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Top 9 Tools for First Time Home Buyers

by Jon Silver

Buying your first home? For those who are too young to remember, qualifying for a 1st time home loan and house hunting 30 years ago was very different from today. You had to work closely with one real estate agent and visit dozens of homes before finding the best one. Today, the information age has made buying a home, if not easy, at least much easier! There are many fantastic online tools that new homebuyers have right at their fingertips. In most cases, much of the work of house hunting can be done on your computer or smart phone.

Working with government endorsed entities like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and HUD also can help you get a mortgage through the FHA-guaranteed loan programs. This allows those with credit issues and low down payments to buy their first home. FHA is still the most popular first time home buyer loan, but there are many players in today's finance game. There are even still zero down home loan opportunities and down-payment assistance if you need help finding the money required to achieve homeownership. Buying your first home can be made a much smoother process by using each of these tools for first time home loans. Interest rates on first time home loans continues to flirt with all-time record lows. Read on to discover nine tools for first time home buyers:

first time home buyers

#1 is one of several prominent real estate websites that offers free search tools for new home buyers, sellers and renters. It is one of the most popular real estate sites on the Internet, with the most number of visits by real estate customers in the last several years. Zillow also offers tools to real estate agents, loan originators and homeowners who want to check what houses in a certain area are worth.

Not only can you search for a house based upon size, bedrooms, bathrooms, for sale by agent or owner: You also can tailor an email update to notify you when a new home hits the market that matches your criteria. Other handy mortgage tools for 1st time home buyers are here as well:

  • Real Time Mortgage Rates
  • Mortgage Loan Calculator
  • Real Estate Agent Finder

Zillow apps for iPhone and Android also pull in data from Google Maps and they search Zillow listings by GPS, voice and text.

Unlike Zillow, which lets the searcher look for houses without registering, this website does require you to register for a complimentary account to get detailed search results. Don't let that minor inconvenience dissuade you, however.

The major standout with this platform is not the website: The free mobile app really rocks! It pulls in Google Map information and will show recently sold/for sale properties on the local map. Every house icon will bring you to a specific property mage with photos and details. There also is a super convenient link to Google Street View. Find out why first time home buyer prospects from California to New York and beyond are raving about Zip Realty.

#3 Google Maps Real Estate
Google Maps has exploded as an online housing resource since its launch 11 years ago. These days, it features walking directions, street view and so much more. If you type in a home address in any area with significant population, Google Maps probably can help you find local businesses, schools, churches and other organizations. Another great feature for house hunters is a 'real estate' option that is on the More menu. If you click it, Google Maps will show houses that are listed for sale in the area of the map. Google Maps is a perfect tool to get an idea where homes for sale are in your desired area, and perfect for setting up a convenient route for viewing them.

If you are buying a new house, you need to worry about your monthly budget. After all, your mortgage payment is going to be just one of your ongoing home expenses. This very popular smart phone and PC tool gives you access to your entire financial life in one place.

  • Easily add accounts, cards and bills that you want to track.
  • See what you own and what you owe.
  • Track you and your significant other's spending patterns and investments.
  • Features customized tips and savings based upon the information you input.
  • Also features a free credit score tracker.

#5 Property Tax Websites
One of the challenges of using a mortgage calculator is that you need to enter real estate taxes, which are not always readily available. Thinking about taxes isn't the most fun part of buying a first home, but you really need to know what your real estate taxes will be to determine an accurate monthly payment. The Free Public Records Directory is an aggregate of a massive amount of government websites. Plug in your ZIP code to get public records websites in your area. With the tax information you find, you can plug in the correct tax information into the mortgage calculators we list below.

#6 Sex Offender Registries
This is another part of searching for a first home that you may not consider right away, but it is important. And searching for this type of information has been made very easy with modern technology. There are now two major sex offender registries you can search online. One of them is the National Sex Offender Public Website, or NSOPW. The other is Family Watchdog, which is a privately-operated website. This tool collects data from most state sex offender registries. Being aware of convicted sex offenders in your new neighborhood is important; do not assume however that your home is located in a dangerous area.

#7 Craigslist
Many serious home shoppers ignore Craigslist; perhaps they think the site is used mainly to sell old lawn furniture and the like. But in reality, Craigslist is a very powerful online tool for both buying and selling a home. It is very easy to search for homes for sale in your local area in the Housing category. You also can winnow down the search results to 'for sale by owner' only. You may be able to find a great deal on a for sale by owner property and pay no commissions!

#8 Mortgage Calculator
Who needs to crunch mortgage numbers on paper these days? There are big numbers involved, such as how long the mortgage lasts, what the interest rate is, what the house costs. There is no need to calculate it the old fashioned way, or even on a calculator, with all of the convenient mortgage calculators available. It is imperative to determine how much you can afford so you can for first time home loans with confidence. We like the free Karl's Mortgage Calculator for Android we link to above, but there are many others – Zillow's super simple calculator also works well.

#9 HUD Home Buying Tool
If you are on a budget or have credit issues, buying a property with the help of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development may be a good option. HUD can help to guide you on how much house you can afford, shopping for a loan, and learn about special, HUD home buying programs in your state, such as: provides a news and information service by offering editorial content related to the housing and mortgage industry. This website is not responsible for the accuracy of information or responsible for the accuracy of the interest rates, APR or lending guidelines posted by advertising banks, lenders and brokers.

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