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home buyer tech tools

Home buyers are increasingly depending on the internet when beginning their search. Here are a few sites that are sure to lend a hand.

Google Maps Real Estate

Google Maps has grown enormously as a service since its launch in 2005, adding features like walking directions and Street View [source: Google]. Type in an address in any populated area, and Google Maps can likely pinpoint local businesses and give you a good look at it with satellite imagery. But there’s another feature of Google Maps perfect for house hunters — a “real estate” option is hidden away on the “More” menu. Toggle it on, and suddenly Google Maps will display houses listed for sale in the map area.

In heavily populated areas, that could be a lot of houses. Thankfully, the menu panel on the left side of the screen includes several sorting options. You can enter a price range to search, filter by houses for sale/rent/foreclosure, or sort by number of bedrooms, bathrooms or square footage. And since Google excels at pulling in images from other Web sites and producing its own with Street View, each listing page should give you a basic idea of what the home in question looks like.

Google Maps is the perfect way to get a feel for where available homes are, or even map out a route to travel between them. But when it comes to detailed searches, we’ll want to head to a real estate site with a bit more depth.

Mortgage Calculators

Crunching mortgage numbers on paper is no fun. There are a lot of big numbers involved: how long the mortgage will last, what the interest rate will be, how much the house costs. Why try to calculate it the hard way when there are applications built specifically to make mortgages easier to understand?

There are dozens of free, easy-to-use mortgage calculators on smart phone platforms that make mortgage calculation a snap. For example, the free Karl’s Mortgage Calculator for Android will break your mortgage numbers down into tables, graphs charts and a summary showing just how much of the mortgage comes from principal and interest. And while there are tons of apps on the iTunes App Store that will handle mortgage calculating for only $1, free apps are plentiful, as well. And if you’d rather do your money math at home, Karl’s Mortgage Calculator online or Zillow’s simple calculator are good starting points.

Finally, there’s one last element we can’t ignore when calculating a new mortgage: property taxes.

Property Tax web sites

While some mortgage calculators will help you figure out how much in taxes to expect from your new residence, others ignore them completely or want you to input the dollar amount manually. Thinking about taxes isn’t much fun, but government Web sites are there to ease us through the pain. Every state has a Department of Revenue with tax records and a wealth of government-provided information.

The Free Public Records Directory aggregates a huge number of state government Web sites. Just enter your ZIP code to view the county’s public records Web sites. Official property search tools can give you a detailed description of any address you plug in. Armed with tax information, mortgage calculators and a huge selection of realty search engines, it’s time to go out and find that perfect home.

 

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Kathleen Finnegan

23925 Park Sorrento
Calabasas, Ca 91302
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