The 6 Best Home Buying Apps of 2020

Shop smart with the right house-hunting tool

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Shopping for a new home can be a challenging and time-consuming endeavor. Driving to view neighborhoods and properties, touring homes, and locating the nearby schools and supermarkets can feel like an additional part-time job when you add house-hunting to your busy life.

Home buying apps can reduce and streamline this time investment considerably. You can search within the long list of what’s for sale so that you only see the listings that fit your criteria. From there, you start ruling out the ones you don’t like until you have your shortlist. Then you can drive to visit just those homes.

We reviewed 15 home buying apps to find the ones that will serve you best. We made sure they were on both Apple and Android platforms, that they were free, and that they came highly rated by users. We wanted apps with the largest databases of homes and we examined how well they mined the data and how frequently they updated the listings. But we recognize that when making a large purchase like buying a home, people often want to speak to a human being to answer questions and guide them through the process, so we chose apps that connect you easily to knowledgeable agents. Here are our top choices.

The 6 Best Home Buying Apps of 2020

Zillow: Best Overall

Zillow
Zillow

We chose Zillow as our best overall home buying app because of its massive scope in inventory and services. The app also provides free foreclosure data, pre-approval assistance, and customizable search filters.

Pros
  • Users have access to over 110 million homes

  • In participating markets, Zillow-owned houses are unoccupied and can be toured by interested parties without an agent or without an appointment because the houses can be unlocked through the app

  • Detailed search and filter criteria

  • Coordinate your search with a partner or roommate by tagging home features and sharing your favorites

Cons
  • The Zestimate algorithm uses tax records to produce results, which sometimes are inaccurate

  • Properties feature several agents. Only one of these is the actual lister. The others pay a premium amount to be featured and are often uninformed about the property.

  • Sometimes filters have bugs that allow search results to appear that are outside the user’s parameters

Zillow was founded in 2006 by Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink, former Microsoft executives and founders of Expedia. They launched the online real estate service company, Zillow.com, in Seattle, Washington.

Zillow’s home buying app is the best tool overall because it has the largest database at 110 million homes, a full suite of search features nationwide, and the ability to connect to agents for in-person service. Zillow integrated a new video feature into the app called Video Walkthrough, which provides buyers a more realistic view of what to expect from a home.

Under the Zillow brand, Zillow runs Zillow.com, Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, Zillow Mobile, Zillow Rentals, and Zillow Digs.

Zillow serves the full lifecycle of owning and living in a home: buying, selling, renting, financing, remodeling, and more.

The Zillow app is available in the App Store with a 4.8 out of 5 overall rating, and in Google Play with a 4.5 overall rating. Reviewers of the app for iOS and Android praise the tool’s user-friendliness.

The app works on a database of more than 110 million U.S. homes, including homes for sale, for rent, and those not currently on the market. The agent finder tool can help start the real estate agent search. You can search by location, home price, size, and other features.

The app regularly updates its database. Some minor changes made by sellers appear within a few minutes on the app, but all changes are updated within 24 hours.

Zillow is free for buyers and sellers.

Xome Real Estate Auctions: Best for Buying at Auction

Xome

 Xome

We chose Xome as our best app for buying a home at auction because of its easy user experience to view and bid on nationwide listings. Detailed information like financing, property, and neighborhood statistics; alerts when someone else bids on a property you are watching; and property price history all keep the bidder up-to-date on activity. Xome Real Estate Auctions further surpasses its competitors with an efficient e-signing capability for contracts.

Pros
  • One of the largest databases of auction properties

  • View pre-auction properties

  • The app has the same full suite of features available on the website

  • Push notifications alert you when a competitive bid happens

  • Contract e-signing within the app

Cons
  • Lots of bugs in 2018 and 2019 which hurt its app ratings, but it has become more stable and easier to use in 2020

  • While the auction inventory is large, the app does not have a large user base yet

Xome Real Estate Auctions is a nationwide app based in Texas, with offices in California. In addition, Xome has a variety of subsidiary companies and divisions that provide title services, mortgage solutions, field services, valuations, notary signings, and more.

Xome Real Estate Auctions has one of the largest nationwide selections of REO, short sale, foreclosure, and luxury properties for auction. The app allows a nationwide search of homes for sale with an easy user experience, making it our top choice for buying a home at auction.

The Xome Real Estate Auctions app is available through both the App Store and Google Play. On Google Play, it has an overall rating of 4 stars, while the App Store rates it with an overall rating of 4.1 stars. The app provides a user-friendly interface and is free.

Though it is free to register for an auction, interested buyers must agree to a $1,000 hold for every event they sign up for. If a buyer wins a property, Xome will add a 5% “Buyer’s Premium” on top of their winning bid. This will become the new purchase price for the property, not including closing costs.

The 5% premium is split as a commission between the seller’s Xome Agent, the buyer’s realtor, and Xome. This is different from the commission structure of a standard property sale, wherein sellers are usually responsible for paying all realtor fees.

