Nearly 70 percent of us own our homes. As adults, we'll change residences more than 10 times. Our homes define us, shelter us, and support us. Whether you want to find a new home, sell an old home, fix up your home, insure it, fireproof it, decorate it, or refinance it, the Web has all the information you need to accomplish these tasks, and much more. The findingDulcinea Homes Guide will lead you to the Where, the Which, and the How Much for your heart's desire.
If you are thinking of relocating but aren't quite sure where you'd like to live, there are plenty of online resources that can help you find cities or neighborhoods that suit your needs.
- Most cities have their own Web sites that will give you basic statistics and news. A good indication that you are at a city's official site is if the Web address has a ".gov" at the end.
- Read a local paper to see what is going on in the town where you are interested in moving.
For city or state information ...
offers information on almost every city or zip code in the United States—even those with populations under 1,000. Because of the vast amount of data, some of the statistics—household income and whatnot—may be from the last United States Census and thus might be out of date. But the weather forecasts for every city are nearly up to the minute. You'll find maps, lots of photos of the city, the latest news, population information (median age, ethnicities, income, even if there are sex offenders living in the city and who they are). For a site that is visually unimpressive, it contains a wealth of information. If you don't see your city listed on a state list, check the top of the list and you'll be linked to lists of cities that are between 1,000 and 6,000 residents and those that have fewer than 1,000 residents.
provides links to the official government pages of each of the 50 United States. Find links to information about the climate, the state constitution, news headlines, pictures of the state flag, and other official sites for local sports teams, state parks, different types of maps, quick facts from the Census Bureau, and vital records (birth, death, marriage).
has a cost-of-living calculator that will indicate how well you will be able to live in a new city based on your current salary and town. You'll find how much more (or less) groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, and health care will cost, on average, in your destination city. CNN has other calculators, such as the house affordability calculator
For neighborhood information or statistics ...
provides area listings in interactive map form, as well as "Heat Maps" of the housing prices in specific areas. Real estate guides searchable by city or zip code provide housing cost, school, and other community statistics. The "Trulia Spotlight" map details neighborhoods, schools, and the homes for sale there.
estimates the home values in your area (or the neighborhood you're thinking of moving to). This site is very easy to navigate. Just enter a complete address into the prominent search box, and you'll find not only details about a property (construction date, estimated value, bedroom/bathroom count, school district info) but also an aerial view of the property from Google Maps. Zoom in on the photo and see the property in detail, down to the trees and backyard lawn furniture. Not all properties show price estimates, but the ones that do also provide a wealth of information about the area: comparisons of the property to others like it in the area; charts and graphs of median age and quality of life in the neighborhood; selling price for homes in the area over time; market fundamentals such as unemployment rate; and median price per square foot in the area. If the home is your own, you can refine the value estimate by correcting any out-of-date information.
provides more information about a neighborhood than you even knew you wanted: nearby toxic sites, FEMA flood maps, and property tax information in addition to the detailed information (and sometimes photographs) of a property and its neighbors. You'll find most major metropolitan areas on Property Shark, but smaller cities—and less populated states—aren't listed at all.
is a service of Standard and Poor's. Research a public school or district by your zip code and find the proficiency levels of the students, the student-to-teacher ratio, the total enrollment, along with other performance information. Search by state and find spending information and performance indicators.
Sperling's Best Places
has very simplified and straightforward city statistics. Although Best Places doesn't provide the detail of some of the other sites, you can compare statistics of two cities fairly easily on this site. The Crime Rate Comparisons
section will compare the crime rates of two cities based on a 1-10 index (a higher number meaning more crime).
Buying or selling your home is unlike any other financial transaction you'll make in life. Your home will probably be one of the most expensive things you ever buy, unless you plan to invest in a private tropical island. Also, choosing the right home or finding the right buyer for your home can be a long and drawn out process if you don't know where to look.
Whatever your stage in the home buying or selling process, from browsing open houses and the Sunday paper to signing the papers and unlocking your new future, there are Web resources that can help make your home buying or selling experience as convenient as possible.
- Some tips to aid you in the actual process of buying or selling:
- You don't pay a realtor if you are looking to buy a home; they are paid by the seller's proceeds (so they do make money, but it's included in the sale price).
- The abbreviation FSBO indicates "For Sale By Owner."
- The abbreviation MLS indicates a "Multiple Listing Service."
- You can search for and list properties on a number of different real estate sites and it never hurts to use more than one.
- Most brokers have Web sites where you can check out their listings, most provide photographs of their listings, and some even provide virtual tours of properties.
