Best Real Estate Sites
Whether you are searching for your dream home or attempting to sell a property, the best real estate websites can be a valuable tool to use. After all, a home is often the largest investment that the average person makes; it's no wonder that buying and selling a home is one of the most complicated transactions you can encounter.
In my review, I made sure that user-friendliness, property selection, and customer service were at the top of my list. Finding a house to love and live in can be tough, so I've reviewed the best real estate websites to help you find website that suits your needs.
Best Real Estate Websites: What to Consider
Using the best real estate sites for comprehensive online searches allows you to see how the housing market is doing in your area. You can compare houses in various neighborhoods, search for specific location amenities that cater to your needs, and access all kinds of listed information.
When you are looking for a good real estate website, there are a few features that you should look for. Different sites will have different search functions, listed information, and types of homes. Make sure to consider the following factors when you are looking for your ideal online real estate tool:
- Some sites don't include foreclosed properties or recently or soon to be built properties. If you are looking for these specific types of property, make sure the site you are using actually shares these.
- Search functions may be varied from site to site. Take a look at what each one has to offer. For instance, some sites include the ability to search using an MLS (multiple listing service) number, whereas other sites don't.
- Likewise, some sites don't even display some information like the square footage or architectural style.
The Advantages of Using the Best Real Estate Websites
Face it: online real estate sites are dominating. According to the 2012 joint study of The Digital House Hunt: Consumer and Market Trends in Real Estate, 90 percent of home buyers searched online during their home buying process. There's a reason for the high percentage: there are quite a few benefits to buying (and selling!) a home using an online real estate website.
Here are just some of the advantages that only the best real estate websites provide:
1. Real estate websites are a valuable information source
Real estate websites offer a plethora of information that real estate agents may not always have at their disposal. For instance, Zillow offers the following features, alongside the typical buy and sell options:
- An agent finder.
- An advice section, which offers plenty of articles on home buying, selling, mortgages, and rentals.
- A home design tab to help you plan out your home decor.
2. Real estate sites offer a wider array of homes to select from
Real estate agents only refer to you the homes that are in their arsenal, but real estate websites offer far more home offerings, from all types of agents within one package. The more options available, the better your search for a dream home will turn out.
3. Real estate websites feature "24/7" accessibility
Whether you're on the road or snuggled deep within your blankets, you can search for housing listings a via your mobile phone, desktop, laptop, or however you choose. Unfortunately, you can't exactly contact a real estate agent at midnight - if you did, you'll probably receive a voicemail or an angry voice as a response.
4. Real estate websites provide useful photos to help you reach your decision
Real estate websites contain useful pictures and information, such as the number of bedrooms and baths, square footage, and more. According to National Association of Realtors "2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers":
Among buyers who used the internet during their home search, 89 percent of buyers found photos and 85 percent found detailed information about properties for sale very useful.
Of course, just like with every topic under the sun, there are disadvantages that often go hand-in-hand with the advantages of using even the best real estate search engines.
The Best Real Estate Websites
- Search by city, zip, address or the name of the neighborhood
- Helpful map view feature
- Useful forums and articles
- Unique home design section
- Mortgage and home loan reviews
- You must sign in to view listed details
- Some listings can be outdated
Zillow is the top name in online realty and for good reason - it is a popular choice among many realtors, attracting 36 million unique monthly visitors.
Searching for an area on Zillow comes with a few unique perks. If you search for a city or a zip code, the entire area shows up on a map with listings showing you where each property is located. Each property type has its own color on the map so you can see what is available at a glance. Next to the map is a typical list of properties. This layout is a convenient way to get a quick overview of an area while also seeing specific properties that are available.
Zillow has a ton of information on each home you are looking at which they pull from online resources and from other sources of information. It appraises properties with a system that takes all of the available information and puts it into an algorithm which then churns out their Zestimate. This system offers a unique way to get estimated values and it is generally within the realm of an accurate appraisal. However, Zillow has received some criticism for the accuracy of their Zestimates because it does not take into account the things that may affect the value of a home that can't be seen on the internet.
Unfortunately, if you want to view some of the details of a home (mainly those in foreclosure), you will need to create an account with Zillow and sign in. However, you can connect your account with Facebook for a quick set up and sign in. If you are seriously considering buying a home it is definitely worth making an account to use this helpful search tool and gain access to their wealth of information.