After placing an order and receiving a confirmation email, a Xome Agent will call within one business day to coordinate the completion. The buyer can also request a tour, and the Xome Concierge will provide the necessary assistance.

Trulia: Best Searchability

Trulia

 Trulia

We chose Trulia as our best home buying app in terms of searchability because it lets the user view a property in several ways. For instance, an individual can view the property itself, area crime information, shopping, eating establishments, schools, commute times, and neighborhood demographic stats.

Pros
  • Trulia app displays local info such as neighborhoods, schools, and shopping

  • The app notifications alert you to new homes added to the market that fit your criteria

  • The platform provides pre-qualified financing and calculators

  • You can draw with your finger on the map to customize your geographic search

  • There is a link to the listing agent in each property listing for direct contact

Cons
  • There are no "for sale by owner" listings

  • The crime map is the best around, but users complain that the map should be easier to read

The company was founded in 2005, was acquired by Zillow Group in 2015, and is headquartered in San Francisco. According to Statista, Trulia was the second-most popular real estate website, receiving about 23 million unique monthly visits as of January 2020.

The app is best for searchability because users can examine millions of listings nationwide using 34 neighborhood map overlays. These overlays provide users more insight into what it's like to live not only in that home but also in that neighborhood.

Google Play rated Trulia at 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 200,000 reviews. On the App Store, Trulia has earned 4.8 stars with 800,000 reviews.

Since being acquired by Zillow in 2015, Trulia has access to most of Zillow’s database of 110 million homes. To ensure consumers are viewing the best and most up-to-date information possible, Trulia processes more than 1.5 terabytes of data every single day, giving it the required data for buyers to search better than on other apps. The data falls into two core data sets: listings and public records data, and consumer behavior data. Like other home buying apps, Trulia gives home facts from public records.

Within just a few minutes of engagement on the app, users generate an average of 18 to 20 events, or signals, about their intent or preferences. Trulia processes these signals to serve custom content and drive engagement.

Trulia shows names and contact information for agents in the area and highlights those who are top sellers. It’s a convenient way to know basic information about an agent. One can see how many homes the agent has sold, how many reviews the agent has, and their star rating based on client input.

The app is free for users.

Homesnap: Best Realtor Options

Homesnap

 Homesnap

We chose Homesnap as the home buying app with the best realtor options because realtors, teams, and brokers can view production metrics, agent rankings, and reports.

Pros
  • Access to highly credible listings due to MLS integration

  • Extensive filtering, map overlays, and other options to find the perfect home

  • High definition photos

Cons
  • Lack of coverage in some areas, as Homesnap must partner with individual MLSs

  • Random agent pairings not based on client needs

  • No discount on realtor fees

Homesnap is a trusted home buying platform for people to explore homes, search listings, and collaborate right from their phone. The company is backed by venture investors, including Washington, D.C.-based Revolution Ventures, which is led by Steve Case, Tige Savage, and David Golden.

Homesnap provides the best options for realtors because users can start accessing data-backed prospecting tools, unparalleled client collaboration features, and a direct connection to your Multiple Listing Service (MLS) real-time data in one place.

Homesnap is a free app available for Android and iOS. Homesnap has earned 4.8 stars overall in the App Store with over 40,000 reviews and a 4-star overall rating in Google Play with over 5,000 reviews.

This app is powered by a specialized homes database by integrating real-time data from over 240 MLSs, as well as property tax records, census data, geographic boundaries, property polygons, school information, mortgage rates, and other real estate-related information.

The app claims a real-time MLS update, which gives users access to new and updated listings before other apps do.

With the find-an-agent feature, users can connect with their agent or with the agent who knows the most about the home they're interested in. Realtors use a similar version of the app with more enhanced features so they can see exactly what their clients are viewing and help their clients find the perfect home. The optional Homesnap Pro is designed to make it easier for real estate agents to work on the go by getting real-time, agent-only MLS data into their hands for free, as long as the agent is an active subscriber of a participating MLS.

Realtor.com: Most Reliable

Realtor.com

 Realtor.com

We chose Realtor.com as our most reliable home buying app because it is the official search portal for the National Association of Realtors. This is made possible by the close relationship that realtors have with the Multiple Listing Service which provides data feeds used by most home buying apps. With this relationship, Realtor.com is often updated a little faster with the realtor-driven information from the MLS.

Pros
  • Users can hide a listing from their search results

  • Search other rentals in the same area with a touch of a button

  • Shows when listing was last updated

  • Property listings include neighborhood noise level assessments

Cons
  • Clicking on “Contact Agent” will not go to the listing agent but instead to local agents who have paid for this lead service

  • Users have asked for even more search criteria such as “master bedroom on first floor” and “three-car garage”

Founded in 1996, Realtor.com is currently owned by Move, Inc., a branch of News Corporation (NWS). As of mid-2020, the app was receiving approximately 68 million unique users per month. This data is for its web and mobile platforms.

Realtor.com has the most reliable app because of the influence and needs of the National Association of Realtors and because the data is mined from the MLS.

