According to the National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 51% of buyers found the home they purchased on the internet. To put this in perspective, only 28% found the home they bought through their realtor, and 7% from a yard sign.
Real estate websites are attracting so many eyeballs every month because they are adding value for both buyers and sellers. Buyers can preview hundreds of homes within a few hours from the comfort of their couch. Home sellers win, too; their home’s features and pictures are viewed by hundreds of shoppers in the market to buy a new home.
We reviewed 18 real estate sites based on the ease and performance of their search functions, the support features they offer, and their costs. Buying and selling a home can feel overwhelming without wondering which website to use. To give you a head start on your journey, we’ve selected the best real estate websites for your needs.
Best Overall Zillow
Founded in 2006 by two former Microsoft executives, Zillow offers the most robust suite of tools for buyers, sellers, landlords, renters, agents, and other home professionals. Zillows power and flexibility make it the best overall real estate website in our review. Pros
- Largest database of over 135 million properties
- Extensive criteria sorting
- Links to get pre-qualified financing
- Volumes of “how-to” guides about home buying and selling
- A suite of mobile apps so you can do your research anywhere
- Their proprietary Zestimate® algorithm is only as good as the information loaded into the database
- Realtors and lenders pay for leads on the site; if you don’t want to engage with agents, be careful about filling out on-site forms
- Aside from the listing agent, the other agents listed on the property record may not know anything about the home
Zillow has one of the most downloaded apps in both Android and Apple platforms. In Google Play, it has over 10 million downloads and has a rating of 4.4 stars out of 5 by more than 500,000 users.2 In the Apple Store, 5.5 million people have given the app an overall rating of 4.8 stars out of 5.3
The primary Zillow app lets you search for homes and apartments, list yours for sale or rent, tour the home through pictures and videos when available, connect with agents and lenders, save your searches, and receive push notifications of updates to your search criteria.
Zillow sources postings from both the MLS, or multiple listing services, and non-MLS sources. Non-MLS sources include for sale by owner, non-MLS foreclosures, and auctions.
In short, Zillow is free to buyers and sellers and instead makes its money by charging advertising fees to agents, lenders, and other home service providers. It is a source to drive leads to the advertisers.
Most Accurate Realtor.com
Affiliated with the National Association of Realtors and linked to over 580 regional Multiple Listing Services, Realtor.com listings are the closest to the gold standard, the MLS, which is updated regularly by realtors. For this reason, Realtor.com is our pick for most accurate real estate website. Pros
- Database includes 99% of all MLS-listed properties
- Easy to search all listed homes in a school district
- Links to get pre-qualified financing and financial calculators buyers
- Robust “find a realtor” feature
- No option to search “for sale by owner” listings
- No option for home sellers to list their property for sale
Realtor.com launched in 1996 and is now operated by Move, Inc., a subsidiary of News Corporation (NWS). The app has around 265,000 reviews in the Google Play store that give it an average rating of 4.5 stars.4 In the Apple Store, around 280,000 reviews averaged 4.7 stars.5
The app allows you to search for homes, view pictures and video tours, compare neighborhood criteria like noise levels, and updates all its listings in real-time. Draw a shape with your fingertip on the app map and see only the properties within that geographic shape. Users can contact realtors and run financial calculators through the app, too.
The app and website are free to buyers and renters.
Best Mobile App Trulia
Founded in 2005 Trulia has created a website and mobile app that excel at transparency. Since home buyers and renters do so much of their searching using their mobile device, the fact that Trulia’s app is powerful, simple, and easy to use makes it our choice for best mobile app. Pros
- Hearty “local info” available on website and app
- Personalized alerts for your criteria
- Links to get pre-qualified financing and financial calculators in the app
- Fine-tune your geographic search by drawing a loop with your finger on the map
- Tutorial guides teach you how to maximize your app experience as you use it
- Need to sign in or register to save your search criteria
- No option for home sellers to list their property for sale
Trulia’s app has over 208,000 reviews on the Android platform that give it an average rating of 4.5 stars.6 In the Apple Store, more than 1 million users voted to give it an average rating of 4.8 stars.7 While you can search for both homes for sale and rental apartments in the main Trulia website, Trulia split these niches into two mobile apps, Trulia Real Estate: Find Homes and Trulia Renters for enhanced focus for renters.
Trulia, purchased by Zillow for $2.5 billion in 2015, has the power of the largest real estate website behind it. It typically updates listing information within 24 hours. As good as the app is, the accuracy of the data is still only as good as what goes into it.
