(BPT) – Whether you’re a first-time or experienced homebuyer, chances are a good portion of your real estate journey will take place online. In fact, four in 10 homebuyers start their house-hunting with an online search, according to the National Association of REALTORS. It’s easy to understand why: Online tools and apps can make the homebuying experience — including finding a mortgage — easier and more enjoyable.
If you’ll be shopping for a home this fall and winter, use the tools homebuyers find most useful, according to the Bank of America Homebuyer Insights Report:
* Mortgage calculators — It’s important you’re as comfortable with your mortgage terms and lender as you are with the home you’re paying for. An affordable mortgage helps homebuyers reap the full benefits of home ownership, including building equity and long-term financial security, and a mortgage calculator can help you understand what you would pay each month, as well as estimate monthly mortgage payments and rate options. As the Homebuyer Insights Report revealed, more than half of Generation X homebuyers and 46 percent of millennials and baby boomers use mortgage calculators during the home shopping process.
* Finance websites — Home shoppers can learn a lot about mortgage options and a bank’s customer service through websites that feature reviews of mortgage loan officers and lending institutions. More than a third (36 percent) of first-time homebuyers and over a quarter (28 percent) of experienced homebuyers use bank apps or websites to research reviews of lenders and loan officers.
* Loan status portals — Applying for a mortgage can sometimes be overwhelming, but real-time loan status information is transforming the process. For example, Bank of America’s Home Loan Navigator allows mortgage applicants to securely upload, submit and sign documents, get real-time status updates on their application and loan, receive important documents and disclosures and even communicate with experts via secure messaging.
* Mobile real estate listings — With many home listing websites available, it can be difficult to narrow down online searches to homes that meet all your criteria in your location of choice. Using a bank’s online real estate center can help you refine your home search or, if you’re selling, it can help you determine your home’s estimated value. And some even provide the ancillary information you’re looking for – like school data and walkability scores — to make a home purchase decision.
* Down payment sources — Saving for a down payment can be one of the most challenging tasks of buying a house. It’s sometimes difficult to know how much you’ll need for your down payment, or to figure out how to fit the extra savings category into your monthly budget. You can find numerous down payment calculators online, but Bank of America’s Down Payment Resource Center goes a big step further than most by offering a searchable database of more than 1,000 local and national assistance programs that may be able to save you money on your down payment.
* Social media — Decorating your home is one of the most enjoyable aspects of home ownership. Many buyers turn to social media resources like Pinterest for home decor inspiration. In fact, 49 percent of millennials use Pinterest, 37 percent Facebook and 33 percent Instagram for home decorating ideas, while 32 percent of Gen Xers use Pinterest, 37 percent like Facebook and 11 percent favor Instagram, according to the Homebuyer Insights Report.
* Home design apps — With inspiration in hand, homebuyers can use home design apps to put their ideas into virtual reality. These apps allow you to take and store room measurements, make notes on design ideas and see virtual representations of what your decor plans will look like in your home. From white walls to fully-furnished, many design apps can help you visualize your dream interior for free, and more robust versions are available for purchase.
To learn more about home buying and mortgages, visit Bank of America — Home Loans.