According to the National Association of Realtors' 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report, 42% of all homebuyers will first look online for properties, and 92% of homebuyers will use the Internet at some point during their home search. Once limited to brief property descriptions, today's real estate websites have evolved to offer a multitude of tools designed to modernize and simplify the home-buying experience. Buyers can now find property listings, street-view maps, virtual tours, market statistics and financial calculators online. Here, four of the best real estate websites for finding a home.

Zillow.com (Z)

Zillow is an online real estate database of more than 110 million homes in the U.S. – including homes for sale, homes for rent and homes that are not currently on the market (used for comparative pricing and other info). Once you search for a property, the tabbed options become specific to that area. Features of the Zillow.com website include:

  • Property search. Find homes listed on the MLS or for-sale-by-owner; search foreclosures, new homes and open houses; and view prices for recently sold properties.
  • Mortgages. Mortgage education, calculators and mortgage-rate comparisons.
  • Agents. Search for and review real estate agents, lenders, property managers and home-improvement professionals.
  • Advice. Real estate and mortgage forums, as well as educational articles (foreclosure, mortgage and buyers' guides) and a consumer blog that includes posts on celebrity real estate, unique homes, home improvement, tips and advice, and market trends.
  • Local info. Home values, demographics, user-submitted photos, schools and market reports.
  • Zestimates. The Zestimate home valuation is Zillow's estimated market value, calculated using a proprietary formula. (note: Zestimates should not be considered appraisals, and Zillow recommends "supplementing the Zestimate with professional advice").

Trulia.com (TRLA)

Trulia is an online real estate database that lists homes both for sale and for rent, and recently sold properties. Once you enter a city or zip code, the tabbed options become specific to that market. Trulia.com website features include:

  • Property search. Search for MLS-listed homes; find foreclosures, new homes and open houses; and view recently sold properties.
  • Advice. Q&As, blogs, and How-To Guides for a variety of topics including home buying, selling, financing, rentals, moving and foreclosure.
  • Mortgages. Mortgage education, calculators, and mortgage rate comparisons.
  • Local info. Real estate market overview, market trends, schools, crime, commuting, amenities, affordability, demographics, hazards (earthquake, flooding, tornado, hurricane, wildfire) and community info.
  • Rent versus buy calculator. Helps you decide if it's better to rent or buy in a certain market based on your target monthly rent, target home price, how long you'll live there, your income tax rate and your mortgage rate.
  • Find an agent. Search for and review real estate agents, lenders, property managers, contractors, home inspectors, appraisers and builders/developers.

[Editor's Note: In late July 2014, both companies announced that Zillow would buy Trulia in a $3.5 billion stock deal, expected to close in 2015. Both brands will continue to operate under their separate names.]

Realtor.com (MOVE)

Realtor.com is often recommended by real estate agents as a source of the most accurate and up-to-date information, sourced from more than 800 MLSs, with 90% of its listings refreshed every 15 minutes. In addition to finding homes for sale and rent, you can find senior housing and international listings. Features of the Realtor.com website include:

  • Property search. Search for MLS-listed homes; find foreclosures and new homes/communities; and view recently sold properties.
  • Mortgage. Financing advice, mortgage rate comparison, and a rent-versus-buy calculator to help you compare costs based on your target home price and monthly rent.
  • Find Realtors. Search by agent, team or company in a particular area, and filter by designation and certifications.
  • Advice. Articles, guides and calculators to help with financing, property values, home and garden (e.g., remodeling and decorating), and moving, including quotes for full service, self service, auto transport and international moves.