Some of the features people like most about the app are its multiple map views for each property. For example, you can view the property plotted on a map that shows area crime, places to shop and eat, schools, and commute time.
Trulia is the darling for people who want to really understand their potential neighborhood and not just the home and what’s inside. There are even neighborhood reviews by people who live where you’re searching, telling you what they like and don’t like about the area.
The app is free for users.
Best for Foreclosures Foreclosure.com
There are several real estate websites dedicated to foreclosures but Foreclosure.com has the best mix of search criteria, sorting, quantity of listings, and perhaps most importantly with this complex process, education. For these reasons and more, Foreclosure.com is our best website for foreclosures. Pros
- “How-to” articles, tutorial videos, and checklists on the process of purchasing a foreclosure
- More than 750,000 foreclosure, pre-foreclosure, bankruptcy, and tax lien listings nationwide
- Search criteria include shadow inventory, sheriff sales, rent-to-own, city-owned properties, and more
- The Document Center contains links for title search on a property and other required forms
- 7-day free trial period requires a credit card to sign up
- Monthly fee is $39.80
- The app is poorly rated because it does not update as frequently as the website
Foreclosure.com was founded in 1999 by a team of real estate professionals and software developers who wanted to create a one-stop shop for people seeking to buy properties in the foreclosure process. Their data is updated daily directly from the tax rolls, government agencies, and notices of the lenders’ legal actions.
The Apple app has less than 50 user ratings, and the average rating is 1.5 stars out of five.8 It fares slightly better in the Google Play store with nearly 400 ratings averaging 2.6 stars.9 The app is free to use, but its full features are reserved for people who have paid the monthly subscription fee for the website.
If you think buying a home that’s not in foreclosure can be a little confusing, buying a foreclosure comes with its own set of rules that frighten many people away. At Foreclosure.com, they understand that it’s complicated and therefore have put a lot of their focus into the tutorial videos, articles, and checklists on the website to walk people through the process of finding a home at a discount. The downloadable documents and links to state-specific laws help steer buyers in the right direction.
As you become familiar with the process, you can search and sort for homes in specific phases of foreclosure. For example, you can search for specific property situations such as sheriff sales and tax liens. Another unique feature is the ability to search for homes listed as “Rent-to-Own.”
While there is a monthly fee of $39.80, subscribers pay it because they see the chance to buy a home that could potentially save them tens of thousands of dollars, far more than the cost of the subscription.
Best for Renting Apartments.com
For renters eager to learn not only about their apartment choices but also about the surrounding community and tips on improving their rental experience, Apartments.com is the top choice—and it’s our best for renting pick in our review. Pros
- Not just apartments; houses, condos, and townhouses, too
- Large library of easy-to-digest articles for every phase of your renting experience
- Mobile app with search and built-in contact feature
- Search by more than just geography, for example, search “Pet Friendly Apartments”
- Community guides are very good, but missing “crime” stats
- Some user frustrations with sorting capability and updates
- It costs $29.00 plus tax for up to 10 applications in a 30-day period
Apartments.com was founded in 1992 and later purchased by CoStar Group (CSGP) in 2014. CoStar Group is known for being one of the best commercial real estate research companies in the United States. Apartments.com benefits from CoStar’s large research team. Of its one million listings, 500,000 of them have been visited, photographed, and validated by in-house CoStar researchers.
The app on Google Play has over five million downloads and over 38,000 reviews that give it an average user rating of 4.6 stars.10 In the Apple Store, it is ranked #13 in the Lifestyle category and has an average rating of 4.8 stars from more than 100,000 ratings.11
Apartments.com and its app are free to search properties. The site makes money by charging renters $29.00 (plus tax) to apply for up to 10 rentals within 30 days on the mobile app.
Property listings may show pictures, 3D tours, floor plans, availability dates, current rent specials, and added expenses such as a parking or pet fee if applicable. There are also renter reviews, lease length options, and info on nearby shops, restaurants, gyms, banks, groceries, and coffee shops. The site’s Walk Score and Bike Score help users understand neighborhood transportation, and a neighborhood noise level rating help round out a user’s feel for an area.
Best for “For Sale By Owner” FSBO.com
Saving home sellers commissions since 1997, FSBO.com is our best website for “For Sale By Owner” sellers who want to “DIY” their home sale. FSBO.com has a packaged offering that includes an option to list on the MLS and syndicated real estate websites including Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor, to name a few. Pros
- Easy-to-find price plan offers an MLS listing and syndication on real estate websites
- Search for professional services in your state to support both buyer and seller
- Partners with Foreclosure.com for searchable access to foreclosure inventory
- Less property information than traditional broker listing sites
- Fewer search and sort criteria
- No mobile app
While selling your home without hiring a listing agent could save you from potentially paying 5% to 6% commission fees, there are fees to sell your home on FSBO.com. There are two selling plans offered. The FSBO package for $99.95 includes a 6-month listing on FSBO.com, a video upload, and unlimited photos.
