The smartphone will help you rent your home now

posted: February 18, 2024

tl;dr: With some prep and perseverance, you can rent a home with your phone...

Most everyone knows that you can purchase a movie ticket by smartphone, as well as purchase physical goods for home delivery from any of a huge variety of online retailers. You can also use a smartphone to get your car appraised and sell it, on websites such as These transactions happen either within a single smartphone app, or on a single website. But can you do a more complicated, multi-party transaction, such as renting a home, using just a smartphone in the year 2024?

I took a bit of a risk on a recent three-day motorcycle trip to the Southern California desert near Joshua Tree National Park. Just before the trip I had agreed to rent a house, and I needed to execute all the necessary documents so that the house would be removed from the market and become ours. Any flub or delay could cause the landlord to lose patience and decide to rent to someone else. I briefly considered bringing my laptop on the trip, but storage space on a motorcycle is extremely limited. So off I set with my Apple iPhone as my sole electronic communication device.

The group I was with rode through some desolate parts of the southern Arizona and California desert. There’s a sign as you head east out of Twentynine Palms, California towards Parker, Arizona warning that it is 100 miles to the next service station. But every place where we stopped and I whipped out my smartphone had 4G LTE service with sufficient bandwidth, so broadband Internet service was not an issue.

A screenshot from a vertically-oriented smartphone application, most of which consists of a map showing major highways and streets, along with a couple dozen small blue balloon icons sprinked around the map, with a search bar at the top of the screen and navigation buttons at the bottom

I didn’t use the app to close the deal, but it did help me find the house

To find the house, I had relied primarily upon the app. Zillow and FlexMLS have similar apps that all pull data from the same MLS database, so there’s not much difference between them. These apps work on a smartphone, but I had primarily used them on my iPad because of its larger screen size. On the motorcycle trip, however, I was executing the transaction, not searching for a house.

Here are the apps and important features that I used to close the deal:

The whole process was not as straightforward as it would have been if it had happened inside a single app. Perhaps someone will develop an app for this purpose in the future. But I was able to piece things together and get the deal done. Now the next question is: is it possible to buy a house using just a smartphone?

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