by James A. Martin

HomeSnap iPhone App Helps House Buyers, Sellers and Nosy Neighbors

May 23, 20123 mins

See a home you like? Just take a picture of it on your iPhone with HomeSnap to find out how much it’s worth, the square footage and more—even if the property isn’t for sale. The app is impressive, but you often have to dig through listings to find the correct properties.

Whether you’re a nosy neighbor, a real-estate agent, a potential homebuyer or seller, or all of the above, you’re going to want HomeSnap on your iPhone. Just don’t expect it to always be a snap.

HomeSnap is a free iOS app optimized for iPhone/iPod touch screens (current version is 1.10). To use the app you simply take a photo of a house with your iPhone camera. HomeSnap then serves up vitals on the property, such as its asking price if it’s for sale or how much it’s worth or recent sale price if it’s off the market. You get other details, too, such as number of bedrooms and bathrooms; one or more photos; and listings of nearby schools and similar properties.

HomeSnap iPhone real estate app screen shot

If a home you snap is for sale, HomeSnap delivers much of the same information you’d get from the listing agent’s marketing flyer, such as features and amenities, and homeowners dues (if it’s a condo). HomeSnap will also tell you how long the property’s been on the market—something a flyer probably won’t tell you. And you can sign up for email alerts to be notified when the property price changes or the home is in contract or sold.

HomeSnap is by no means the only smartphone real estate app. But its use of the iPhone camera and GPS to give you property details is impressive. (The app developer says an Android version is coming soon.)

However, HomeSnap doesn’t always make it easy to get the details you want. In the majority of my tests, HomeSnap didn’t correctly identify the property I’d photographed. I had to sort through several home listings in the app until I found the correct one. On a few occasions, the home I photographed wasn’t even among the choices HomeSnap offered. Given that I only photographed properties under sunny skies and with few if any obstructions, I was hoping HomeSnap would be a bit more precise.

HomeSnap was developed by real-estate online-broker Sawbuck. If you see a home for sale you want to visit, you can click a “Get Inside This Home” link to see two additional options: “Call a Sawbuck Advisor” or “Schedule a Visit” with a Sawbuck agent. While you’ll find the listing agent’s name and their brokerage firm at the bottom of the information HomeSnap provides, the app doesn’t provide contact information. In other words, Sawbuck’s hope is that HomeSnap will funnel new clients its way, which is a smart marketing move.

HomeSnap isn’t just for buyers on the prowl for properties. I can imagine it being useful to sellers, too, who could drive around with their iPhones, snap photos of properties and find comparable sales in their neighborhoods. They’ll probably want to be discreet about it, however; people often become anxious when they notice someone photographing their homes. That practice may put you into another category of potential HomeSnap users: the nosy neighbor.