**As published at digiday:DAILY** Publisher: Redfin Price: Free Platform: iPhone/iPod Touch Advertising: None as of yet Functionality: A Fun Factor: B+, this is about as fun as home browsing gets. Overall: A- Checking out real estate online at home is one thing, but taking a GPS-equipped smartphone out for the proverbial scavenger hunt is entirely different. That’s what the Redfin Real Estate app allows you to do. Seattle-based, VC-backed Redfin describes itself as the “first online brokerage for buying and selling homes,” sort of like a hybrid Century 21 and E-Trade. Once I registered as a “Redfinnian,” I was able to mark any available property I liked as a favorite, and then Redfin would send updates like price reductions and open-house times via email.
If you’ve used competing mobile apps, the first thing you’ll notice about Redfin is how quickly photos and other details pull up for each listing. Integrated seamlessly with the iPhone’s version of Google Maps, the Redfin app places simple, intuitive icons on the screen to indicate a single-family home, multi-unit buildings, condos and more. And while the app lets users drill down into typical criteria like price, beds, baths, lot size, days on the market, and more, sometimes it’s more fun to see everything that’s available in a given area. The real fun with Redfin starts when you drive around almost aimlessly to discover hidden diamonds in the rough – since a property with the need for a little TLC never stopped the frugal home buyer. I was surprised by the number of seemingly affordable homes I found while roaming around with Redfin. Like me, you just might find that your dream neighborhoods aren’t as exclusive as you’d previously thought. With Redfin, searching for homes can be fun again – and it doesn’t require the need for an agent to tag along (after all, we’re just looking). So the next time you feel like checking out real estate, but don’t want to take the step of making a formal appointment with a Realtor, give Redfin a try and make it a truly interactive experience personalized for your needs.