Today, homebuyers and sellers have a plethora of online resources to help them with almost every aspect of buying/selling. In fact, there are so many sites offering real estate-related services that it’s difficult to know which ones are worthwhile and which ones aren’t. That’s why we’ve created this overview of 5 important online resources for homebuyers and sellers in Boston.
1. Affordability Calculators
Homebuyers in Boston (or anywhere else for that matter) should make their first step calculating how much home they can afford. But if you haven’t done that first and have already found a home you like, you should, before making an offer, determine whether you can actually afford it.
A lot of factors go into determining affordability, so it’s a good idea to use one of the reputable online affordability calculators. One such calculator is the one offered by Chase, which allows you to just plug in your information to get an affordability estimate.
You “[s]imply enter your monthly income, monthly expenses, downpayment, interest rate, property taxes, property insurance, and loan term and get an estimated home price. The calculator then breaks down your monthly mortgage payment into principal and interest and taxes and insurance. After all, it’s important to understand that you’re ultimately paying more than the total purchase price for a house. Interest and taxes can add up quickly.”
You do have to make sure, though, that you have the correct figures to input. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Loan term
- Interest rate
- Monthly income
- Monthly expenses
- Down payment
- Property taxes
- Homeowners insurance
“Once you’ve plugged in these numbers, the calculator will automatically generate a home price and an estimated monthly payment amount. Play around with loan terms and down payments to get different results. This will give you a good idea of how much house you can comfortably afford.”
2. Mortgage Calculators
Once homebuyers have determined affordability, they then need to know whether they can actually qualify for a mortgage for that amount and what the terms and rate will be. Again, Chase offers a serviceable online tool for this task.
As before, you just plug in the pertinent information: “your loan purpose (purchase or refinance), property type, property use, a state in which it’s located, the home price, your down payment, any discount points you’ll be paying, and your credit rating.” Once you’ve done that, “the calculator will generate estimated mortgage rates and monthly payments for both fixed-rate and adjustable-rate loans.”
3. Finding an Inspector
Home sellers may want to get an inspection to find problems and fix them before listing, but homebuyers in Boston will almost always want an inspection. It’s not always that easy, though, to find a good inspector you trust. In that case, you should use one of the online resources for finding an inspector.
A couple of good places to begin looking for inspectors are the sites for The National Association of Home Inspectors and the American Society of Home Inspectors. “If you prefer to learn more about the many inspectors in your local area, including how other users have rated them, Angie’s List is the resource for you.”
4. Scoping Out a Neighborhood
A chief concern of prospective homebuyers is the neighborhood they’re considering moving to – what it’s like, whether it’s safe, and whether it will be a good fit. If you find yourself in that boat, you can get nearly all the information you need online.
One good online resource for this is AreaVibes. You just plug in the appropriate zip code, and AreaVibes will give you a livability score. This score takes into account such factors as housing, employment, education, crime, weather, amenities, and cost of living. You can also find out about commute times and stats for the local real estate market.
A resource for learning about specific neighborhoods is Neighborhood Scout. When you enter a zip code, you get a list of the neighborhoods in that area. Then you can drill down and get characteristics, demographics, and real estate stats, as well as trends and forecasts. for a particular neighborhood.
5. Platforms for Listing
And then there are the online listing platforms for both home sellers and home buyers in Boston. These have grown exponentially in the last few years. They are easy to use, so a lot of people use them.
A couple of the top online listing sites are Zillow and HomeFinder. Zillow was established in 2006 and has become one of the most popular of such sites, especially for sellers who want to list their home as for sale by owner. HomeFinder connects sellers with home buyers and has over four million listings. There is, though, a fee of $30 per month.
But we’d be remiss if we didn’t include this caveat. These online home-sale sites may be convenient and easy to use, but by selling this way, you could miss out on several thousand dollars at sale time. The problem is that these sites aren’t really equipped to assess the true value of your home, so you may have to rely on inaccurate data for pricing.
What you need for that is a local agent.
But a Boston Agent Beats Online
These online resources are indeed useful tools, but you also need to work with a [market-city] real estate agent to get the best price when selling or the best deal when buying. Nothing beats the knowledge of local markets that your Boston agent will have. So for home buyers and sellers in Boston, yes, use those online resources, but also be sure to contact us at (617) 657-9811.