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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 29% found the home they bought through their realtor, and 4% from a yard sign.
Real estate websites are attracting so many visits 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 couches. Home sellers win, too; their homes are viewed by hundreds of shoppers in the market looking to buy a new home.
These websites update listings quickly and accurately, provide a variety of tools for buyers and sellers to obtain the best information, and streamline the buying and selling process to make it more efficient.
We reviewed 18 real estate websites 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
Launched in 2006 and founded by two former Microsoft executives, Zillow offers the most robust suite of tools for buyers, sellers, landlords, renters, agents, and other home professionals. Zillow's power and flexibility make it the best overall real estate website in our review.
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
Suite of mobile apps so you can do your research anywhere
Proprietary Zestimate algorithm is only as good as the information loaded into the database
Realtors and lenders pay for leads on the site
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 4.7 stars out of 5 by more than 950,000 users. In the Apple Store, over six million people have given the app an overall rating of 4.8 stars out of 5.
The primary Zillow app lets you search for homes and apartments, list yours for sale or rent, tour homes 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 service, 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 advertisers. That means you should be cautious about filling out forms on the site if you don't want to interact with these advertisers.
Most Accurate : Realtor.com
Realtor.com is affiliated with the National Association of Realtors and uses MLS listings which are sourced from around 580 regional databases and considered the gold standard for quality listings. For this reason, Realtor.com is our pick for most accurate real estate website.
Database includes 99% of all MLS-listed properties
Easy to search all listed homes in a school district
Links to pre-qualified financing and financial calculators for 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 by owner
Realtor.com launched in 1996 and is now operated by Move, Inc., a subsidiary of News Corporation (NWS). The app has over 386,000 reviews on Google Play that give it an average rating of 4.7 stars. In the Apple App Store, it has over 600,000 reviews averaging 4.7 stars.
The app allows you to search for homes, view pictures and video tours, and compare neighborhood criteria like noise levels. And it updates all its listings in real time, so you'll always have the most current info. 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. But be aware you won't find any for-sale-by-owner properties here.
Best Mobile App : Trulia
Trulia's website and mobile app excel at transparency. Since home buyers and renters do so much of their searching using their mobile devices, 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
Real estate guides and information
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 233,000 reviews on the Android platform which give it an average rating of 4.7 stars. In the Apple Store, more than 1.3 million users voted to give it an average rating of 4.8 stars. While you can search for both homes for sale and rental apartments on the main Trulia website, Trulia split these niches into two mobile apps: one geared toward home buyers and one with an enhanced focus on 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 places to shop and eat, schools, commute time, and more.
Trulia is the ideal pick for people who want to really understand their potential neighborhood, 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.
How-to articles, law information, glossary, and checklists
More than 1.8 million listings nationwide
Lots of options for search criteria
Document Center with links for title search and other required forms
7-day free trial period requires a credit card to sign up
Monthly fee is $39.80 ($39.99 for mobile version)
App does not update as frequently as 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. Data is updated twice daily directly from the tax rolls, government agencies, and notices of lenders’ legal actions.
Its app is rated rather poorly in the Google Play store with over 400 ratings averaging 2.6 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, the team understands that it’s complicated and has thus put a lot of focus on the 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 for the web version and $39.99 for the mobile app, 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.
Not just apartments; houses, condos, and townhouses, too
Large library of easy-to-digest articles for every phase of the renting experience
Mobile app with search and built-in contact feature
Search by more than just geography
Community guides are missing crime stats
Some user frustrations with sorting capability and updates
Must pay fee to fill out applications
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.
The app on Google Play has over five million downloads and more than 68,000 reviews, giving it an average user rating of 4.6 stars. In the Apple Store, it is ranked #16 in the Lifestyle category and has an average rating of 4.8 stars from more than 282,000 ratings.
Apartments.com and its app are free to use 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 parking or pet fees 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. However, some of this information may not be filled in for every listing.
Best for For Sale By Owner : FSBO.com
Saving home sellers commissions since 1997, FSBO.com is our best website for 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 for MLS listing and syndication on real estate websites
Search for professional services to support buyers and sellers
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
Selling your home without hiring a listing agent could save you from potentially paying 5% to 6% in commission fees. But there are fees to sell your home on FSBO.com. There are two selling plans offered. The FSBO package for $99.95 includes a six-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
If you serve or have served in the military, or as a firefighter, EMS professional, police officer, healthcare professional, or teacher, you can buy, sell, or refinance your home and earn rewards and other savings at Homes for Heroes.
Save on your home sale, purchase, or refinance
Contributes to a nonprofit that supports local heroes
Guarantees the most savings among all national programs
No free property information to browse
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 an online form so one of its specialists can work with you on your goals. There is no mobile app.
If you fit into one of its career categories, 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 58,000 heroes save over $110 million in real estate transactions totaling more than $15 billion. Its network includes 4,400 real estate and mortgage professionals committed to serving this critical population. As a result, Homes for Heroes, Inc. has been able to donate over $1.2 million to heroes who need assistance through its nonprofit, the Homes for Heroes Foundation.
The savings add up. The company states that most people save at least $3,000, There is no fee to enroll; the hero pays that price every day just by doing their job.
There are plenty of real estate websites for home buyers and sellers to wade through; however, Zillow is the best given its large database and sheer power in the industry.
The website provides a plethora of tools for buyers, sellers, and professionals, along with "how to" guides to help those in the market, to make the process easier for anyone looking to buy or sell a home.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Most Popular Real Estate Website?
Our choice for best overall probably could be described as the most popular too. It has the largest database of properties, with more than 135 million, and its app has been downloaded more than 16 million times across the Android and Apple platforms.
How Do Real Estate Websites Get Data?
Real estate websites populate their inventory of homes in a variety of ways. In some cases a realtor or property manager manually 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 goal 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 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.
We reviewed 18 real estate websites in order to choose the best seven. We uncovered their pros and cons and tested their search-and-sort capabilities. The companies' reputations influenced our decision for the best as well, so we dove into app reviews to see what people loved and what they wanted to see improved.
We studied and compared sites against each other to see which provided more information, how easy it was to find, and whether we could do it on the run with a mobile app. Based on these factors, we selected the best real estate websites.