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Buying a house is the most important – and most expensive – purchase most people make. With so many complicated steps and processes, it can also be incredibly intimidating, especially if you’re a first-time buyer.
To make matters even more confusing, it seems like there are dozens of websites offering real estate listings that all offer the same thing. Are there any meaningful differences? And which one should you choose?
21 Best Real Estate Websites
Here are the best real estate websites for buying or selling a home online in 2020:
- Zillow – Best Overall for Most Listings
- Trulia – Best Mobile App
- HomeFinder – Best Search Function
- Xome – Best for Buying Online
- Realtor – Best for Finding a Realtor
- RedFin – Best for Brokerage Services
- MLS.com – Best for Access to MLS
- Homes.com – Best for Finding a Home’s Value
- ZipRealty – Best for Streamlined Service
- Auction.com – Best for Auctions
- RealtyTrac – Best for Foreclosures
- Century 21 – Best for Reliability
- Re/Max – Best for Luxury Properties
- Coldwell Banker Realty – Best for In-Person Service
- ApartmentGuide – Best for Apartment Rentals
- Apartments.com – Best for Rental Properties
- HotPads – Best for Urban Areas
- Rent.com – Best for Renting
- ForRent.com – Best for Rentals
- Movoto – Best for Updated Listings
- Open Listing – Best for Personalized Listings
Best for: Most Listings
With around 36 million unique monthly visitors, Zillow is the most popular real estate website on the internet, and they boast having the most listings too. The site can be used for all activities real estate-related – buying, selling, renting, financing, and even remodeling.
When you’re house-hunting, Zillow gives you an immersive photo experience to help you get a full picture of the property.
When deciding on home prices, Zillow has its own process. The ‘Zestimate’ home valuation model uses data provided by their own users and other sources to appraise the value of homes using factors like home facts, location, and market conditions. This is used for rental properties as well as houses for sale.
Zillow also has more than two dozen apps across various platforms, making it the operator of the most popular suite of real estate apps.
Best for: its Mobile App
A close competitor of Zillow and similar in many ways, Trulia has over one million homes for sale and to rent.
Trulia makes it as easy as possible to find a property that exactly matches that picture you have in your mind of your dream home. There are more than 35 filters, as well as a custom keyword search.
You’ll be able to analyze a neighborhood in all its glory and pitfalls. Trulia have more insights than any other competitor, from drone footage to reviews with residents. There are also guides available to download for buying, renting, and selling alike.
Although Zillow has the most popular suite of real estate apps, Trulia stands out for its app, which is both fun and simple.
Best for: Search Features
It might not have the most features, but HomeFinder is a premier search portal with millions of listings that span all 50 states. It has been recognized as a Top 5 site for streamlined home searches by Home Wire and has been going since 1999.
You can search not only for properties for sale and to rent, but even for properties off the market – this is difficult to come across in general and a great way of snapping up a top deal.
Finally, HomeFinder can be used to view local mortgage rates for each state – you can add in your purchase price, down payment, and credit score to increase accuracy. This will give you a quote from various loan companies.
Best for: Buying Online
Most real estate websites only guide you through the first part of the home-buying process, but Xome also lets you buy the property through their website, which is why they call themselves a ‘one-stop-shop for real estate’. They have their own Xome agents and Xome Concierge, to help you save money on paying the commission of agents while still receiving high-quality advice.
As well as saving on commission, if you use the Purchase Pro program and a Xome Agent to buy a home, you could even qualify for a significant rebate after buying. The service also includes pre-qualification, tours, a transparent process to find a mortgage, assistance with the closing process, and signing documents through secure e-signature technology.
The Xome Auction feature that lets you bid online for a selection of short sale, foreclosure, real estate owned, commercial, and residential properties.
Like Zillow, Xome has its own valuation process to estimate the price of properties.
Best for: Finding a Realtor
As useful and sophisticated as real estate websites can be, they’re not a substitute for a real estate agent – and Realtor recognizes this. Focus on what you’re looking for in a property instead of stressing over jargon, paperwork, and technical documents.
Realtor works closely with the National Association of Realtors, making them a professional and trustworthy place to start looking for a property. Because finding a realtor can be just as important as looking for a property, you can search for a realtor straight from the website, which has a register of more than one million agents.
You can use Realtor to get pre-approved for a competitive mortgage as well as looking for your home and use the site to find out about a neighborhood. Enter in any address or city and you can find statistics about everything from crime rates to local schools.
Best for: Brokerage Services
Redfin is a broker as well as a site to browse property listings, so they have their own real estate agents they can connect you with. This differs slightly from Realtor, who can connect you with realtors from around the country but aren’t a broker themselves.
The listings are less comprehensive than some other sites on this list, but there are some useful features. You can take 3D tours of home listings, making it easier to figure out if you want to book a tour.
Redfin claims that, by using their agents, you can save $8,400 on average while receiving a full service that includes the ability to make same-day house bookings.
Best for: Accessing Local MLS
Your local Multiple Listing Services (MLS) provides the most accurate information about the real estate market – so accurate that it’s what licensed real estate professionals and brokers use to do their jobs. Although it’s a listing not available to the public, various websites provide a watered-down version, the most significant of which is MLS.com.