- Nationwide Web sites can be useful and often have a lot of fancy features, but if you know exactly where you want to live, consider searching for a local realtor site. They may be able to provide you with assistance or listings that you won't find at the larger sites.
- There are some online-only brokers, for example: www.foxtons.com or www.ziprealty.com (ZipRealty will share 20% of their commission with you if you buy with them and if you sell with them, you'll pay less commission). These online-only Realtors can offer lower costs to you because they have lower operating costs.
- If you type the phrase "real estate" and the city name you are looking for into Google's search box, your search results will be real estate listings.
- For decor advice for a home you are trying to sell, consider consulting the "Decorate Your Home" section in this guide.
For sites that do it all ...
will help you "Zestimate" the value of your home or a home you are thinking of buying. Search for the address and then use the "My Estimator" feature to adjust the details listed for the home (based on public records) according to any improvements or additions you've made and see if the estimated price goes up as well. You can also list your home for sale on the site, upload photos of the property, and find information on mortgages and refinancing your home.
HomePages' Real Estate 101
section will provide tips and explanations for the buyer or seller (like how to add value to your home or how MLS works). You'll be able to search listings of recently sold homes in your area, find neighborhood and city statistics, learn about mortgages, even sign up for regular e-mail updates of the listings in your area.
For Sale By Owner
offers advice on buying and selling properties. Look at properties in your area or sign up to be notified when new properties near you are put on the site so you don't have to check yourself. Find guides for buying and selling, cost-of-living comparisons, city profiles, reports about area schools, and crime stats for the places you are thinking about moving to.
is another site where you can list and look at properties for sale. You'll find mortgage and refinancing calculators, salary calculators, and city profiles.
has property listings, moving calculators, loan information, credit report information, movers, and local school reports. The site is a little ad-heavy, but overall has helpful information.
For a general overview of the real estate buying or selling process ...
ABCs of Real Estate
has plenty of useful calculators for home mortgages and the like. For buying a home, check out the "Home Buying Articles & Advice"
and for home selling tips, check out the "Guide to Selling a Home."
Not only will you find concise, step-by-step advice for buying and selling homes, you'll also find a glossary of real estate terms
. The calculators on this site also compare renting vs. owning, the cost of living, and the range of affordability. You can also estimate the loan for which you might qualify, and use the Super-Calculator to compare a proposed loan with your existing loan.
has a real estate law section that will answer questions about buying and selling a home like "What is a listing agreement?" or "What happens at 'closing'?"
The Federal Citizen Information Center
provides information about a number of housing topics including selling, financing, and home maintenance. You may have to pay a few dollars for some of the pamphlets or information packets, but there's also lots of free information on a number of topics on the homepage at www.pueblo.gsa.gov
For specific home buying tips and tools ...
Home Buying Tips
walks you through the process of buying a home. Find out everything from how much house you can afford to what to do after you make the purchase. Helpful calculators estimate your closing costs, the after-tax cost of owning a home, and monthly mortgage payments.
has tips and tools for owners and prospective home buyers on topics like financing, selling, buying, moving, constructing, even home and garden.
The American Society of Home Inspectors
has a page for home buyers and sellers with information about what to expect from a home inspection. Read the "Frequently Asked Questions" or take a look at the "Virtual Home Inspection."
For finding and listing properties ...
is part of the new wave of Web sites that provide function and community. This property search engine will scour the Web and provide you with a venue to discuss your property questions or concerns with other users.
is the official site of the National Association of Realtors. This site has a clean design, and an easy-to-use search function. You can get your search results in an interactive map form.
lists the homes that the U.S. government is selling. Browse homes as well as place bids to buy property on the site. You can also find commercial real estate and government land for sale here. This site has links to other government agencies with properties for sale. (If you want to see what else the government is selling, go to govsales.gov
has for-sale-by-owner houses and land. Search by state and get a list of properties sorted by city and price. Search results list city, price, area, bedrooms/bathrooms, and type of dwelling. Click on a property for details and seller contact information.
For real estate reading ...
is part of The Wall Street Journal network. Read tips for buying or selling your home or learn about trends in the market. Browse properties or realtors, and find articles about buying a second home, gardening, and remodeling your home.
is a blog about real estate that provides tips about the market, trends, or whatever else is on the author's mind. PressReal often provides helpful insight or recommendations for other online resources to aid in your online real estate endeavors.