Redfin.com (anticipated IPO in 2014/2015)

Redfin combines a property-search site with a staff of full-service real estate agents who are paid a salary plus a commission dependent upon customer-satisfaction ratings collected by the company. Redfin agents help you find a home and walk you through each step of the home-buying process, including helping you work with inspectors, lenders, insurers, attorneys and escrow agents, and documents can be signed electronically. So far, Redfin covers 20 states plus the District of Columbia, and about 30 metro areas across the U.S. The Redfin.com website features:

  • Property search. Search MLS- and agent-listed properties for sale, updated every 15 to 30 minutes. Search new listings, open houses and fixer-uppers. Listings are posted immediately (as opposed to delays that are typical for national database websites).
  • Property overview. For each listed property, you can read about property details, tour insights, property history, public records, activity, schools, neighborhood and other insights, and find similar homes.
  • Education. Browse Redfin blogs, forums and the research center to read real estate market reports.
  • Free classes and events. Redfin offers free classes and events that provide guidance on prices, neighborhood market trends and a complete explanation of the home-buying (or selling) process. Other topics include mortgages, multiple offers, new construction and contracts.

The Bottom Line

Nearly all homebuyers will use the Internet at some point during the home-buying process. The real estate websites mentioned here are popular online places to find properties, research mortgages, read educational content and find qualified real estate professionals, and each has a corresponding mobile app to keep your home search up to date when you're on the go.

At the time of writing, the author did not own shares of any stocks mentioned in this article.

Related Articles
  1. Home & Auto

    The Truth About Real Estate Prices

    Historical housing price data suggests ongoing increases in housing prices, but these numbers don't tell the whole truth.
  2. Home & Auto

    How To Find The Best Real Estate Agent

    Most people don't have the time, expertise or motivation to go it alone and finding a good real estate agent becomes essential to enjoying a smooth real estate transaction.
  3. Home & Auto

    Real Estate Indicators For Prospective Homebuyers

    If you want to buy a home but you’re holding out until market conditions show signs of improvement, housing indicators can help point the way.
  4. Home & Auto

    How To Value A Real Estate Investment Property

    Make sure you know what your real estate investment is worth before you sign the ownership papers.
  5. Home & Auto

    Why There's No Such Thing As A Bad Real Estate Market

    Sometimes a "bad" market can be the best thing for you.
  6. Home & Auto

    How Real Estate Agents Sell Their Homes For More

    A well-publicized statistic finds that when real estate agents sell their own homes, they tend to get a higher price. But why?
  7. Home & Auto

    How You Make Money In Real Estate

    If you're interested in the real estate game, make sure you know what factors will affect whether you make money or not.
  8. Home & Auto

    Buying A Home: New Or Previously Owned?

    Brand-new homes have distinct advantages - and drawbacks. Find out what you need to know to make an informed decision.
  9. Home & Auto

    8 Ways To Make Money With Real Estate

    With today's buyer's market, you may be thinking of diving into the real estate market. Here are some unexpected ways you can use real estate to boost your finances.
  10. Home & Auto

    Top 4 Things That Determine A Home's Value

    Your house depreciates over time, while the land beneath it is likely to do the opposite.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Real Estate Investment Trust - ...

    A REIT is a type of security that invests in real estate through ...
  2. Proprietary Reverse Mortgage

    A loan that lets senior homeowners retrieve the equity in their ...
  3. Single-Purpose Reverse Mortgage

    A financial tool that lets senior homeowners retrieve some of ...
  4. Turnkey Property

    A fully renovated home or apartment building that an investor ...
  5. Fair Housing Act

    This law (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968) forbids ...
  6. Construction Loan

    A short-term loan used to finance the building of a home or another ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. Can I take my 401(k) to buy a house?

    Once you reach 59.5, you can use the funds in your 401(k) retirement savings account to buy a house or any other expense ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Can I take my 401(k) to buy a house for my children?

    Under the standard regulations for 401(k) retirement savings plans, you may elect to withdraw funds from your 401(k) for ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How is market value determined in the real estate market?

    Anyone who has ever tried to purchase or sell a home has probably heard a lot about the property's fair market value, or ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What is the difference between adjusted and regular funds from operations?

    While regular funds from operations measures the cash flow generated by the operations of a real estate investment trust ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are examples of typical leasehold improvements?

    Typical leasehold improvements include partitioning a large, open space into smaller, more structured areas such as dressing ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How much of the global economy is comprised of the real estate sector?

    The commercial and residential real estate industry generated an estimated $3 trillion in 2014, with some 35% of sector revenue ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

COMPANIES IN THIS ARTICLE
Trading Center
×

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!