As the last few years of a global pandemic have shifted our lives more and more online, the apartment-hunting experience has changed. More and more buyers are doing their research on their phones or tablets, and in some cases are even buying homes they’ve only seen on a screen before.
As a result, real estate apps have had to up their game to keep up with newcomers. Here are five of the best home buying apps on the market today.
Overall best for buyers
Owned by real estate giant Zillow, Trulia has the same massive database to work with, but adds a few features that make it our top pick for buyers. In addition to all the price and sales history data you could want, it has extensive neighborhood features like walkability ratings, school ratings, drone footage, and quotes from neighborhood residents. It also makes it easier to identify and contact the listing agent
- Most neighborhood data of any application
- It’s easy to ask the listing agent questions
- The price development in the neighborhood is not easy to see at a glance
- The application can be difficult to navigate on mobile devices
Best for saving money on commissions
Redfin is both an application with data on thousands of homes and a discount real estate agent. The site lists neighborhood data, including a walking score, a bike score, a public transit score, local amenities, and school dates. Through a partnership with the nonprofit First Street Foundation, it even includes data on a property’s climate risk, giving you insight into a property’s long-term risk of flood, drought, storm, heat and fire. It makes it easy to contact the real estate agent to ask questions about a property, and you can schedule in-person and digital showings in one place.
- Save thousands on broker commissions
- It’s easy to ask the listing agent questions
- Climate risk data for each property
- Not yet available in some more rural parts of the country
- Possibly less one-on-one help than a full-service agent
Best for research
Zillow’s free application has the largest database of any listed application with more than 135 million households in their system. This makes it a great place to do some initial research as you begin your homebuying journey. You can quickly get an idea of how many homes in an area match your criteria with dozens of options to customize your search filters. The application also makes it very easy to see what price every home in an area sold for, giving you a good idea of what to plan for if you’re looking to buy a home in a particular neighborhood.
The Zillow application doesn’t have as detailed data as its competitors when it comes to neighborhood statistics, and the home appraisal it provides isn’t always accurate. It can also sometimes be misleading. If you ask a question about the property through the app, your question will not be sent to the real estate agent for a response. Your question and details will be sent to a real estate agent who may then tirelessly try to get hired as an agent for your buyer.
- Largest database of houses
- Selling price history for millions of homes
- Limited Neighborhood Data
- Inaccurate home appraisals
- Listing agent difficult to contact
Best for the most recent data
The Realtor.com website is closely associated with the National Association of Realtors, which grants it access to most Multiple Listing Services (MLS). Therefore, the data is updated frequently: when a house comes on the market, is contracted and sold. This level of accuracy can be extremely important when trying to buy a home in an extremely hot market. If you find out about a home for sale a few hours or a day before someone using another application, you may be able to get a quote first. However, just like Zillow, Realtor.com can be misleading. If you ask a question about the home or try to arrange a viewing, you will not get through to the seller’s agent, but will be giving your information to real estate agents who are trying to convert you into a client.
- Fastest Updated: View brand new listings and know instantly when one goes on sale
- The only app with data on noise levels in the neighborhood
- Difficult to contact the listing agent or schedule showings
- Does not display homes for sale by owner
Best application features
Homesnap might not have the same amount of data points and history as the other apps 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 when you see a house for sale you can take a picture of it in the app (get name now?) and easily learn more about the property. For iOS users (unfortunately not Android) there is also a “Cross the Property Line” feature that allows you to see the actual property lines 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, user-friendly features
- real-time data
- Not available everywhere
- Benefits Apple users: Walk the Property Line feature is not available on Android
Conclusion on apps for home buying
Home buying apps are a great starting point for your home hunting, but before you hit “schedule ad,” there are a few important things you should do first so you don’t get bogged down in the breakneck speed of home buying in some areas.
Sit down with your budget and our new home calculator to see what you can actually afford – and don’t forget to factor in all the hidden costs when buying a home. Find out what to look for in a real estate agent. If this is your first time buying, be sure to read our beginner’s guide so you don’t leave any money on the table.