House hunting can be one of life’s most stressful undertakings. But, like every other corner of our lives in the age of smartphone technology, there are apps that can help.
Platforms such as Zillow, Redfin and others have revolutionised the house buying experience thanks to powerful and refined search engines, enabling users to find homes that fulfil their idiosyncratic criteria.
In this post, we’ve rounded up the leading real estate apps helping house hunters and soon-to-be-home owners in the US navigate the home buying process.
By far, the most popular and established real estate service on the app market is Zillow.
Priori Data records show that in 2019 so far, the market leader has maintained an average MAU of 5.2 million - 46% more than the runner up app. Zillow is also significantly ahead of the pack in the downloads charts, posting 10 million US downloads end-of-year 2018, and 4.2 million so far this year.
Zillow is particularly renowned for its pioneering Zestimate feature – a platform that utilises algorithms to determine home values and disclose past sale prices for virtually every home in the United States.
The Zestimate tool is widely used by existing homeowners and house-hunters alike as estimations change constantly due to various factors. Potential buyers can track a home of their choice and wait for the moment it becomes cheaper to put in an offer. Whereas those looking to sell can select the most advantageous time to put their property on the market.
Zillow’s robust search tools are highly customisable, enabling users to search by property type, geographic location, address, region, price, and features such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Another hugely popular feature is the app’s mapping function which allows house hunters to use Google Street View to view the surrounding area around potential properties. There is also a sharing tool to circulate finds among friends and family, and when the user is ready to commit, Zillow goes a step further in providing the contact details of local lender to pre-approve for a mortgage and provide personalised loan quotes.
Seattle-headquartered Redfin, the real estate search and online brokerage company, is often viewed as more of a tech company than a real estate brokerage due to it investing heavily in its app and inventing the map-based real estate search. Over the years, Redfin has often drawn comparisons to the likes of Uber and Lyft, which are also people-powered businesses that have leveraged technology to transform traditional industries.
While Redfin lags behind its peers in the downloads charts, clocking 1.1 million US downloads in the last year, it has been successful in sustaining meaningful traffic and holding on to its user base. Our data shows that in the first six months of 2019, Redfin has impressively maintained an average MAU of 1.1 million.
In addition to the features one would expect from a good home search app, e.g, a comprehensive range of search parameters, Redfin allows users to tour its listed homes online by providing high-resolution, three-dimensional views from any angle inside the property. The company also draws on machine learning, artificial intelligence and streaming technologies to advise customers where to live, how much a home is worth and provide an estimate of a property's monthly running costs.
Apart from rival Realtor.com, Redfin offers a wider choice of homes than other competitor apps. Also impressively, most listings on the app are updated every five minutes for improved accuracy. But Redfin’s key allure remains its collaborative features that enable couples and other co-buyers to maintain a shared list of favourites and write notes to one another about homes that have caught their eye.
House hunting isn’t just about the house. To find the perfect house, you also have to find the perfect neighbourhood. And when it comes to neighbourhood insights, Trulia is undisputedly the best app, going beyond simply helping users search for their dream home but serving as a bit of a local travel guide too.
Reporting 1.9 million US downloads in 2019 so far, Trulia ranks third among its peers – way behind frontrunner Zillow and narrowly surpassed by Realtor.com. However, this is the app to watch. Trulia is growing at a phenomenal rate with our data showing that the app is now closing in on 2.8 million monthly active users, up 52% from the previous year.
Trulia differentiates itself from rival apps by helping users gain an understanding of what living in a particular property will feel like. Property listings typically contain highly-detailed information about the home itself as well as plenty of local flavour. The app’s built-in GPS provides comprehensive information on all the nearby shops, restaurants, pharmacies, gas stations and other businesses. Not only that, but the app even syncs with Yelp to showcase the quality of the forenamed amenities. Trulia’s emphasis on neighbourhood is further underscored by a heatmap function displaying areas prone to floods and those with high crime rates.
Although it may be a newcomer among the larger house-hunting apps, HomeSnap has made waves in the industry thanks to a more creative component in allowing users to find out more about places they already like. The app’s key feature is enabling users to take a snapshot of a home using their smartphone's camera and instantly receiving a pop-up of information about the property.
Data that HomeSnap provides includes the home's estimated value along with whether it's for sale and how many bedrooms, bathrooms and other amenities it has. Directly after taking the photo, the user is also given an option to chat with the realtor or landlord. If the home isn’t on the market, HomeSnap displays nearby homes that are. Interestingly, HomeSnap doesn't actually use photo-recognition software to identify the property photographed. Instead, the app makes use of the user’s inbuilt GPS to determine the property in front of the user. Of course, users can also search for properties without taking photos. Furthermore, the app also has some social features, allowing users to showcase their favourite properties and see what their friends are looking at.
With 171,000 downloads so far this year, Homesnap sits at the bottom of our rankings but similarly to Redfin, the app has done a swell job in retaining its users. During this same period, Homesnap maintained an average MAU count of 162,000.
There’s a reason why Realtor.com is one of the highest-rated and popular home-buying apps in the US — it’s ridiculously comprehensive! Boasting more homes for sale than any other app, the award-winning app has been downloaded on 2 million American devices in the first six months of the year (this figure is eclipsed only by Zillow) while maintaining an average MAU of 2.8 million.
Aside from all the basic features, Realtor.com’s coolest feature is the ability to watch live video streams of open houses with Chromecast support. Another useful tool is the app’s feature displaying nearby upcoming open houses, as well as its Area Scout tool which illustrates a neighbourhood's current average asking price, average available square footage and average price per square foot.
To any intrepid house hunters out there starting your own search, you will hopefully now see that not all of the aforementioned leading apps have the same listings or details between them. For this reason, we advise arming yourself with more than one house hunting app to optimise your search efforts and secure that dream home faster.