Available for Android and iOS, this home buying app provides property listings sourced directly from over 800 MLSs. The data refreshes every 15 minutes. It shows everything from detailed photos of properties, details such as property tax and sales history, combined with easy-to-use search options. For investors and professionals alike, this app is always a top choice.

The app gathers leads for those looking for a home and then farms them out to participating agents who are paying for that specific zip code. Leads may come from a real estate agent’s free account or can be optimized by subscribing to one of the site’s paid options that starts at around $25 per month.

In Google Play, over 240,000 users have rated the Realtor app with an average of 4.6 stars, while in the App Store, it has an average rating of 4.7 stars after more than 215,000 reviews. However, much like the other apps, some updates have put off some users. Complaints are ranging from awkward navigation to difficulty in deleting listings.

This app is free to use for home buyers and earns its revenue mainly through advertising and its lead-generation subscriptions.

Redfin: Best Value

Redfin

 Redfin

We chose Redfin as our best value in home buying apps because it gives its users a combination of innovative technology, great service, and lower agent commission rates if you use a Redfin broker. While all apps are free to use, the costs of buying a house can be lower than normal because Redfin agents have lower commission fees.

Pros
  • The app allows you to customize your house search and draw a radius on the platform's map

  • Accurate estimation of home values because much of the data is driven by realtor listings

  • Buy with a Redfin agent and Redfin will give you a percentage of their commission from the seller

  • The application has a feature to customize and calculate mortgage, property tax, and insurance

Cons
  • No feature to sort by “last-updated” like you can on the website

  • Less detail on the home’s surrounding neighborhood than other apps

Redfin, founded in 2004, allows the user to search for nearby houses, condos, and townhouses that are for sale or hosting an open house. You can book a home tour from within the app. Redfin is both an app and a brokerage firm.

Redfin offers the best value because of its lower listing fees, all while maintaining competitive technology and customer service. When selling, most homes list for only 1.5% (and in some markets for 1%). When buying, the average buyer collects a $1,500 refund back on the realtor agent fees. While all apps are free to use, the costs of buying a house can be less than with other apps because within Redfin you can search for homes listed by Redfin agents, which carry lower fees and offer buyer refunds.

Redfin is available for Android and iOS for free. Google Play has rated Redfin at 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 48,000 reviews on the platform. The App Store has rated the Redfin app at 4.8 stars with over 630,000 reviews. One of its most popular features is its “virtual home tour,” called the 3D Walkthrough.

The Redfin real estate app, which is available in 83 major U.S. markets, updates listings every 15 minutes, allowing interested buyers to optimize their search with the assistance of the company’s sizeable database of more than 70 million addresses, whether it’s by neighborhood, school zone, ZIP code, or city.

Since Redfin is a real estate brokerage, it has access to data from the regional MLS where Redfin has agents.

The app blends innovative technology balanced by timely and customized human interaction. If you have questions about a certain home or want to work with a Redfin agent, simply click the “Ask an Agent” button to submit a question, and a Redfin real estate agent will respond to the inquiry via email or phone.

What Is a Home Buying App?

A home buying app is an app that brings you a variety of convenient real estate services. Through these apps, one can search for homes, find an agent, or search for the home’s value.

Many home buying apps are beneficial to prospective buyers because they can search by geography and filter by specific information, like the number of bedrooms or square footage, and much more.

How Accurate Are Home Buying Apps?

Home buying apps combine real estate knowledge, massive databases, and technology in a convenient format that is straightforward and simple to use. Each home buying app has different features and tools that cater to diversified users.

The app companies are trying to make up for the inaccurate information in the databases they pull from by hiring researchers to verify and confirm the information in their listings. These research teams validate and correct information by making phone calls and even visiting the properties in person.

How Can I Use an App to Buy a Home?

Real estate apps help you find the perfect property, calculate the mortgage payment, and even e-sign the closing documents, among dozens of other tasks.

For example, you can search for a property with a variety of options, and adjust filters based on your preferences. This includes searching for a home with your preferred size, location, neighborhood, price, number of bedrooms, and parking criteria.

With the availability of this information at their fingertips, interested homebuyers are better equipped to find a property that aligns with their preferences. With the aid of virtual tours, people can effortlessly compare houses without having to drive to each location in person.

How Many Homes Should You See Before Buying?

There’s no definite number, but technology provides us with home buying apps that allow home buyers to look at dozens of homes in a matter of hours.

After reviewing so many homes from the convenience of your mobile device, you’ll start to notice trends in the areas in which you search. The search will help you adjust your expectations for the price and features you want. You’ll also notice new homes are listed every day, so it is worth it to take your time and wait for the right home for you if time allows.

How We Chose the Best Home Buying Apps

In choosing the best home buying apps, we evaluated each app based on its database size, searchability, options for agents, data reliability, and value. In addition, app reviews, user-friendliness, and its availability in both Apple and Google platforms were given consideration.

We reviewed 15 home buying apps to identify the best one in each category. We also examined how the databases were mined by each company and how often their listings were updated based on that mining. We also gave preference to apps that were free to use and made finding a knowledgeable realtor easy.