Zillow has a wealth of information on homes and realtors, and its helpful map feature lets you see a comprehensive view of an area. However, you will need to sign up to get the full picture.
- Simple, clean search filters
- Informative area exploration map
- Saving and sharing capabilities
- Variety of useful apps
- Provides thorough descriptions
- Allows anyone to post homes for sale
Referring to the eBizMBA Guide, Trulia brings in roughly 23 million unique visitors. Important to note: Zillow Group bought Trulia for a cool $2.5 billion back in February 2015 - this is why both sites look quite similar.
Since the merge, Trulia has upped its game, adding apartment listings and mortgage products. That doesn't mean that Trulia is a carbon copy of Zillow; Trulia offers an incredibly user-friendly and rich experience. Buying homes is an easy process with Trulia, though if you choose to sell directly on the real estate site, you would be led to a questionnaire that would help determine the value of your home.
But how exactly is Trulia engaging? You can easily select homes utilizing Trulia's filters, which allows you to search by price, the number of beds, home types, sale status, specific keywords, bathrooms, square feet, lot size, and year built. Whenever you click on a listing, you'll be fed a plethora of information, including agents, estimated mortgage, full address, the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, size, year built, and a full description of the home's details.
What's best is that every listing includes a rating for the local schools and crime, a calculator for your commute time from the potential home, basic statistics such as median age, nearby areas, and a list of reported crimes. It's difficult to be more detailed than that. What's also helpful is the deluge of articles from Trulia, which would arm you with either the knowledge required for your house hunt or at least provide you with some tidbits of information.
For instance, there's a blog not just dedicated real estate, but saving for a home, home designs and decor, research, and celebrity homes! Yes, there's an article titled, "Rent Jessica Alba's Stylish Starter Home for $11,500 a Month."
Unfortunately, the main downfall of Trulia is that anyone can sell a home on the site, though if you plan on selling a home, you would have to go through Zillow - the home would show up on both Zillow and Trulia. This allows for con artists to lure unsuspecting buyers into their traps. Overall, with an easy-to-use interface, a powerful filter, and some great advice articles, Trulia deserves to be in second place.
- Search by address, city, zip, neighborhood and MLS numbers
- Plenty of listed information
- Helpful map feature
- Good real estate agent search tool
- Comprehensive search tool and filters
- Fees for agents using Realtor
Realtor.com is another valuable home listing site with an incredibly comprehensive search function. You are able to search by address, city, zip codes and neighborhood names. You can also search by MLS numbers which many top sites don't allow. You can set some fairly unique filters including recent listing activity like open houses, price reductions, and new listings. You can also check areas within a city that you would like to be near.
The listed information is very comprehensive and includes virtually everything a potential home buyer would want to see, such as the full address, the square footage, and the year the home was built. You can have a report of the improvements and additions sent to your email. In addition, there is a detailed description of the home's interior, exterior, and construction. You will have a fairly accurate idea of what the house can offer before even visiting it.
The site has comprehensive search features for when you are trying to find a real estate agent. You can search for agents by area or by name to read reviews and descriptions.
Realtor.com offers plenty of valuable information and an excellent search tool. Realtor.com is also fairly accurate in that they get their information directly from MLS.
- Search by address, city, zip, neighborhood and MLS numbers
- Helpful home professional search tool
- Includes foreclosures
- Helpful Q&A section
- Does not include addresses for foreclosures
- Limited info compared to other sites
Homes.com is another good option to consider for your real estate search. The search tool is fairly comprehensive, as you are able to specify lot size, square footage, and year built right on the homepage, whereas you would have to set those filters after your initial search on other top sites.
You are also able to search for local real estate agents with its agent search tool. However, it is not only realtors that you can find using this handy tool but all kinds of professionals that you might need during your adventures of home buying and selling. You can find mortgage lenders, appraisers, electricians, architects, and virtually any other professional you might need for a home.
Homes.com doesn't display as much information as some other top sites, so if you are doing independent house hunting you might need to use other sites for more information. The site also tends not to include the full address for foreclosed properties.
Homes.com is a great place to find home professionals in your area, but when you are searching for homes, there is not as much information displayed in comparison to the other real estate sites.
