeter and noting where the corners are. Users can then import the floor plan into Floorplanner and use its library of furniture icons to plan out the furniture arrangement.
For people renovating a home:
Kukun (a play on the word ‘cocoon’) gives you the tools to complete renovation projects on time and on budget. After you provide details about a proposed project, Kukun not only gives you an estimate of the cost and a planning tool, but the site also provides a general idea of the financial return on investment for the project once you sell your home.
For sellers: roOomy is a virtual staging app that creates a 3D image of any room in your home based on a photo taken with a smartphone or tablet. Users can choose from an extensive furniture catalogue to ‘stage’ the room on their screen.
This is especially helpful to sellers, who can delete images of their existing furniture and virtually replace them with updated pieces so that the listing photos look fresh and inviting. All of the furniture is available for purchase through roOomy’s retail partners directly within in the app.
The proliferation of technology tools to help throughout the entire real estate process isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. By this time next year there will be a whole new crop of options to choose from.
Whether you’re a renter, buyer, seller, renovator or anyone else who works in the real estate industry, there’s a technology tool — or several — to serve your needs.
Catch up with some of David Charron’s previous columns: