Zillow Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: Z), is an online real estate company founded in 2006. The company operates as a real estate search engine that lists more than 110 million homes across the United States. It offers a value estimate, pictures, and comparable prices for each of the homes listed on the site. Zillow is considered a media company that makes revenue from its ad placements.

Trulia, Inc., like Zillow, is an online residential real estate website that connects home sellers with buyers, renters, and real estate professionals in the United States. With a business model similar to Zillow’s, Trulia was acquired by Zillow in 2015 for $3.5 billion.

The resulting entity is considered the largest online real estate company operating in the United States with the most popular website, measured by the number of unique monthly visits it racks up—59 million, as of January 2019. While an entity as large as Zillow Group provides its users with benefits of scale, its market domination means it hasn't felt the need to adopt some features of some of the smaller competitors in the space.

Many online real estate websites have cropped up to try to dethrone Zillow Group as an industry leader. The following are four options that provide alternatives to Zillow and its subsidiary, Trulia.

Key Takeaways

  • Zillow Group, which includes Zillow and Trulia, is the biggest online real estate company in the U.S.
  • HomeSnap is known for its user-friendly mobile app, while NeighborhoodScout provides additional information about an area, such as crime rates and school data.
  • One of the best ways to conduct a search for a new home is to use several real estate websites to cull information.

1. Redfin

Redfin is a large online real estate company that seeks to redesign the way people buy homes. It offers several benefits that make it a viable alternative to Zillow and Trulia. First, the website setup is very similar to Zillow's and Trulia's, allowing users can search for properties through a map-based function. After searching the site with a city or zip code, Redfin displays information—home value, home appreciation, square footage, year built, homeowner’s association fees, construction components, sewage system specifics, and other housing data points—that a home buyer might want to know. Also, users who are browsing for homes can find favorite units for a side-by-side comparison.

Second, Redfin offers additional features that Zillow and Trulia do not. The company, which is actually a broker, employs real estate agents who are rated by Redfin users. The compensation of the real estate agents is directly correlated to the ratings they receive. To help homebuyers, the company also rebates part of the real estate commission back to the purchaser.

However, users should be aware that in some cities Redfin doesn't disclose exact addresses if sellers prefer not to, and the site does not automatically provide home value data if the listing agent doesn't want it displayed. In other cities, Redfin automatically provides complete sales and listing data.

Finally, while the full data might not always be there, the company integrates with the multiple listing services (MLS) and has homes listed within 15 minutes of the unit going into MLS. (Note: The app, available on iOS and Android, claims to update its data every five minutes.)

2. Homesnap

Homesnap is an online real estate website that includes features such as an intuitive map-based search function and a robust amount of property information. Much like Zillow and Trulia, its real estate browse function is easy to use.

What sets Homesnap apart from the competition is its mobile app. It's possible to take a real-time picture of a house for sale with a mobile phone and have the app give all the necessary listing information about the property.

The mobile app even works on unlisted homes, apartments, and condos, giving users property values of the units. The app is available for Android, iPhone, Apple watch, and Apple TV users.

Many online real estate websites are portals that get their information from databases of properties shared by agents and brokers. As a brokerage, Redfin is an exception.

3. NeighborhoodScout

NeighborhoodScout provides users with information regarding neighborhoods in the United States. Users can access the company’s neighborhood information using the search function by entering a city or specific address. Once the search criteria are entered, NeighborhoodScout provides average house values, local school information, demographic data, crime rates, traffic data, and more. While most of the information is free for users, a subscription is needed for some of the more robust data. With plans starting at $39.99 month to month, users are provided with detailed school reports, crime rates, and housing appreciation rates.

The information given to users through NeighborhoodScout’s subscription service is not offered by either Zillow or Trulia, making it a viable alternative to either company.

4. Realtor.com

Realtor.com is an online real estate website owned by News Corp. (It licenses the name "realtor" from the National Association of Realtors.) While the information is current, the site is more basic and doesn't have the robust features of Zillow, Trulia, or the other companies on this list. However, it's connected to MLS with the most current listings on the market and is a good place to start searching for a home. It also has a texting option to connect to real estate professionals and a pricing feature to assess how specific home features, such as a garage, affect cost.

Once a home listing is found, a user can employ a blended strategy to search for that home on one of the three websites listed previously. This way it's possible to be the most informed about a listing, so a buyer can be the first to view the property on Redfin, Homesnap, or NeighborhoodScout, then contact the realtor quickly.

The Bottom Line

While Zillow and Trulia are popular real estate sites, excellent alternatives do exist. Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions you will likely make, so it’s important to pull information from a variety of reputable sources. In addition to the above-mentioned sites, Investopedia also offers a complete guide to buying a home that can help make the search easier.