The MLS package for $399.95 includes a listing on the MLS and syndication on several of the best real estate websites like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com. There are other options available depending on the state in which you live.
When you search for and hire a professional—a photographer, for example—you will pay for those expenses directly to the contractor. But if you’re not a trained real estate agent, the website offers ample information to guide you through the selling process. With attorneys and title agents at your fingertips and legal forms to download, you are well-armed for the task.
Best for Heroes Homes for Heroes
Are you a hero? If so, you can buy, sell, or refinance your home and earn rewards and other savings if you serve or have served in the military, or as a firefighter, EMS professional, police officer, healthcare professional, or teacher. Homes for Heroes rates as best for heroes in our review and is the real estate website for you if you serve your community. Pros
- Save on numerous services involved in your home sale, purchase, or refinance
- Your transactions earn contributions to a nonprofit that supports local heroes
- Guarantees the most hero savings amongst all national programs
- No free property information to browse on this website
- No mobile app
Homes for Heroes is a different real estate website model. Instead of offering a database of homes to browse, your first step with this company is to fill out their online form so one of their specialists can work with you on your goals. There is no mobile app.
If you fit into one of the career (hero) categories they serve, Homes for Heroes saves you money by using its large nationwide network of realtors, lenders, and business services that have agreed to serve you with excellence and with a discounted fee.
Founded in 2002 soon after 9/11, Homes for Heroes launched its national brand in 2009. Since then, it has helped over 46,000 heroes save over $80 million in real estate transactions totaling more than $11 billion. Their network includes 4,100 real estate and mortgage professionals committed to serving this critical portion of our society. As a result, Homes for Heroes, Inc. has been able to donate $947,000 to heroes who need assistance through its 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation, the Homes for Heroes Foundation.
The savings add up. The company states that most people save at least $2,400, called a Hero Reward. There is no fee to enroll; the hero pays that price every day just by doing their job.
What Is a Real Estate Website?
Real estate websites bring convenience to buyers and exposure to sellers. Buyers can view hundreds of property images, videos, and features before they ever need to schedule a live tour. Sellers who post their homes on these sites benefit for the same reason; hundreds or thousands of prospective buyers can view their home online without needing to walk through.
The other major purpose real estate websites serve is as a marketing channel for the professional service providers that contribute to the transaction. Realtors, mortgage professionals, banks, and inspectors can advertise on the website to generate leads.
How Do Real Estate Websites Get Data?
Real estate websites populate their inventory of homes in a variety of ways. In some cases the input is manual. A realtor or property manager updates a home’s profile or a seller uploads pictures. Other updates happen digitally through each company’s proprietary algorithm. The algorithm collects information from city and town tax databases and regional multiple listing services, to name a few.
Are Real Estate Websites Accurate?
Accuracy has been and still is the biggest challenge for real estate websites and their mobile apps. Some companies have improved their accuracy by validating the information collected by their algorithms using their own research staff. The websites have improved information refreshes from a few times per day to every 15 minutes, or in real-time in some cases.
Are There Fees for Real Estate Websites?
Most sites provide free services for the buyer or renter. The draw is to pull them in without barriers. Typically, however, if you want to use the full features, like saving your search criteria or getting push notifications when a property you are watching lowers its price, you’ll need to give the website your name and email address, and sometimes even your phone number. Once this is done, you may open yourself up to several phone calls and emails from salespeople.
Many websites charge sellers to list their homes for sale, or for property managers to communicate with their tenants through the app or website. If a renter wants to apply to an apartment through an app, they will have to pay for that convenience too.
How We Chose the Real Estate Websites
To choose the best seven, we reviewed 18 real estate websites. We uncovered their pros and cons, tested the search and sort capabilities, and dove into app reviews to see what people loved and what they wanted to see improved.
The companies’ reputations influenced our decision for the best as well. We studied and compared sites against each other to see which provided more information, how easy it was to find, and whether we can do it on the run in our mobile app.
Finally, we dug into how the website compiled information. Did it seek source data or did it glean it from another third-party site? And we looked at the money; how it’s earned, and who pays for what services. Based on all of these important factors, we selected the best real estate websites.