If you were born between 1981 and 1996, you’re a Millennial—which means that the leading edge of that cohort is now celebrating their 41st birthday and you’re part of the largest generation in America by population. However, despite being such a large portion of the population, only 17% of homeowners are Millennials. In fact, there’s a term for Millennials who have never purchased a home before: Unmortgaged.
Anyone can tell you why that might be: Experiencing a string of once-in-a-lifetime disasters (including one bona fide plague and two super-fun economic meltdowns) while being soaked in student debt and inflation can sort of take the wind out of your home-buying sails. Despite these challenges, Millennials by and large still want to borrow an enormous sum of money and buy a home—69 percent report they’d rather own a home than continue to rent, and most list the traditional reasons for that desire: Starting a family, improving their life, and telling their landlord to fuck off (a technical real estate term).
But the other thing we know about Millennials is that they are broke as hell. Buying a home when you’re broke as hell (especially when the housing market has proved remarkably resistant to the general economic chaos) is a challenge. When you’re smart but broke, technology can provide at least some kind of bridge toward your goals—and there are tons and tons of real estate apps out there to help.
Best real estate apps for house hunters
If you’re one of The Unmortgaged, here are the best real estate apps for your house-hunting pleasure:
Zillow & Trulia. While it’s true that a lot of Millennials browse Zillow as a sort of aspirational daydreaming activity, checking out homes they may never be able to actually afford, it’s also very popular because of practical, nuts-and-bolts reasons: Namely, filters. Zillow’s filter game is incredibly powerful, allowing homebuyers to narrow their results to a fine point that includes estimated home values and past sale prices. Trulia is essentially the same app as Zillow with a slightly different design and layout. That’s not a coincidence: Zillow owns Trulia. So it really just comes down to which interface you like better.
Realtor. This app offers most of the same functionality as Zillow and similar apps, but often updates faster, displaying new listings almost as soon as they hit the multiple listing service (MLS). If you’re the sort who compulsively hits refresh on their apps, this might be a slightly better choice.
Xome. A lot of savvy Millennials use Xome because it focuses on the real bargains—homes up for auction. If you’ve ever watched a show like Flip or Flop, you’ve seen the dream in action: Buy a house for pennies because it’s a wreck, then invest a lot of cash and sweat equity and—bing, bang, boom—you have a gorgeous house that’s worth twice as much. Xome focuses on those auction homes.
HomeSnap. For a generation raised on Insta who use reverse image search the way older generations used dial information on their giant rotary landlines, HomeSnap is like catnip. You can take a photo of any home and instantly get all the details, including whether it’s for sale or not. You can then set alerts so if any of the charming homes you’ve seen in your wanderings ever become available, you’ll get a notice.
BiggerPockets. Millennials value homes for the same reasons other generations do, but they’re also very aware that older generations have benefited from the equity in homes they purchased for a stick of gum in 1970 that are now worth $2.3 million. BiggerPockets is focused on real estate investing as a way to build wealth. The great thing about this strategy is that you can, you know, live in your investments while building the aforementioned wealth.
FlyHomes. FlyHomes offers a “bridging” financial service for folks who already own a home. Instead of having to make an offer on your house that’s contingent on selling your current home, FlyHomes will buy your house, allowing you to convert your offer to cash—which is always compelling for folks selling their house. While there’s a fee involved, in an overheated real estate market being able to make a cash offer without contingencies is a powerful lure for Millennials who don’t want to deal with the traditional headache of juggling home sales.
TikTok. Yes, the app of viral dances and challenges is a shadow real estate tool. While the focus tends to be on apartments and hunting for rental deals (and aspirational home tours), it’s also being used to hunt for houses. While TikTok doesn’t offer any real estate or financial services per se, it’s a terrific visual tool for checking out properties.
Estately. While it’s not the most exciting real estate app in the world, Estately offers some data points that get overlooked by other apps, like noise pollution stats and even Internet speed reports. That makes it a very useful addition to your house hunting app arsenal.
The choice of a real estate app (or apps) comes down to what your specific needs and preferences are—your best bet is to have a few key tools installed and ready to go.