Home Search Apps in the U.S. – A Comparative View


For first-time home hunters looking for a simple search engine, or for investment analysis, use Zillow.

Zillow has the most comprehensive but least up to date information, along with the largest quantity of listings. Zillow has more listings than Realtor.com because in addition to agent-sponsored listings―which come from the local MLS―Zillow works with companies and individuals who represent other types of listing data such as: For Sale By Owner; new construction (i.e. builders); foreclosure and pre-foreclosure; and “Make Me Move” (where a homeowner has not put their home on the market, but is stating a price for which they would be willing to sell it).

Zillow gets a large percentage of their data from the local MLS. However, they also accept data from various other sources including: brokers, agents, and real estate franchise direct feeds. Agents usually input listings into the MLS from these various sources, but due to a variety of reasons they from time to time do not. Erroneously, these direct feeds allow for the listing to still be present on Zillow. At the bottom of each property detail page, the source of the data is always listed; this allows any viewer to know where the data is being sourced from, so they can follow up if they notice anything inaccurate.

Some aspects of Zillow that are important to take note of:

  • This app stands out in terms of its contextual data such as “Zestimates” (ballpark estimates of property values) and property listing history (including price and tax history), making it particularly useful for real estate investors and house hunters. While Zillow became famous for its “Zestimates” figure, this estimate of a home’s worth is not always accurate and can vary greatly from the actual value of a home.
  • A great aspect of this app is that real estate agent reviews are built in and you can sort agents by location, quantity of reviews, specialty, type (individual or team) and experience in the type of real estate you’re looking for (residential or commercial).
  • You should use Zillow over Trulia if year built, property area, and Zestimate are important search features for you.

For the best info on neighborhoods, use Trulia.

Where Trulia shines is its “layers” feature which enables users to look on a standard or satellite map at a of range of useful information on neighborhoods including: heat maps (crime, affordability, natural disasters); local boundaries (by neighborhood, school, county, or zip code); schools; and amenities (restaurants, grocery stores, banks etc.) to get a vivid picture of what it’s like to live in a certain neighborhood. Users can easily search for all of the open houses occurring in a specific area, based on all of the aforementioned criteria. Other important aspects of the Trulia app you should know about:

  • Great features of the app include: “shared boards” which allow multiple users to save homes in a mutual place; folders for favorited homes (so you can label “so-so homes” or “must see homes,” like a Pinterest board); video tours; side-by-side comparison viewing; personalized estimates of your home’s worth; and affordability breakdowns.
  • Trulia was recently bought by Zillow. As such, these platforms share many similarities including: both display data on walk scores and local schools; show predictions/comparisons of neighborhood home values; and allow you to get pre-approved by a lender. Each of these platforms display the agent’s name and rating next to the home being searched, and are missing about a quarter of agent-listed homes for sale.
  • For real estate agents looking to reach consumers, the ads sold on Zillow and Trulia are integrated.
  • You should use Trulia over Zillow if price per square foot, dollar value/percentage, quantity of photos, price-reduced date, transit score, and listing popularity are important search functions for you.

For Realtors looking for the most accurate and up-to-date information, use Realtor.com.

This app is run by the National Association of Realtors and is sourced from more than 800 MLSs. About 90% of listings are updated every 15 minutes, and all other listings on the app are updated at least one time per day. The data on Realtor.com almost exclusively comes from the local MLS. As such, the property listing generally has to be in the local MLS system to appear on Realtor.com. Top elements of this app include:

  • Realtor.com provides the most accurate listing of homes for sale nationwide and sources over 99% of MLS listings.
  • Two great features are that you can search for homes and neighborhoods in 3D, and receive home value estimates for off-market properties. You can also view average home values in specific areas, giving you a good idea of what homes should typically sell for.
  • This app shares a lot of similarities with Zillow and Trulia including: the ability to view local schools and amenities; listing details such as sales history, property tax, and price; and the ability to see open house times and driving directions.

For active buying (and selling) in a competitive market, use Redfin.

Redfin is powered by the local MLS and thus excels in terms of its up-to-date information (its listings are refreshed every 15 to 30 minutes). However, it has weak capability in terms of its search tools. While Zillow and Trulia are online house hunting websites, Redfin is a real estate brokerage site and takes 30% of a Realtors’ commission for finding the lead. What should you note about this app?

  • While traditional agents charge on average 3% of a home’s sales price to sell a home, Redfin agents only charge 1.5%. Redfin thus has the potential to save buyers thousands of dollars in closing costs.
  • Redfin is unique in that the bonus’ of its agents are based on the satisfaction of homebuyers, not a typical commission based on an easy sale.
  • You should use Redfin if you’d like to:
  • Search for homes based on the schools and school districts that you would like your children to attend;
  • Get notifications when a new home that matches your criteria hits the market;
  • Get a competitive edge by learning which homes are likely to sell the fastest so you do not miss out;
  • Gain exclusive insights into homes you’re considering by reading comments from home tours provided exclusively by Redfin Realtors.

For passive watching and target search, use ZipRealty.

This app reigns supreme in terms of its top-notch search capabilities. However, it is not as up to date as Redfin. The app allows you to set up targeted notifications with very specific parameters so you don’t get bombarded with notifications. The best part about the app is that if you’re in a neighborhood that feels right for you, you can activate the app’s “House Scan” feature; this allows you to see what’s for sale nearby using a built-in phone camera that guides you to the front door. ZipRealty also allows users to take notes on specific properties, view valuable data on each listing, and directly request a showing. A cool feature of ZipRealty is that all of their employees are real estate agents.


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