Future of Real Estate Marketing
is a blog that keeps you up to date on the trends of the real estate market, particularly on the Web. You'll hear about the newest Web sites and get some insight on the latest generation of home buyers.
takes text messaging to the real estate world. Agents and sellers can sign up for the paid service. When potential buyers see a listing for a house they like, they can text message Cellulist and get more information about the property without actually calling the agent or seller.
calls itself "Real Estate in Reverse" and that's exactly what it is. Buyers create profiles and list what they are looking for in a home, and sellers can search the profiles to try and find a buyer. This site is quite new, but has interesting potential.
A home mortgage is likely the largest single loan you'll ever carry. Knowing as much as possible about the different kinds of loans and home financing methods available will help you avoid the many pitfalls we read about in the papers: subprime mortgages, hidden penalties, balloon payments, defaulting, and repossession.
- Loans from Internet-based providers can sometimes be offered at lower rates than those from bricks-and-mortar banks because the Internet-only providers often have lower overhead costs.
- Check in your area for programs that offer classes for first-time home buyers, as well as lower interest rates on a loan. Many times, local government organizations and banks will offer such programs.
To guide you through the home loan process ...
contains a Mortgage section with some very comprehensive information about mortgages. Check out the "Mortgage Basics"
section to read a step-by-step approach to how mortgages work. If you get hung up on the terminology take a look at the glossary
has almost every finance-related calculator you could ever need: mortgage, amortization, debt consolidation, mortgage refinancing, and others. This site even has a calculator that will tell you how long it will take you to become a millionaire.
To find a lender ...
is one of the leading online loan services. At Lendingtree, banks compete for loans so every time you apply for a loan, you get four different options. Lendingtree also offers comprehensive realty services to help you buy or sell your home.
enables you to apply for various kinds of loans via the site. You can also compare rates, use the site's tools and calculators, or get a credit report. Although the site's specialty is mortgages, Eloan covers most topics in lending. For example, the site has a whole section devoted to helping you pay for your motorcycle.
allows you to research and apply for mortgages online. The site has a number of calculators for different kinds of loans so you can determine the best solution, and how much you'll be paying.
is a comprehensive site offering services for many aspects of investment and savings. It has a section devoted to mortgages and home equity
where you can apply online for a low-rate loan. In addition to 24-hour online access to your account, E-trade assigns you a mortgage advisor who will be available by phone.
If you aren't quite ready to purchase a home but still want to find a new place to live, there are plenty of sites online that can help you find your dream rental property at a reasonable price.
- Classified ads in your local newspaper are a great place to look for rooms for rent or people looking for roommates. To find the Web site of your local paper just type the paper's name into a search engine like yahoo.com or ask.com.
To find a property to rent or to list a property ...
uses maps to show property listings by city or state. Properties are represented by little cartoon houses or apartment buildings. If an area on the map is too crowded with listings you'll see a "summary square" instead and can view individual maps of listings by limiting your search criteria. Search by price, number of rooms, or amenities.
uses Google Maps and Craigslist to show properties for rent on a map of the city of your choice. Properties are indicated by red and yellow flags (yellow-flagged properties have pictures). You can sort by price, city, date posted, bedroom count, or description.
will map your results as well as indicate which apartments have a cash back deal with the site (you'll get money back for renting through the site). View apartment floor plans and sort listings by amenities, location, or price. You'll have to create a free account to use all of the features on this site.
is the online place to go for rental classifieds. Choose your city from the list on the right side of this Web page and you'll have access to hundreds of listings. Landlords can place listings here for free (unless you live in New York City, then you'll be charged a fee). This is also a great place for those with a room to rent or for anyone new to a city looking to rent a room.
Tools for tenants ...
has a rent vs. buy calculator that can help you decide if your money might be better spent buying a new place rather than renting one.
is for you if you've ever wondered if you are paying a fair price for your rental. This site will have you enter your address and how much you pay in rent (or what you're thinking of paying for a potential rental) and it will let you know what other renters in your area are paying.
allows you to track what you and your roommates owe each other in rent, utilities, or whatever other expenses you split. Track costs as they accrue and payments as they are made.
Tools for landlords . . .
is a photo-oriented way to search Craigslist. On Craigslist you have to click on a posting to view any pictures of an item or property. With listpic you'll get your Craigslist results as photos; mouse over the pictures to see details of the listings and click on a photo for a complete description.
Moving can be a very stressful event in anyone's life—physically, emotionally, and financially. But relocating doesn't need to cause so much anguish; there are plenty of online resources that can help your move be as easy as possible on your mind, your health, and your wallet.
