Home buying tools, maps, data crunching etc.
December 16, 2013 1:16 PM   Subscribe

Glorious SO and I plan to buy a home in the next 18-30 months. I'd like to line up all the best tools, maps, and data to keep track of homes we've seen, neighborhoods and towns we'd consider, flood maps, commute times, train lines--really anything and everything that could inform this decision. Yes, yes, friends, colleagues and a good agent are great resources--but we want tools at this point!

This is a question specifically addressed to those Mefites who take a quantitative, data-driven approach to everything.

My SO and I like to crunch data. Currently we have a robust spreadsheet we use to model the carrying cost of a property (though happy to see other resources). We also have a Google map of homes we've toured, loved, hated--and the final closing price of each.

I'm looking for tools that we can use to collate all the data we're getting in. What worked for your home search? We've got Trulia, Zillow, and Redfin covered. We're not looking for on advice how to buy a house; we're looking for how to analyze our way to our dream home.

At the very least, I'd like an excellent map markup tool that would work with our existing Google maps that would allow us to annotate things like 1) a mile walking-radius around train or subway stations; 2) average commuting times; 3) public transit zones (and costs); 4) flood plains etc.; 5) ability to draw on the map freehand, either on iOS or or using a Wacom tablet). Google maps allows you to draw shapes with vertices (but not circles), and doesn't let you draw based on distance--though you can draw a route that's restricted to roads that can count distance. Paid is fine, though I'd rather not have a subscription (like scribblemaps).

Beyond the maps, though, I'd like to keep (and share with Glorious SO) files of tear sheets, charts with property tax rates, political affiliations of towns (we would not do well in a very conservative town), lots of screen caps etc.

I'm sort of imaging an elaborate police war room, but the murderer is my dream house. Or something.

Everything should be off the shelf; we're not programmers. Mac and/or iOS.
posted by Admiral Haddock to Home & Garden (3 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I used Redfin for a long time before I realized that you can download a ton of data from it. Set up your search appropriately (including to include past sales as well as current for sale), then use the download link at the lower left. The downloaded result includes many columns that aren't on the web page display.
posted by Perplexity at 1:54 PM on December 16, 2013

It's not an actual tool, but I would encourage you to consider adding a spreadsheet column with some measure for energy efficiency in your comparison of long-term home ownership costs. Unfortunately, home sellers are not required to provide any objective data on energy consumption or efficiency, other than utility bills together with the home inspection. (Real estate interests have long fought this requirement at local and national levels.)

Depending on your climate (hot, humid, cold, etc), you can generate a proxy for this by asking if a home has had an energy audit, if there are double-paned windows, what kind of insulation was used in the attic and walls, etc. This can help estimate what you'll be spending on energy bills in coming years.

Also not a tool but critical piece of social engineering: Trust your data more than your agent. There are good real estate agents and bad ones, ones that are more honest and ones that are less, but their fundamental institutional economic interests run counter to yours. The buyer's agent wants the buyer to offer more, and the seller's agent wants the seller to accept less. at very least use a Redfin agent if possible.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 5:12 PM on December 16, 2013

Some of the things our agent, who bills herself as "data-driven", provides, are: detailed town-by-town inventory levels, absorption rates (how long it would take to sell all current listings at the current rate of sales), price per square foot, sold to list ratios, etc.
posted by nonane at 5:29 AM on December 17, 2013

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