In most of North America, spring is the most popular time for buying a house, although it’s not always the season for the best prices.  See here for more information. Families planning to move like looking in the spring because it means they can settle into a home and finish any school enrollments before September. However, now that the often painfully slow, paper-intensive process has gone digital with Quicken’s Rocket Mortgage  - which promises a mortgage approval in eight minutes or so on a smartphone - house hunting and mortgage buying can be done at any time, from anywhere, allowing plenty of time to plan for a smooth house move around the year.

Quicken’s Rocket Mortgage advert shows a model of simplicity. A young couple is standing with a real estate agent in a home they have decided to buy. Do they have a mortgage, the agent asks. The woman taps her smartphone, answers a few quick questions from Quicken, shares banks statements and pay stubs, the company runs a free credit check and the two are approved in a process that takes just minutes and is free of paper, right down to the final signatures which can be done on the phone’s screen.

Mortgage professionals think that a fast and simple process will appeal to millennials who live on their smartphones.

Jeff McGuiness, chief sales officer for Embrace Home Loans, said that lenders can build relationships with millennials by using technology.

“Mortgage lenders must implement new, innovative technologies to revolutionize the lending process. This includes solutions that can speed underwriting and expedite document collection,” he wrote on MortgageOrb.com

Smartphones and mobile documents verification change the way people shop for mortgages

Smartphones are changing the way people shop for homes and mortgages, although it is not quite as effortless as the Quicken video says. With the appraisal, the entire procedure still takes a month, according to the company. The Rocket Mortgage process, which the company said required a team of 500 working for more than two years to completely redo the mortgage process, has received a fair amount of press, including my coverage at Forbes

Looking it up on Apple’s App Store more recently results in a less rosy view. Most of the reviewers gave it one star — making a single five-star review look very suspicious.

“This is not an actual app. It is a redirect to a website,” said one. “So it’s basically useless.  Went through the process and because I selected ‘Condominium’ had to chat with a rep anyway. Save time and pick up the phone”.

“You should also be aware that any mortgage applications isn’t set in stone until the closing, so this is just another ‘You’re pre-qualified’ gimmick.”

“Terrible, useless, wrote another. “Camera option to load driver license didn’t work. Upload W2 option didn’t work. (Obviously they need Mitek’s Mobile Fill technology) Had to manually type in all the info and it took me to the website anyway. What’s the point of the app then?”

Millennials will come to mortgage lenders, if they do decide to buy a house, with expectations set by online banking which 88 percent of them use. They are an attractive market — they keep more than half their savings in cash and, contrary to some commentary, they do plan to buy homes and are often looking to the suburbs for the same reasons baby boomers did —  lower prices and more space than they get in cities, along with lawns and gardens.

Andrea Riquier, writing at 'MarketWatch', said “Rocket’s breakthrough is to allow applicants to import original source documents like pay stubs and bank statements, rather than letting applicants input data which must be verified later in a separate submission.”

“Rocket’s Web site crunches the data that applicants provide, offers a sneak peek at what the applicant would qualify for, and then provides a ‚‘To-Do list’ of any outstanding items if the applicant wants to go ahead.”

Quicken Loans thinks that they have a lead of several years over competitors in developing the technology for near-real time mortgage approval. Judging from the comments on the App store, developers might still have work to do.

Meanwhile, though, home buyers have multiple web sites they can turn to for help in finding homes and appropriate financing.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia, a leader in applying technology to consumer banking lists several apps on its Web site. The CommBank Property App for iPhones and Android, not only offers a calculator to help users understand how affordable a property is, it can “search for properties that suit your lifestyle, assess the property’s potential value and when you’re ready, apply for a loan… [and it] has property articles, tools, tips and sold data - so that you’re in the know, in control and confident to act when the time is right.”

 Mobile apps to find your perfect mortgage on the go

  •  CrumbTracks for iPhone ($1.99) is for those who feel weekends are an endless parade of home openings. “CrumbTracks helps you remember the best and worst features of each property you view by allowing you to store images and videos. As a bonus, you can also make notes, share details with others and calculate monthly payments.”
  • My Property Place on Facebook “leverages the power of social networking giant Facebook to allow users to rent an existing property or source an interested buyer for their home. The data base already lays claim to 400,000 properties and is growing rapidly.”
  • Investopia cites a few leading property sites: In the U.S. Realtor.com, Redfin.com, Trulia.com, zillow.com help buyers search city/state or zip code and filter by price and house attribute like the number of bedrooms, bathroom, square footage, lot size and age of the house.
  • Homesnap lets you pull up property details of any home across the country by taking a picture of it. Mortgage calculators are available from multiple sources including bank and mortgage company sites and Trulia's Mortgage Calculator, Home Loan Rates and Zillow Mortgages.
  • AroundMe for iOS, Android and Windows Phone shows a buyer nearby attractions and businesses and the distance from her current location.
  • For those trying to understand the industry’s jargon, the Barron’s Dictionary of Real Estate Terms in iOS is $8.99. A Web search shows many other guides to the language of real estate agents for free. 

Mary Ellen Podmolik at the Chicago Tribune found a few other apps:

  • House Hunter ($3.99 iOS) “Meant to remove some of the emotion that comes with home buying, the app lets a user establish priority features sought in a home by rating them on a 1-to-10 scale. The app does the work then, calculating a score for a specific home based on the consumers' preferences. Photos can also be added to the ratings.”
  • Wikihood. There's a wealth of information consumers need to make an informed buying choice in a neighborhood, and some of it concerns things that real estate agents aren't allowed to tell you. The app combines Wikipedia's knowledge with Google Maps to offer information on a specific area.” She doesn’t say what agents can’t tell buyers, but it many states it is illegal to describe ethnic or religious makeup of a neighborhood.
  • ZipRealty lets a user draw a circle around an area and then explore the homes for sale by lot size, square footage and whether the price has been reduced.

The Quicken Loans web site adds “SiteWise – At $9.99, it’s on the pricier side of apps, but SiteWise will give you the lowdown on area demographics” based on the 2010 census and showing population by age, education level, number of children, household income, and more.


And if the apps don’t make it you can always do something revolutionary, like use your phone to call a real estate agent or a mortgage rep and just talk.

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