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Home is where the heart is: 8 apps for house hunters

Damon Brown | Sept. 10, 2013
They say the first three rules of real estate are 'location, location, location.' We'd like to add a fourth: preparation.

Better yet, the app even knows where you made each note—which is especially handy when you hit ten open houses in a day and your brain starts to get confused about which one had the Jacuzzi tub and which one had the hot-water heater in the kitchen for some reason. Evernote is available for free on all the major mobile OSs (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone) and syncs across them accordingly.

Determining compound interest, seller costs, and other nonsexy details is as crucial as reading the home's listing price, making the commonsense spreadsheet program Soulver ($12 for Mac, $3 for iPhone, and $5 for iPad) a necessity. Set up like word processing software, Soulver lets you type in your intended mathematics on a simplified page. It's ideal for quick math, though you'll still want to lean on a good real estate agent to make sure you're plugging in the right numbers.

Once you find a house for which you want to write an offer—or better yet, once that offer is accepted—you'll be thanking the housing gods for the virtual-paper software DocuSign (free for iOS and Android). In short, DocuSign lets you put your signature on official documents over the Internet. The people creating the document bear the cost of the service, so using DocuSign to confirm contracts from your agent or the seller is free to you.

You'll get an email notification when a document arrives, and be able to read it as a PDF. When you're ready, you select a virtual signature that represents your real signature, click to sign at the appropriate places, and send it off securely to the other party. Even the simplest home purchase generates a paper pile inches thick, making DocuSign not only a hero among trees but also a simple, smart way to virtually back up all your correspondence. You can also apply your signature on iOS, Android, or Windows phones, scribbling your John Hancock right on the touchscreen.

And once you're moved in to your new home, be sure to join the local social network Nextdoor, which takes the Facebook concept and puts it inside a particular zip code. The posts are less frivolous than the updates littering other social networks, combining Craigslist-inspired commerce, Meetup-like events, and Neighborhood Watch and safety alerts.

You have to verify your address to be allowed to join, so you can't use Nextdoor to scope out a potential neighborhood. Once you're in, however, it's a great way to meet neighbors and to keep tabs on what's going on in the 'hood. The service is available on the Web, as well as in free apps for iOS and Android.


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