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5 Online Tools to Kick Off Your House Search

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If you’re like most people, when the time comes to look for a home – whether to buy or rent – the first place you head to is your computer. According to the National Association of Realtors, 74% of home buyers use the internet in their home search. (In contrast, only 9% used newspaper ads, and just 12% head to open houses.)

But with so many resources vying for home seekers’ attention, it’s all too easy to get lost — or at least spend too much time online that, in retrospect, you’d wish you spent otherwise (say, with your family or friends). We recently featured our top 5 picks of mobile apps for home buyers. We continue the theme, this time with recommended smart phone apps and websites for both home buyers and renters.

1. Realtor.com

Start your house hunt with the official site of the National Association of Realtors, which lists more than 110 million properties for sale and almost 150,000 homes for rent nationwide. The listings of more than 3 million homes for sale are updated every 15 minutes and you can make notes on the listing and send them to others. There’s also a free Android app, which lets you sign into your Realtor.com account and access any saved searches or listings with automatic synchronization.

2. CrumbTracks

An application for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, CrumbTracks allows users to store listings, make notes and send photos and video during house hunting. It also features a mortgage calculator and a wish list and, best of all, is free.

3. Property Shark

Signing up for a free account will give you access to foreclosure, sale and property listings for areas nationwide. You can search by address and see deed details for many of the major metropolitan areas, including the last sale price and tax data. The site also allows comparable searches to get a good idea of property values.

4. CriminalJusticeUSA.com

Found a property you like? Don’t sign any papers before you’ve made sure it’s safe for you and your family. CriminalJusticeUSA.com provides this extensive list of 50 resources where you can research everything about your desired neighborhood, from crime data, school and education program report cards, to resident sex offender lists.

5. Moveinspections.com

Once you’ve settled on a property, you will most likely conduct a walk-through with the owner, seller or realtor, in order to make sure that everything is in proper condition, the appliances work, and so forth. Be careful: if you rent, you will be expected to return the home in that same condition exactly — or cleaning and repairs will come out of your security deposit. And if you’re buying, well: the inspection is your last chance to point out needed repairs or uncover problems that the seller needs to resolve.

Moveinspections.com is useful in both scenarios. It is primarily for rental inspections and serves as an online storage center for inspection reports. But future home buyers can use it too, especially the inspection checklist that details what to look for in a home or apartment. It also has an app in the Android Market that allows you to record data onto its inspection checklist.

Looking for a new home can be an exciting, but overwhelming, adventure. Make your quest more manageable with these sites and apps. Happy hunting!

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