The Housing Scene by Lew Sichelman


New companies and new technologies are continuously breaking ground in the housing sector. Even "old" real estate science is getting better and better.

Here's a look, in no particular order, at some of the fresh and promising tech ideas that have entered the space recently, or are about to.

-- BoostUp. This free social savings platform helps people save for a downpayment by offering a dollar-for-dollar match on their savings from brand-name partners such as Quicken Loans, as well as from family and friends. Hence the name "Boost."

Savers create an account, set a goal and automate deposits to reach that goal through responsible savings.

-- HomeTrackr. Some 40 percent of all houses have serious issues. This free service aims to tell would-be buyers about them.

While there is loads of information available about houses, it is largely scattered about and driven by advertising dollars through listing sites. This site, which hopes to become the "Voice of the Home Buyer," provides critical, property-specific data that can make or break a sale -- but only if the buyer knows about it.

-- Solo. Want to go it alone, but need some help? This community platform will connect you to agents who offer specific unbundled services -- writing up a contract, for example, or building a comparative market analysis -- for a small fee.

Most buyers use all the services agents have to offer, or none at all. But one size does not fit all. Agents aligned with this site offer their services on an a la carte basis, so you can customize the level of services you need. And you save up to half the commission in the process.

-- Sindeo. Claiming that the mortgage marketplace is broken, antiquated and inefficient, this service has a lofty goal: to become the trusted place where buyers can plan, shop, qualify for and close their loans, and receive expert, unbiased service along the way.

This site takes buyers through a four-step process, including helping you come up with a personal plan to afford your first or next house, and guiding you every step of the way until the loan is funded. Rookies will learn about first-time buyer programs such as downpayment assistance, and receive a personalized action plan to improve their eligibility for financing.

-- Homes. A long-running online search destination with some 3 million property listings, this site has added a "School Search" feature that allows purchasers to make more informed decisions by determining the caliber of schools in their search area.

The technology is calculated from state test data for public schools and assigns a letter grade, from A+ to D, based on their performance.

To determine the ranking, state test scores from one school are compared to those of other schools in the same state with the same education level.

-- Automatic. This $100 accessory plugs into any automobile made after 1996 and allows you to sync it to your iPhone or Android device. It then becomes an app store for your car, offering 20 functions so far, including home automation.

It will link to your Nest app, for example, so that when you turn on your car when you leave work, it will tell your house to be at the right temperature when you arrive 30 minutes later. Or warn you that you forgot to close the garage door when you headed out for the day.

Futuristic stuff.

-- EMTransfer. Set to launch this month, this site intends to facilitate the electronic collection and deposit of your earnest money, and track it online so you will know that your agent or builder isn't dipping into the cookie jar illegally.

-- ReaLync. This is a web/mobile platform that facilitates virtual tours and pre-recorded videos so you can see and hear about specific houses at your leisure, at any time and from anywhere.

At this site, you can interact live, capture photos, view local details and send messages. Better yet, all tours are automatically saved in the cloud so you can watch them again and again and share them with friends and family.