- Excellent search tools
- Up-to-date site
- Good mobile apps
- Helpful articles and advice on buying and selling homes
- Get multiple estimates on your home's own worth
- Can't search by MLS
ZipRealty is another option for you to utilize on your house hunt. The site offers information on mortgages and real estate agents, including sections on both buying and selling homes with loads of helpful information. However, ZipRealty's most impressive feature is its search tools.
The search tool has several features and filters that allow you to get one of the most comprehensive searches among the top real estate sites. After you put in the city or zip code, your price range, and the number of beds and baths you are looking for, a whole host of new filters become available. You can choose what kind of property you are looking for; there is even a filter if you are simply looking for land. You can set your preferred minimum lot size and square footage. You can choose the listing types and you can even set the home's age range. With all of these filters, it is almost like having a real estate agent that you can give your specific preferences to.
ZipRealty also claims to list 30 percent more homes compared to any other real estate sites. They also claim to list every available "for sale" home. Finally, it states that it update its site every two minutes, which contributes to a higher accuracy and fewer homes being falsely listed as "for sale."
ZipRealty is a great resource especially if you have very specific preferences. Their fast updates allow for a wider more accurate selection.
What to be Aware of When Using the Best Real Estate Websites
1. Estimates provided by sites are just that - estimates
Information provided by the websites isn't always accurate. For instance, take a "Zestimate" on Zillow, which is Zillow's estimated market value that relies on both user and public-submitted data. You can't rely on the number the Zestimate provides. After all, it's an estimate. That being said, a real estate professional will come and look at the property for Zillow, taking into account upgrades, add-ons, and market conditions.
2. Scams infiltrate real estate websites
Though rental scams are the most common type of scams found on real estate sites, there are other scams to be aware of, such as title fraud. For example, people have reported their own homes being listed on real estate sites by scammers, with different pictures and descriptions. Unfortunately, people have fallen into such traps. So make sure to verify the information you find before you settle on a home.
3. Real estate sites aren't always up-to-minute regarding updates
When it comes to the status of a property (i.e. "sold" or "active"), the real estate site may not always be up-to-date. One moment, you might be fawning over a home, prepared to buy it, and the next, you're told that it has already been sold. It's a pretty unfortunate disadvantage, seeing your dream home disappear unexpectedly, but it happens.
Finding the Best Real Estate Websites
There are plenty of real estate websites out there, but a lot of them just didn't the cut for my list. Various factors came into play when deciding the top five. In fact, here is my methodology in selecting the best online real estate sites.
- I first rounded up a list of national real estate websites. There are plenty of local real estate sites existent, with beautiful designs, but these particular sites have a far smaller audience in mind. As a result, local real estate websites have been excluded.
- With the list of national real estate sites, I've narrowed down the selection utilizing the following factors: the layout of the site, types of property the site offers, search functions, filters, reviews, helpfulness, ease of selling, and timeliness of updates. The better the sites serve the buyer or seller, the less likely the site would be eliminated. That simple.
- Finally, the sites that haven't been eliminated are instead rated by accessibility and features. For instance, Trulia is rated highly because I'm fond of the guides it offers and the thorough information it offers for every home listed.
Best Real Estate Websites - Don't Just Rely on Them
With the cons mentioned earlier within the article, it's not always the best idea to 100 percent rely on real estate websites, even the best ones.
Always seeking a second opinion, preferably from a real estate professional and/or a local real estate agent, would prove highly beneficial in your search for a new home.
With a professional agent, you could gather information on the home you've seen on the website to confirm the listing, price, and more. Furthermore, a real estate agent can take advantage of their marketing abilities to aggressively sell your home.
In today's world, plenty of homes come and go rather quickly. Referring to the National Association of Realtors "Field Guide to Quick Real Estate Statistics," 5.25 million listing homes were sold in 2015. 510,000 newly constructed homes were also sold in 2015. The high number indicates that the competition is fierce among home sales. So again, a real estate agent would help lure buyers to your home with a strong marketing skillset, which includes powerful negotiation tactics. Always consider help from a real estate agent when you're buying or selling a home.
Best Real Estate Websites Recap
For a home buyer, using a real estate website doesn't come with any expense so using many sites can only help you obtain a complete view of the market. Using a real estate website as a home seller may be a bit more complicated, but you should always seek a second opinion with a local real estate agent. Overall, just find a real estate site that you are most comfortable with.
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