Although you can use the website to find real estate news, questions and answers, and educational resources like a mortgage calculator, ultimately MLS.com is purely a database of the local MLS. Other real estate websites do a better job of helping you navigate the buying process via mortgage pre-approval or finding an agent.
You can often access the true MLS once you have your own real estate agent or broker, a route that makes more sense for a lot of people. Many other real estate websites also pull information from the true MLS. However, if you want to access a version as true to the original as possible and as quickly as possible, MLS.com is the way to go.
Best for: Finding a Good Value
Homes.com features more than 120,000 homes taken from MLS listings and other real estate websites.
An interesting feature is the chance to view the value history of a property and make a comparison with the histories of other homes in the same area. This is great for figuring out if a property is genuinely ‘good value’, which can be tricky to define and assess.
While browsing, you can find out about local schools and neighborhoods, as well as more technical information related to property tax, insurance, and mortgage payments. There’s also a helpful step by step guide to becoming a homeowner, which contains information about eleven steps of the journey.
Best for: Streamlined Services
ZipRealty connects users with local real estate agents. They’re much like Realtor.com than RedFin as the agents they connect you with aren’t their own. When searching for a realtor, you can read reviews by past customers to check if they’re a good match for your needs.
Above all, ZipRealty prides themselves on streamlined and interconnected services. Combine the access to assistance from real estate agents with the technological advantages of a good website and mobile app. Thanks to an award-winning app that lets you browse listings and request tours, it’s easier than ever to hunt for a home on the go.
Another major advantage of ZipRealty is their tools related to price, which lets you make comparisons of properties according to their price per square foot, list price, and price to sale ratio. This builds a clearer picture of value than a simple house price can.
Best for: Auctions
If you’d prefer to buy a house in an auction rather than going through the typical process, Auction.com is your go-to site. The bulk of properties that go up for auctions are foreclosure deals or bank-owned properties that end up getting sold to investors.
As you browse the site, you can save properties you like as ‘favorites’, which creates tailored recommendations based on your profile.
Auctions may be held online or in-person. If you do win, Auction.com supports you with what to do afterward. You’ll work with the closing and contracts team to close the deal properly.
However, bear in mind that Auction.com is aimed at real estate investors rather than those looking for a residential home. It’s also your responsibility to check out a property before buying it or organizing a viewing, something the website doesn’t help with.
Best for: Foreclosure Properties
RealtyTrac is a real estate website that focuses entirely on foreclosures and distressed properties – it has the largest selection of foreclosed properties online.
As well as access to listings and the ability to participate in auctions, users will be able to work with professional agents to guide them through the process. You’ll also have access to a variety of resources to teach you more about the pros and cons of choosing this type of property.
Although the basic features can be accessed for free, there’s also a paid subscription available. This includes unlimited access to property addresses, auction dates and locations, and loan history. If you’re unsure whether it’s worth the money, you can access a seven-day trial instead.
12. Century 21 Real Estate
Best for: Reliable Realtors
Century 21 has been around since 1972 in various forms and now has thousands of brokers all around the world. Priding itself on brand awareness, Century 21 aims to reinvent the perceptions buyers and sellers have of real estate agents, who are often distrusted – they aim to provide a network of trustworthy realtors.
You can find lots of information about a local area, including in-depth demographic data and information about schools and weather.
There’s a range of resources to help you make the right decisions when it comes to buying, which take you straight from the process of choosing a house to closing the deal.
Best for: Luxury Properties
Re/Max lists properties and provides agents for cities and countries all over the globe, although the majority of properties are focused in the U.S.
They have a special collection of luxury properties – these are classed as properties worth at least twice the value of the average sold price in their zip code. They also have a section for commercial real estate, including acquisitions and dispositions.
You can find financing options, loan amounts, and monthly payments for properties of interests using the integrated mortgage calculated.
There’s a free app too, with the following key features:
- Dynamic map search
- Search based on current location
- Navigate neighborhoods with interactive maps
- Driving directions to properties of interest
- Save favorite listings
- Connect with agents
14. Coldwell Banker Realtors
Best for: In-person Service
Coldwell Banker has been in the real estate business since 1906, making it one of the oldest companies in the area in North America.
Brokerage offices can be found in all U.S. states, including Hawaii and Alaska, so if receiving advice in-person to guide you through the buying process is a priority, Coldwell is a trusted name you can turn to.
It’s straightforward to access the direct MLS listings when using the Coldwell Banker website, and if you sign up to get matched with a local agent, you’ll also be able to receive email notifications about the properties most relevant to you.
Best for: Renting Apartments
Most real estate websites are tailored towards houses, but this isn’t everyone’s first choice for a home – especially for city-goers and renters, who generally prefer apartments. That’s why ApartmentGuide is focused entirely on those who want to rent out an apartment.
As an offshoot of RentPath, a digital marketing agency for the rental industry, users can be sure of having the tools and information needed to make the right decision. This includes industry insights, content-rich listings, and great search capability.
You can also use apps designed especially for iPads, iPhones, and Android to search for a rental apartment whilst on the go.