For tips and tools to plan a move ...
has some good tools for planning your move: a step-by-step calendar leading up to the move, advice on how to move your car, a dictionary of moving terms, and a summary of hidden costs to avoid.
has tips on how to pack certain items when you move. They also sell boxes and packing materials, and have a free moving quote calculator.
The American Moving and Storage Association
provides listings of moving companies that belong to the association as well as pre-move tips. You'll also find information about how to file a complaint against a moving company should you need to.
was started to prevent movers from getting scammed by their moving company. There are message boards where you can exchange information with other users, as well as a list of companies that have gotten poor reviews on the site.
The United States Postal Service
helps you change your address once you move. You can select the exact date that you would like the postal service to begin forwarding your mail to your new address.
will help you locate the services and supplies that you might need to help you move. You can compare quotes from moving companies, and research the cost of living in your new city. This site is a part of the Move.com network of sites.
will ship you quality used or misprinted boxes for you to pack and move. And it will cost only about half what you'd pay to buy the boxes elsewhere.
Even if the only time you spend at home is during the few hours of sleep you allow yourself each night, it is important that you feel comfortable in your own space. Part of that comfort comes from how you decorate (and by "decorate" we do not mean the pile of cardboard boxes in the corner left over from your last move). There are plenty of Web sites with inspiration and instruction to help you complete all of those projects that will make your house a home.
- Lots of television shows and magazines that cover home decorating have their own Web sites including: Oprah, Martha Stewart, HGTV, Real Simple, and House and Garden. If you have a favorite magazine or television show, try entering its name in a search engine to find the associated site.
For design ideas ...
is a design community where you can get advice and inspiration from other people who love design. Find ideas for projects as varied as reupholstery and recycling your wine corks.
will let you search or browse to find home products and inspiration. Browse by room, keyword, or style, and you'll find products and where to buy them. The simple, clean design of this site makes it easy to find what you're looking for.
can help you find fun and funky stuff for your home and provides links to where you can buy it. If you stumble across some interesting piece of art, furniture, a kitchen appliance, or other home item, you can save it to your Cribcandy account. This site is similar in function to HomePortfolio with an emphasis on the obscure items, and navigation that is a bit less intuitive.
has lots of pictures categorized by styles such as Mediterranean, country, or whimsical. You have to become a member (about $50/year) to view all of the photos and save your favorites, but previewing some of the pictures for free might be enough to get your creative energies going.
American Society of Interior Designers
has a number of useful links on its site. Try the "Knowledge Center" or the "Resource Center" sections of the site; you'll find links to more information about sustainable design, codes and standards, and other design-related topics.
has a collection of decorating and interior design articles and resources. You'll find links to the sites of HGTV design shows along with tips and how-to's for your own design projects.
Rental Decorating Digest
has a number of good articles to help you start thinking about decorating or organizing your space. A sampling of the decorating tips might cover dorm decorating, wall decorating, first-time renter decorating, decorating on a budget, and small space decorating.
has a lot of hip and fun design ideas for your space. Find new products, links to other design sites, and even help from the blog's author on how to find an item you saw in a magazine but couldn't find yourself.
is a blog for those with smaller living spaces. Get inspired to make your space work for you here with sections focused on New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, the kitchen, the nursery, and home tech.
is a design blog devoted to the latest products and design trends for the high-end luxury market. Find interesting and inspiring trends and products posted here, but be on the lookout for lots of ads.
gives you plenty of hip home decorating ideas. On this blog you'll also find a section for student designers and profiles of up-and-coming designers. Check out the Podcasts to hear interviews with a variety of artists and designers.
Not everyone is a home repair genius, even if we pretend to be from time to time. So whether you're a do-it-yourselfer or prefer to leave everything from changing a light bulb to rewiring your house to the professionals, there are Web sites to help you research and find whatever home improvement help you need.
- Some home improvement projects are best left to professionals; you may end up better off in the long run if you realize your home improvement limitations before you get midway through a project.
- If you are planning to remodel a room (or your entire home), you may be able to find a floor plan online that will work for your project. Many home improvement sites let you browse plans for free and pay if you find one you like.
To find a repair person or repair advice ...
will connect homeowners to prescreened home improvement contractors. Search for professionals by type of work and your zip code. The service is free and easy to use.
Ask the Builder
is written by a man with a few decades of construction experience. You'll find helpful advice about do-it-yourself projects, how to deal with contractors or builders, as well as finding the right product or tool for your job. Many of the summaries before the articles will provide helpful insights and even realistic advice about what jobs might be too difficult for the novice. Ask the Builder also has short, informative video clips.
