Ever driven through an idyllic neighborhood and wondered if the homes are within your price range?
Now you can ask your mobile device.
By scanning the neighborhood with your smartphone or tablet you can see what homes are for sale, the asking price and photos of the interior.
Long Realty has developed a new app for iPads, iPhones and Androids to give homebuyers instant information on what homes are for sale, how many recently sold in a neighborhood, pending sales and all the listing details.
The information is "live" with updates every 15 minutes sourced from the Multiple Listing Service - a move once unthinkable in the industry.
The free app - which is Arizona-focused - became available earlier this month and is averaging 200 downloads a day.
A Tucson Realtor since 1985, Long Realty's CEO Rosey Koberlein remembers guarding MLS data.
"The value of the Realtor at the time was that you were the keeper of information," she said. "Then along came the Internet."
She said the industry watched, waiting to see "if this Internet thing would stick" and flinched at how the technology replaced many travel agents and workers in other industries.
The prevalence of smartphones created more demand from consumers for quick and easy ways to find information about the housing market.
"The consumers are driving this bus," Koberlein said, noting that nearly 90 percent of homebuyers begin their search on a mobile device. "We want to be in that realm."
She declined to give a dollar amount, but said the investment in the app was "significant and will be worth it."
National broker Coldwell Banker also offers a free mobile app that has similar features, said Malcolm MacEwen, president and chief operating officer for Coldwell Banker Arizona.
"Clients appreciate the ease of mobile access," he said. "There's been an exponential growth of users on mobile devices."
A representative for Tucson Realty & Trust said it does not currently feature a mobile app.
Tap of a finger reveals data
Kevin Kaplan, vice president of marketing and technology for Long Realty, demonstrated the app's abilities, highlighting a neighborhood map dotted with red and black boxes, denoting the homes for sale and those that have sold in the past 12 months.
The map appears in street view or can be switched to satellite. With a tap of a finger, detailed information pops up about the house, property taxes, school districts and a schedule of open houses.
Kaplan said websites such as Zillow or Trulia rely on sources other than MLS for their data, which means the information could be outdated. The Long Realty app comes directly from MLS and consumers can mark a house as a "favorite" and get updates if the price changes.
Long Realty's HomeScan feature allows someone to use their device's camera to point to a neighborhood for sales activity. It can also be used by a seller to get a sense of what homes are selling for in the neighborhood.
The Coldwell Banker app provides links to the company's YouTube channel, MacEwen said.
Both apps list all homes, not just the ones listed by the company's agents.
If someone makes a query, an email is generated to one of the companies' agents.
If the consumer already is represented by a competing agent, that relationship is respected, Koberlein emphasized.
"We work within the code of ethics of the National Association of Realtors," she said.
But if a prospective homeowner does not have a Realtor, she said, "it is a competitive advantage."
The industry fear of "giving away" information to consumers has subsided.
"Our entire Internet strategy is designed to drive clients to the agents," MacEwen said. "We're capturing leads using several strategies."
Koberlein agreed and said, unlike booking an airline ticket, buying a home requires more than just a listing price, such as financing and appraisal requirements.
"Every home is different and the more we can meet the consumers' needs, the more we can reposition our profession," she said. "Our value was in being the keeper of information but now our value is in our knowledge."
Read more about the mobile home-for-sale apps:
Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4232.