Top real estate apps
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Real estate apps have been around for over 10 years now — and it seems like new ones come out as regularly as homes come to market. As their numbers grow, so does their variety: In addition to applications for buying, selling, and renting real estate, there are now platforms for obtaining mortgages, investing in real estate, and even designing a house.
Here are the nine of the best real estate applications on the market today.
What are real estate apps?
Real estate apps (short for applications) are a one-stop shop for prospective tenants, home buyers, home sellers, home owners and investors — not to mention the folks who like to just browse. They consist of databases with thousands — sometimes even millions — of properties, like a vast, location-spanning multiple listings service (MLS).
Most of these mobile apps make their money by charging a listing fee, selling ad space to Realtors or contractors, or taking a cut of the sale price or rent. Some are backed by real estate companies or brokerages, like Zillow and Redfin. Others are independent.
Types of real estate apps
The majority of real estate applications are focused on the house-hunting and renting experience. They’re a place for buyers to browse homes for sale or rent and a place for sellers and landlords to do market research, and list their properties for sale or rent.
There are real estate apps that focus on commercial properties to buy, sell or lease. Some provide directories of real estate agents and brokerages; others are oriented towards lenders and financial services. Rising in popularity of late have been apps geared real estate investments and home design.
Best for initial research for home buying, renting, or selling
One of the most well-known and highly rated real estate search apps, the free Zillow app gives users access to a wide range of properties with detailed filter criteria. Through the app, you can coordinate your search for a home with someone else, meaning you or your roommate or partner can share your favorite finds easily.
The Zillow app does have a few flaws, however. Zillow’s “Zestimate,” its home evaluation tool, doesn’t always give an accurate picture of a home’s value, especially when details are missing from a listing. Real estate agents can also pay to have themselves featured as a contact for a property, even if they aren’t the actual listing agent, which can confuse things for homebuyers.
- Most widely used application
- Can find homes for sale or for rent
- Can view sale price history for the whole neighborhood
- Sometimes flawe price estimates and rental estimates
- Your information may be sold to lenders and Realtors
- Asking questions can lead to wave of unsolicited emails
Best for saving on commissions
If you’re seriously home-hunting, the Redfin app can be a useful tool. Redfin is a real estate brokerage, so in addition to searching for properties through the app, you can go ahead and buy one with a Redfin agent and receive a portion of the agent’s commission back. If you sell your home and buy another one with a Redfin agent, you’ll only pay a 1% listing fee for your home, saving you from the standard 3% on both transactions.
The Redfin app also offers home value estimates, which might be more accurate than Zestimates, but still aren’t a substitute for an appraisal. Overall, the app is highly rated by users, and it’s free, making it a solid option for house hunters.
- Save thousands in commission when buying or selling
- Accurate home value estimates
- Limited neighborhood info
- Rental side is new with limited listings
Best for getting a feel for a neighborhood
Trulia is actually owned by Zillow and uses information that comes from Zillow, but augments it a bit. Trulia includes features like drone film footage, quotes from people who live in the area, school ratings and walkability scores. Trulia’s home value estimates may be more accurate than Zillow’s because it uses more data points.
- Extensive neighborhood data available in the app
- More accurate home estimates
- Easy to identify and contact the listing agent
- Not great for home sellers: no agent directory, neighborhood price history isn’t as thorough
- Application can be difficult to navigate
Best for renters
Are you looking for a rental? The Apartments.com app can help you easily unearth your next place. The app offers a streamlined search experience for apartments, condos, homes and townhomes, and you can sort through rentals based on unique filters such as wheelchair access, in-unit laundry, pet-friendliness or the addition of a dishwasher.
Although it’s free to browse rentals through the app, you’ll run into a fee if you want to apply for one directly through the platform. The in-app rental application costs $29.00 plus tax for up to 10 applications made within a 30-day period.
- Apply to many apartments for the same fee
- View many types of rentals in one spot
- Limited adoption outside of metropolitan areas
- No reviews from current or former tenants
Best for landlords and for most accurate data
Homebuyers and renters alike can gain access to the most (and most up-to-date) listings by using the free Realtor.com app. With an extremely wide selection of properties available, you’re able to see all of the options out there. Realtor.com is also affiliated with the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and has access to a large portion of multiple listing services, so its listings are usually refreshed quicker compared to other sites.
Realtor is the only application on our list that lets landlords list rentals and take applications for free. So it might benefit you if you’re thinking about leasing that garage apartment or guest house or a second home.
In addition, listings on the Realtor.com app include handy information and filters, like the noise level of a neighborhood or commute time, which can be helpful when looking for a place to call home.
- Updates the quickest: best spot to find brand new listings and see when something is sold
- Commute and noise level data in app
- Free rental listing and applications
- Can’t filter results as thoroughly as other apps
- No easy way to see neighborhood home values
Best for commercial real estate
Residential real estate isn’t the only game in town. If you’re looking for a commercial property, the LoopNet app can help you find the perfect fit, and more information than what would be available on other apps geared toward residential homebuyers. You can easily search based on the type of commercial property you’re looking for, including office, retail, restaurant or multifamily dwelling.
One drawback that seems to be an issue among users, however, is the inability to save your search within the app. That means you’ll be forced to re-enter your search filters every time you want to explore listings.
- Easy to find commercial properties for rent and for sale
- Thorough details in property listings
- Only lists properties, not businesses that are for sale
- Limited tools like rent forecasts and loan calculators
Best for beginning real estate investors
The Landa app allows users to invest in real estate with as little as $5. Users can view rentals available to invest in and buy shares in properties. The application has an interface that allows you to see your real estate portfolio all in one place and updates you when you receive your share of the rental income.
- Easy to find investment properties
- Low financial cost to get started
- Limited real estate investment education within the application
- Newer company, limited track record
Best for financing
Rocket Mortgage is one of the top home loan lenders in the country. They have developed an industry-leading application that allows you to do most of the process on your phone. You can get pre-approval for a mortgage, submit documentation for underwriting, and e-sign your documents all in the secured application.
- Streamlines the lending process: You can prequalify, submit documents and sign them all in the application
- Can submit mortgage payments on the app
- Includes affordability and payment calculators
- Limited in-app financial education
Best for people designing and building homes
Houzz is ideal for anyone designing their own home. The app allows you to decide layouts, color palettes and more. It can connect you with contractors, designers and builders all in one place. It even has a shopping cart where you can pick out furnishings and lighting fixtures, and have them shipped directly to your build site.
- Connects you with local construction professionals
- Presents digital mock-ups of how things will look in your home
- Offers high-quality furnishings
- High prices for most goods and services
- Potentially limited list of contractors
One prized feature of home buying-oriented apps is the property evaluations they set on listings. They determine home value through proprietary algorithms. These algorithms incorporate data that includes things like recent home sales in the area, age of the home, square footage of the home, number of rooms and any previous sale price of the home — all factors that professional human appraisers often use, too.
Real estate applications have varying accuracies. The tools used by Trulia, Realtor and Redfin are generally viewed as the most accurate. Zillow’s estimate has become a bit of a joke in the industry.
Also, the apps don’t have a way to know everything that can significantly affect your home’s value — like its curb appeal or its condition. For example, they can’t know if you recently updated the kitchen, or that the carpeted floors are redolent of years of smoking and cats. All of these things can make the sum your home commands on the market quite different by than the estimate their computer came up with.