For do it yourself home repair ...
The National Association of Homebuilders
has a "Remodeling Your Home" section, complete with a remodeling 101 guide and a checklist to see if you need a professional to do the job or if you can handle it yourself.
The DIY Network
on cable television has its own Web site. Learn the best way to paint a room or to organize messy spaces in your home. This site has tips for the beginner as well as links to all of the shows on the network.
has helpful drawings to go with many of its do-it-yourself articles. The site is quite busy, but if you don't mind that you'll be able to find lots of information.
has no-frills advice about home repair, and the section "How Your House Works" might answer questions you have about your electric, plumbing, or another system in your home.
The Natural Handyman
has a very user-friendly site. Although the design could use a little facelift, all of the pages let you know where you are and how to get around easily. You'll find lots of quirky tips such as "Make Your Mailbox Flag More Visible".
has parts and repair advice for your home appliances. Find general explanations of how your appliances work and figure out what might be wrong with them. Look for hard-to-find parts, or e-mail the site for specific repair advice.
will take you through your home improvement projects from planning to finishing touches. You'll find a surprisingly comprehensive list of projects, a community forum and product reviews on this site.
has a learning center with plenty of how-to guides and buyers' guides for remodeling and other home improvement tasks. The site also has interactive product demos so you can check out things like power drills and water filters.
For reference tools and cost calculators ...
The Construction Dictionary
introduces a lot of basic construction technology to help you understand your contractor or figure out your do-it-yourself project.
offers a number of useful tools for home improvement projects. Find things like a garden planner, paint color guides, a water heater buying guide, and a deck design tool.
This Old House
has calculators for some common home improvement projects. Find out how much paint, carpet, tile, insulation, or mulch you'll need for your next project. This site also has tips on how to measure so that you'll be sure to have the right amount of material.
has material calculators for drywall, concrete, roofing, lumber, and more.
offers illustrated guides to building, plumping, mechanical, and electrical codes. The site also sells books to help you keep your construction project up to code and has a number of resources for home construction and renovation.
This to That
will tell you what to use to glue one thing to another: leather to ceramic, plastic to Styrofoam, and plenty of other combinations.
Whether it's spring that's in the air or a blizzard, there are plenty of ways that you can tap the resources of the Internet to bring a little green into your home or garden.
- Don't want to bother going to the store to get gardening supplies? There are plenty of online nurseries that will sell you seeds and other garden products.
- Many online garden resources can help you sort out which plants are native to your area and which plants are invasive. You will also find information about water conservation and attracting (or avoiding) certain types of wildlife using certain plants.
My Garden Guide
has a plant encyclopedia that will help you look up plants by scientific name, common name, maximum height, bloom time, and other attributes.
will take you through the process of landscaping your yard including design and soil considerations, xeriscaping (landscaping with water conservation), lighting and soil choices, and composting.
has a collection of garden and landscaping articles and blogs written by freelancers. It is a good place to start if you are looking for opinions or very specific garden interests.
has a number of garden-related forums and resources. The plant and bug files are complete with pictures and information about a variety of species. The "Garden Watchdog" section has user reviews of garden suppliers, and PlantScout helps you find vendors of the plants you are looking for. You'll also find a glossary of plant, bug, and garden terms. The site as a whole could use a design makeover, but the information is helpful.
The National Gardening Association
has a number of resources including gardening with kids, plants you can eat, how-to guides, pest control, event calendars, and material calculators.
from Ohio State University offers links to many other Internet resources, a number of how-to videos, and answers to hundreds of commonly asked gardening questions.
is a gardening community from iVillage. You'll find a glossary, a directory of gardening organizations, an events calendar, forums to discuss gardening topics with other users, as well as photo galleries and blogs from other users.
has lots of tips and techniques in its how-to section as well as gardening basics for a variety of garden types and plants. The drawback to this site is that it requires a great deal of clicking to get to an article if you are browsing so we recommend that you use the search box at the top of the page. Also, there aren't many images on the site.
has garden supplies and tips, and a "growing zone finder:" simply enter your zip code to find out your gardening climate and what plants are best suited for it.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture
has a plants database where you can learn about the plants in your region or identify an unknown plant using the site's identification keys. Look at over 30,000 plant images and learn about all of the endangered plants in the United States.
The University of Illinois
has a Yard and Garden Solutions site that covers everything from houseplants to trees and shrubs. The clean design of this site makes it easy to navigate.
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