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As the last few years of a global pandemic have pushed more of our lives online, the house-hunting experience has shifted. More buyers are doing their research on their phones or tablets, and even in some cases buying homes they’ve only ever seen on a screen.
As a result, real estate apps have had to step up their game to keep up with newcomers. Here are five of the best homebuying apps on the market today.
Best overall for buyers
Trulia is owned by real estate listings giant Zillow and has the same massive database to work from, but adds several features that make it our top pick for buyers. In addition to all the price and sale history data you could want, it has extensive neighborhood features like walkability scores, school ratings, drone footage, and quotes from neighborhood residents. It also makes it easy to identify and contact the listing agent
- Most neighborhood data of any application
- Easy to ask the listing agent questions
- Neighborhood price history isn’t easy to see at a glance
- Application can be difficult to navigate on mobile
Best for saving money on commissions
Redfin is both an application with data on thousands of homes and a discount real estate brokerage. The site lists neighborhood data including a walk score, bike score, transit score, local amenities and school data. It even includes data on a property’s climate risk through a partnership with the nonprofit First Street Foundation, giving you a peek at the long term flood, drought, storm, heat and fire risk for a property. It makes it easy to contact the listing agent to ask questions about a property, and it lets you schedule in-person and digital showings all in one place.
- Save thousands on realtor commissions
- Easy to ask the listing agent questions
- Climate risk data for every property
- Isn’t available in some more rural parts of the country yet
- Potentially less one-on-one help than you would get with a full service agent
Best for research
Zillow’s free application has the largest database of any application listed, with more than 135 million homes in its system. This makes it a great place to conduct initial research when starting your homebuying journey. You can quickly get an idea of how many homes in an area meet your criteria, with dozens of options for customizing your search filters. The application also makes it very easy to see what price every home in an area has sold for, giving you a great idea of what to budget for if you’re set on buying a home in a particular neighborhood.
The Zillow application doesn’t have as detailed data as its competitors regarding neighborhood stats, and the home value estimate it provides isn’t always accurate. It also can be misleading at times. When you ask a question about the property via the app, your question isn’t sent to its listing agent to answer. Your question and your data is sent to a Realtor, who might then relentlessly try to get hired as your buyer’s agent.
- Largest database of homes
- Sale price history for millions of homes
- Limited neighborhood data
- Inaccurate home value estimates
- Hard to contact listing agent
Best for freshest data
The Realtor.com website is closely affiliated with the National Association of Realtors, which gives it access to the majority of multiple listing services (MLS). As a result, the data is updated frequently: when a home goes on the market, goes under contract, and is sold. This level of accuracy can be extremely important if you’re trying to buy a house in an extremely hot market. If you can find out about a house for sale a few hours or a day before someone using a different application does, you may be able to get an offer in first. Just like Zillow though, Realtor.com can be misleading. Asking a question about the home or trying to schedule a showing leads not to the seller’s agent, but instead gives your information to real estate agents who will try to make you a client.
- Updates the quickest: See brand new listings and know when one is sold immediately
- Only app with neighborhood noise level data
- Hard to contact the listing agent or schedule showings
- Does not show homes that are for sale by owner
Best application features
Homesnap may not have the same level of data points and history as the other applications on this list, but it does have some of the best mobile app features — making it extremely intuitive and easy to use. One of the most unique features is that if you see a home for sale, you can take a picture of it in the app (get the name now?) and easily find out more about the property. For iOS users (not Android, alas) there’s also a “walk the property line” feature that allows you to see actual property boundaries while touring a site in real time. Like the Realtor.com app, Homesnap works closely with the local MLS and provides real-time data.
- Unique, easy-to-use features
- Real-time data
- Not available everywhere
- Favors Apple users: Walk the Property Line feature not available on Android
Bottom line on home-buying apps
Home buying apps are a great starting point in your house-hunting journey, but before you click “schedule showing,” you’ll want to do a few important things first so you aren’t trampled by the break-neck speed of homebuying in some areas.
Sit down with your budget and our new house calculator to see what you can actually afford — and don’t forget to factor in all the hidden costs of buying a house. Learn what to look for in a real estate agent. If you’re a first-time buyer, be sure to review our novices-oriented guide so you don’t leave any money on the table.