Whether you want to rent or buy, finding a new home can be pretty tough without a little help. Thanks to the internet, that help is freely available. There are tons of tips and tools that can help make finding and moving to a new home a lot easier. Here are our top 10 favorites.
Title image remixed from an original by Ben Freedman.
10. Know Your Rights
Whether you plan to rent or buy, you need to know your rights. Renters can quickly find this information in their state’s tenant handbook. To make things simple, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a tenants rights page for every state. Just choose yours and start reading. Although homeowner rights will vary from state to state as well, the American Bar Association Family Legal Guide provides some broad answers. To find state-specific rights, just do a web search for “homeowner rights” and the name of your state. In most cases you’ll find a government web site and/or PDF document filled with everything you want to know.
Image via CB Blog Estate.
9. Hire a Reputable Mover
When you’re heading to a new home, hiring a reputable mover is obviously a better idea than hiring a crappy company that’s going to hijack your stuff. Still, it has been known to happen. To make sure you don’t fall victim to a moving scam, you need to sufficiently investigate the moving company you want to use. Consumer rights blog The Consumerist suggests that you check movingscam.com and movingsham.com to make sure the company isn’t blacklisted, know your rights as a customer, check out the mover’s Better Business Bureau record, check the mover’s D.O.T. number, and get at least three estimates in writing before making a decision. You may also want to consider using a tool like Angie’s List to avoid misleading, fake reviews.
8. Figure Out Your Budget for Owning a Home
Want to own a home but aren’t sure how much you can afford? MSN has an home affordability calculator that can help you out. You just enter the cost of your current financial obligations, how much you make, and a few other statistics to find out the cost of a home you can afford. If you’re thinking of buying, this is a quick way to get an approximate idea of what’s in your price range.
7. Score Free Moving Boxes and Packing Supplies
You don’t have to pay (much) for packing supplies. To start, there are plenty of ways to get free moving boxes. Craigslist, Freecycle, restaurants, grocery stores, furniture stores, and liquor stores are all great options. If you can’t locate any for free, however, you can always buy them on the cheap at UsedCardboardBoxes.com. If you want them new you’re definitely going to pay a bit more, but ULine is a great resource for getting everything you need delivered for a reasonable price.
6. Find a Real Estate Broker and Find Homes
If you’re buying a home, the first thing you’re going to need to do is find one and chances are you’ll need a broker or agent’s help to do that. Homethinking provides a broker search for both buyers and sellers and includes some helpful statistics on your options. If you’re just looking to search existing listings, Redfin can show you plenty of options in a given area with helpful statistics. It even includes a mortgage calculator on each listing page to help you figure out what you’ll need to pay per month depending on your term. Both are helpful tools when you’re getting started in your search for a new home.
5. Simplify the Moving Process
Moving isn’t fun or easy, but you can make it a little less painful. We’ve offered up a complete guide to a smooth move, but there are a couple of tools that are particularly helpful. WordLabel’s Moving Label Kit can make organizing and labeling your boxes a breeze with very little effort. Templating your furniture by outlining each piece with paper can save a ton of time when you’re figuring out where to put everything in your new place. When you’re done moving, you’re going to have a ton of leftover boxes. Post them on Craigslist or Freecycle so others can use them and move on the cheap (like you did, presuming you followed item #7).
4. Bring This Printable Checklist Form When You’re Apartment Hunting
If you’re looking for a new apartment, you need to know what questions to ask so you don’t end up moving in to a place that looks great but is actually terrible. We decided to help you out and put together this printable checklist form that you can take with you to a showing. It includes all the common questions you should ask (plus a few tech-friendly ones) so you’ll learn everything you need to learn and have it nicely organized for when it comes time to weigh your options and make a decision.
3. Map Apartment Listings In Your Area with PadMapper
PadMapper is a fantastic tool for finding a new apartment. You type in the area where you want to look, and it lays out your options on Google Maps. From there you can filter based on tons of criteria like price, bedrooms, and listing age. PadMapper also offers helpful statistics, such as crime in the area and if a particular listing is more or less expensive than the area’s average. It’s a great web app, but if you’d prefer to conduct your search on your mobile device you can pick up the free PadMapper mobile app for iPhone and Android.
2. Find Out If You Should Buy or Rent
Buying isn’t always better than renting. In many cases it can be more costly, or at least not the best way to invest your money. It’s best to compare your options first. The New York Times offers this renting versus buying calculator that can help you figure out what’s currently in your best interest.
1. Get Neighborhood and Property Statistics
Whether you want to look at property statistics in a given area or check out tons of information on a specific home, Trulia is a great resource for both. Just type in the location you want to investigate and it will provide you with tons of statistics. It’s kind of like stalking a house. You can find purchase histories, property tax information, how the area rates in various categories, the selling cost of nearby homes (if you’re looking at something specific), and much more. Another tool you’ll want to check out is Zillow, which also provides many useful statistics. As an added bonus, it has a mobile app for most platforms so you can look up information on the go.