According to the 2019 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 52% of buyers found the home they purchased on the internet. To put this in perspective, only 29% found the home they bought through their realtor, and 6% from a yard sign.
According to global statistics consolidator Statista, real estate websites are visited more than 120 million times each month, with dominant players like Zillow racking up 36 million unique visitors monthly.
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.
The 7 Best Real Estate Websites of 2020
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.
Largest database of over 110 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
Aside from the listing agent, the other agents listed on the property record may not know anything about the home
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
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 4.5 stars out of 5 by more than 500,000 users. In the Apple Store, 4.4 million people have given the app an overall rating of 4.8 stars out of 5. The property status information updates between two and 24 hours after the database has been notified of certain changes. Sellers can, however, make changes to some listing details that will show up within minutes, and the app and website refresh every 15 minutes.
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.
Do the listings come directly from the MLS? Not always. According to Zillow, “listings are sent to Zillow from partners, brokers, agents, third-party 'feed' providers, and in some cases, directly from an MLS. Zillow does not pull or take listings from different websites.”
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 800 regional Multiple Listing Services, Realtor.com listings are the closest to the gold standard, the MLS, which is updated daily by realtors. For this reason, Realtor.com is our pick for most accurate real estate website.
Database includes 98% of all MLS-listed properties
Easy to search all homes on a street, not just the ones currently for sale
Links to get pre-qualified financing and financial calculators for both buyer and sellers
Robust “find a realtor” feature
No option to search “for sale by owner” listings
Fewer research and advice articles than other sites
No option for home sellers to list their property for sale
Realtor.com launched in 1996 and the site is now operated by Move, Inc., a subsidiary of News Corporation (NWS). Realtor.com has the best reputation among realtors. Where realtors often have to field questions and disappointments from their buyers due to other real estate websites, they trust Realtor.com to not mislead their clients about the home value and property status.
The app has over 236,000 reviews in the Google Play store that give it an average rating of 4.6 stars. In the Apple Store, 189,000 reviews averaged 4.7 stars. The app allows you to search for homes, view pictures and video tours, and even compare neighborhood criteria like noise levels. The app updates 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. Realtor.com earns money primarily through advertising fees.
Best Mobile App: Trulia
Launched 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.
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
App doesn’t contain blog or "how-to" articles for general home buying/selling education
No option for home sellers to list their property for sale
Trulia’s app has over 201,000 reviews on the Android platform that give it an average rating of 4.6 stars. In iTunes, more than 820,000 users voted to give it an average rating of 4.8 stars. While you can search for both home purchases 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 $3.5 billion in 2015, has the power of the largest real estate website behind it. It refreshes data in the app every 15 minutes. 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, commute time, and people stats. Want to know what percentage of the neighborhood is single? Trulia can tell you. How about the percentage of neighbors who have college degrees? The app can show you that too.
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, as Trulia primarily earns revenue through advertising.
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.
"How-to" articles, tutorial videos, and checklists on the process of purchasing a foreclosure
More than 380,000 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 twice daily directly from the tax rolls, government agencies, and notices of the lenders’ legal actions.
The iTunes app has only 34 user ratings, and the average rating is 1.6 stars out of five. It fairs slightly better in the Google Play store with 378 ratings averaging 2.3 stars. 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 shadow inventory, which is typically a home that is vacant. It may be bank-owned or it may not be on the market yet. Another unique feature is the ability to search for homes listed as “Rent-to-Own.” Foreclosure.com has vetted these properties to make sure the sellers are willing to enter this type of agreement.
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.
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 “Apply Now” feature
Search by more than just geography, for example, search “Pet Friendly Apartments”
“What’s Nearby” maps are very good, but missing “crime” stats
Some user frustrations with sorting capability and updates
It costs $24.99 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, 400,000 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 25,000 reviews that give it an average user rating of 4 stars. In the iTunes Store, it is ranked #24 in the Lifestyle category and has a rating of 4.7 stars across almost 14,000 ratings.
Apartments.com and its app are free to search properties. The site’s revenue comes from advertising fees, and by charging renters $24.99 (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 verified renter reviews, lease length options, and info on nearby shops, restaurants, gyms, banks, groceries, and coffee shops. Commute times 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.
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 12-month listing on FSBO.com, a video upload, and unlimited photos. In some states, you’ll also get a listing on Redfin.com for this price.
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.
Save on numerous services involved in your home sale, purchase, or refinance
Your transactions earn contributions to a nonprofit that supports local heroes
Concierge service to match you with professional help
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 short 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 39,000 heroes save over $60 million in real estate transactions totaling $7.5 billion. Their network includes 3,200 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 $802,000 to heroes who need assistance through its 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation, the Homes for Heroes Foundation.
The savings add up. The company estimates that on a $300,000 home purchase, the hero saves potentially $2,800, 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.
National Association of Realtors. "Quick Real Estate Statistics." Accessed June 22, 2020.
Statista. "Most popular real estate websites in the United States as of January 2020, based on unique monthly visits." Accessed June 22, 2020.
Google Play. "Trulia Real Estate: Search Homes for Sale or Rent." Accessed June 24, 2020.
iTunes. "App Store Preview: Foreclosure.com Real Estate." Accessed June 24, 2020.
Google Play. "Foreclosure Homes for Sale." Accessed June 24, 2020.
Investopedia. "Use a for Sale by Owner Sale to Cut Commission Fees." Accessed June 25, 2020.