Buying a House in 2016

Buying a House in 2016

In 2016, you would think buying a house would be much easier with modern technology. Having bought my current castle about five years ago, I was shocked at the amount of paperwork hassles. I mean I know I am signing a promise for hundreds of thousands of dollars; however the process by which you do it seemed so ancient, up to and including fax machines.

I at least solved this problem so far. I knew I was looking around for houses and wanted to be taken seriously so I needed a letter of preapproval. I've seen all the ads for Rocket Mortgage lately so I figured, "why not" and see if it was that simple. Even if I didn't ultimately get my mortage with this company, I wanted to see if I could get that letter quickly. And that I did. I answered a few questions about income and the like on an online form and got pre-approved quickly. I then had to back it up with data such as W2s. However I could upload them via the website to track what I did and did not send yet, and could even have it authenticate to my banks to have them pull the data for me. Once all done, I got the letter in hand super quick. Very modern and 2016.

However that is where that feeling left my body. No other service I've used since then seems to have it together as a modern offering. Take, for example, all of the housing information. My wife and I will drive through certain neighborhoods to look at what its like and often times we will stumble on a newly listed house. Modern signs have things like "text XX to yyyy for info about this home" or even a website, but have you ever tried that? Turns out that XX code means nothing. You still need the house's address, and you would be astounded by the number of streets without the corner signs or homes without numbers. So at that point you may just end up going to Google maps, finding your location, then Googling that street address because, honestly, it is faster. Make a QR code or unique code that gets texted to pull up the exact listing; use a Bluetooth LE beacon on the sign to broadcast it, etc. It is 2016 and I know I want to learn more about what you are selling, but you make it harder than it needs to be.

Next up, listing websites. My wife and I have a general area in which we are looking. So I open any of the sites you commonly see advertised and want to fill out our wish list, a list that I do not think makes us unique or asking for a lot: garage, 1.5+ bathrooms, 3 bedrooms, office since I work from home, not in a development with small lot sizes or HOA, no pool, and a few other things. Additionally, there are styles of houses we like more than others. Should be simple. However many things cannot be search criteria. For example, no HOA has not been an option on most sites and same with no pool; you can search for the opposite (has pool or max HOA) but not the inverse. Additionally, office has rarely been a search criteria or lumped into other things like "den." The latter doesn't work since I don't need an office the size of a living room, and simply doing 4 bedrooms is usually not good since most floor plans will lump all bedrooms together; having a young child that sleeps odd hours means I need an office not near bedrooms or play areas if I want to get work done. Simple human search filters like "Not McMansion" or "Back yard not in neighbor's living room" would go a long way. And I'm yet to find a site that allows me to reduce search criteria to, say, colonials or craftsman style. I can do all of this when I buy things on Amazon and eBay yet not a house.

Lastly, trying to limit down our search area has been a problem. My algorithm should be simple: <25 min away from parents, reasonable taxes for NJ, good schools. So I pull up lists from news papers and magazines about top 100 schools in Philly suburbs, etc and try and cross reference that with school and tax information, however that information is all over the board. Some schools get marked with an A+ rating over here but a 6 out of 10 on another site. Then I look up my alma mater and see its rating, which seems low, and compare it to another school which has the same grading but I know is bad. What's worse is information like this can often not be disclosed by an agent, along with demographic information. I run into the same information issue on taxes; certain sites list median taxes for my current town at $7100 per year. I have a tiny house with no land in a bad part of town and my taxes are more than the "median" so I cannot imagine what the low tax areas look like here. So how can I believe any of the other data I see? Things like this "estimated tax bill" should be one of those filters I mentioned above.

Just like how I want to make a hotel review site where the only things I care about are "clean" as a checkbox, "wifi speed," and "shower pressure/temperature" since as a business traveler that is all that matters, I know I'm going to end up writing my own crawler by the end of this that will make all this search criteria possible.

It shouldn't be this hard in 2016.