Best for: Rental Properties
Apartments.com claims to be the top site for renters on the web, with over a million properties to choose from. These span apartments, houses, condos, townhouses – and pretty much any other property type you could think of.
A professional research team visits and photographs the properties themselves to verify the information you want to know – from rates and fees to pet policies.
A unique feature of the site is its ‘Polygon’ tool, which lets users define their search areas on a map and find properties within it. There’s also a commute planner to make help customers find a home as close to their place of work as possible.
Best for: Urban Areas
Hotpads is another apartment specialist, but it focuses on the niche of urban apartments. Whichever city you call (or hope to call) home, finding a property that meets your criteria at an acceptable price can be an impossible task, so you have to be quick.
Hotpads provides the tools to ensure you have an advantage. All listings are verified with landlord contact information and user reviews to ensure they’re legitimate, and you can receive notifications straight to your phone when a property comes up that meets your criteria. This ensures you don’t have to be checking the app every five minutes to ensure you don’t miss out on your dream house.
You’ll also be able to check a commute time calculator and make a map-based search for local amenities close to your apartment, to ensure you’re making the right choice for your lifestyle.
Best for: Renting
Not everyone wants to buy a property – that’s where Rent.com comes in. Sometimes renting is the most sensible decision to make, especially if you’re planning on moving around instead of staying in one location.
The website provides a marketplace full of verified listings to explore. Choose between houses and apartments, which are popular amongst the rental community, and browse the listings on the site. Each one contains useful information like HD photos, 3D floor plans, and certified reviews from residents, all to ease the process for you.
There are special resources available to help first-time renters navigate the process, as well as more advanced information for experienced renters. There’s also information specific to students, the budget-conscious, seniors, military members, and high-end buyers. Whatever your personal situation and history are, you’ll probably be able to find something of interest to you.
Best for: Apartment Rentals
Not to be confused with Rent.com, ForRent.com is a great resource for renting apartments.
All properties are vetted by experts before they’re listed, and there’s something to suit everyone. Browse luxury, pet-friendly, or 2-bedroom apartments, amongst others.
The site is also filled with information and advice from rental experts. You can use a rent calculator, which tells you what your rent budget should be according to your monthly income and the percentage of your income you’re prepared to spend on rent. There are even articles about interior design and advice for setting up your apartment.
Best for: Updated Listings
Movoto claims to remain updated by-the-minute 24 hours a day all days of the year – it doesn’t get much better than that if you want to be the first to know about the latest property details.
They even use adaptive AI technology, data scientists, and client communication tools to change the face of real estate and provide the most accurate information.
If you find a property you’re interested in, you’ll be connected to a local agent – all appointments are free and carry no obligation. You can also seek pre-approval and obtain information about mortgages and financing straight from the website.
21. Open Listing
Best for: Personalized Features
Open Listing provides a fresh and modern real estate platform that resembles social media in some respects. As you update your personal criteria and add favorites, you’ll curate a personalized feed full of properties that may be of interest to you.
All listings are published straight from local Multiple Listings Services as soon as they are released, at a quicker rate than competitors.
If you’re buying with a partner or friend, you can share favorites, tours, and offers with them to streamline the process.
Although Open Listing is a slightly alternative site, you can take some comfort in the fact that Open Listing have a network of vetted showing agents. When you need to book a tour or visit an open house, they’ll be the ones showing you around. There are also buying agents to help you get an offer accepted and take you through the closing process.
Is Zillow or Realtor more accurate?
Zillow is one of the biggest and most popular real estate sites out there, which makes it a great place to browse for a property due to the vast number of listings and the useful resources available. It also has an option to connect you with a local real estate agent, but this isn’t their main specialty.
In contrast, Realtor works directly with the National Association of Realtors, and is an expert at connecting you with the right realtor for your needs.
The best choice for you depends on whether you’re more concerned about having access to most listings and information or finding the right realtor. However, it might be a good idea to use Zillow for browsing to gain a better idea of the local market, then switch to Realtor when you want to get more serious about closing a deal.
Which is better – Zillow or Redfin?
Unlike Realtor, Redfin is a broker and they have their own real estate agents. This differentiates it significantly from Zillow and Realtor. By using their agents, you could save thousands compared to a traditional process, so it’s definitely an option worth considering for anyone who wants to save as much money in the house-buying process as possible.
However, Redfin falls down when it comes to the ability to browse and look at houses, so Zillow wins on this front again. The choice is up to you.
Is MLS better than Zillow?
The MLS is a good starting point when you’re looking for properties since it shows everything available – but it’s just a list. To be able to actually contact sellers or find any useful information, it’s best to use a website like Zillow, which provides real services to walk you through the buying process.
Besides, once you’re connected with a real estate agent (which is almost always an essential step), they’ll provide you with access to the full MLS and guide you through it. Without their help, you won’t be able to view the true MLS anyway as it isn’t available to the public.
Real Estate Sites Make Home Buying Simple
Technology has made the process of buying a home simpler, cheaper, and more transparent than ever before. You might still need a realtor along the way to ensure you’re doing everything correctly, but you can browse properties from the comfort of your own home and even complete the buying process online in some cases.