For a while, it seemed as if the real estate industry was rolling out an app a day, each and every one promising to "revolutionize the way homes are bought and sold," as their news releases routinely and breathlessly promised.
The hyperbole has abated a bit, and the pace of introductions seems to have slowed proportionately, but there's still plenty of app activity because consumers have come to expect information about homes on demand. These days, house hunters routinely hit the streets armed with their smartphones, expecting to be able to stand in front of a house on Elm Street and learn everything from the listing price to the property taxes to the square footage in the powder room and more.
So the apps are still coming. Here are a few that have debuted or have announced major upgrades in recent months:
• Zillow Rentals: OK, so it's not a home-buying tool, but the rental market is hot, and the real estate industry realizes that in some markets renters might be the best game in town. This free application is among the newest on the market, designed for iPhone and iPod Touch. (An Android version was released earlier this year.) The app contains information on 100 million rental properties (including single-family homes), according to the company. It notifies renters when new properties matching their saved search criteria hit the market. It contains information on grocery stores, schools, etc., in the neighborhood. And it allows side-by-side comparisons of properties.
• RentCafe: This company has a suite of free tools for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that search for rental properties, in addition to enabling other functions. Its most recent app introduction makes it possible for renters to make online payments and submit maintenance requests to participating landlords.
• Revestor: Property investment is also hot at the moment, and in addition to property search with details and photos, this free iPhone app promises to help the user compile data on estimated rents, potential cash flow and other factors that go into an investment decision, according to the company. The app has been available for the Miami, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Orange County markets for several months, and Revestor is rolling out data for other major markets around the country.
• House Hunter: In the sometimes endless trudge from property to property when you're trying to find a home, at the end of the day it can be hard to keep them straight. House Hunter is a paid app ($3.99; there's also a free, but more limited, "lite" version) that provides a list for tracking dozens of home features. Shoppers can rank each feature's importance. In the Keeping Them Straight Department, you can also configure the app to award each home a score. For iPhone and Android.
• HomeSnap: Take a photo of just about any house (the company claims to have 90 million of them in its database) with your smartphone, and the app's GPS functions will supply you details on current value, square footage, most recent sale price, taxes, schools and other critical info. For iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch (it says an Android version is coming soon). It's the creation of Sawbuck Realty.
• HomeFinder: This popular app recently released an Android version, after the release of HomeFinder for iPhone. In addition to the usual capacities for near-instant access to details and data about properties for sale, it syncs between mobile device and computer, eliminating the need to conduct the same search twice, the company says.
Mary Umberger writes for the Chicago Tribune.