With the current state of the economy, I’ve been surveying the real estate market in my area to see if I can find a great bargain. The problem is as a first time home buyer I’ve come to find that the process is way more complicated than it should be. Trying to research and compare homes across numerous websites can be a total time killer, not to mention quite the chore. On top of that, I often found myself trying to memorize addresses of houses I saw on that market so I could look them up on the computer when I got home.
So, when I came across HomeSnap Real Estate and saw that it so casually declared, “Just snap a photo of any home, nationwide, to identify it and find out how much it’s worth,” I was intrigued. Part of me was skeptical at first, but there were enough good reviews to keep me interested (and it doesn’t hurt that it’s free).
Before we get into the nitty gritty of how it works and if it’s worth your time there’s one thing I should mention. HomeSnap is only currently available for users in the United States. If I’ve still got your attention, then read on to discover if this app is for you!
How It Works
HomeSnap is made by the folks over at Sawbuck Realty, an online real estate broker that connects buyers and sellers with real estate agents. The app uses the device sensors and camera to determine nearby homes and then pull up MLS (multiple listing service) and public record data for each one. Because of this you’ll need to have an Internet connection in order to use HomeSnap.
While the app looks great upon its launch, one of my first hangups was how awkward I looked when stopping to take a picture of someone else’s house. I could just picture the conversation in my head: “No, really officer, I was just taking a picture of that house so I could get its estimated value …” Thankfully, the developers thought about this and have included two features to make things a little less awkward.
First, I found that you don’t have to stop the car completely if you want to take a picture while driving. The app tells you to slow down until you’re going at a speed that it can take the picture without it being too blurry (about 5 mph). Second, you can go into stealth mode which will give you details on a map of nearby homes based on your GPS location without ever having to snap a picture. Unfortunately, I never had good luck finding homes in areas where I used stealth mode.
Once you take a picture of a home, the app quickly analyzes it and asks you to confirm if it’s found the right house. If it’s not the right one you can report it to help Sawbuck improve their database. I live in a pretty rural area, and I found HomeSnap to be accurate about eighty percent of the time. From researching I’m guessing that it’s much more accurate in big cities. Of course, the app is also limited by the accuracy of public records since that’s where the data is coming from.
Once you confirm that it’s the correct house, you’re given a ton of information to help you assess the property. There’s the typical facts you’d expect to find when looking at homes such as the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, lot size, year built, estimated taxes, etc. However, there’s a whole host of other useful information as well. You’re given a list of the property’s history, local schools with scores and the estimated value. Along with the estimated value, it lists two scores: the SmartZip HomeScore and InvestorScore, which are meant to help you determine if buying this home would be a good investment. Once you save your snap it appears in a vertical feed that looks similar to Instagram.
Different color price tags that show a house’s value denote how the figure is determined. Blue tags indicate an estimated value, green the current list price of homes for sale, orange the most recent list price and red tags indicate the final sale price of a recently sold home.
There are a number of other features available that help you research and find other houses you may be interested in. You can use the explore feature to see any snaps that have been taken anywhere on a map. As you move around zooming in and out new pictures will load taking you on a virtual home tour.
Once you’ve selected a home to look at in the explore menu, pinch like you would to zoom out in order to get back to the map.
In the Stream section you can view other people’s snaps by choosing to look anywhere, in a large city or nearby. The results are displayed in a clean grid format that makes it easy to scan quickly. If you see a house that especially stands out to you, whether it’s a picture you took or someone else’s, you can tap the star to save it as a favorite and view it later in your favorites section.
You’re also given the option of sharing your snaps on social networks, through email, text message, or saving them to the camera roll. If you share by email you can follow the link provided to see even more details on sawbuck.com like payment estimates and what the house last sold for.
Worth Checking Out
The final word on HomeSnap is that it has pros and cons, but won’t cost you anything to try out. It clearly has some limitations — like the fact that it requires an Internet connection to work and the data from public records isn’t always accurate. At the same time, the app has put an inventive twist on real estate shopping that comes in quite handy and can save you headaches. The ability to quickly take a picture while walking or driving by a house and have all its available information at your fingertips within seconds makes the housing search process much easier. You can quickly decide if the house is worth looking into more and determine if it’s priced competitively according to the surrounding neighborhood.
Since HomeSnap is available for free and the developers are regularly working to update the information and improve on its accuracy, it’s worth recommending for anyone who’s in the hunt for a new home. Give it a try in your area and let us know what you think!