There used to be a time when looking for a home to purchase, you had to scour real estate magazines, the newspaper, and ask real estate agents to provide you with listings. Today you can search for homes for sale anytime with your iPhone or Android device.
Most real estate buyers prefer to manage their own searches. As a real estate agent, I can set up a search in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) that will send you listings that meet your criteria as soon as they hit the market. But all of the clients I have worked with have used one of the apps below in addition to getting the search results I provide.
These house hunting apps are rated the best and all are decent and provide you with the basic search criteria you need to find the home of your dreams. Keep in mind the source of the listing data for all of these apps is the same; the MLS.
Zillow: By far the most popular app, with the highest rating is the Zillow app. It’s pretty easy to use and has complete information. Like all of the apps, you can search by filters, but this app allows you to draw the area you want to search on the map. One thing I like is that the bottom banner makes it easy to save, share or hide a listing. Another benefit is that Zillow makes it easy to see comparable nearby properties and includes the number of views and saves for each listing, giving you a good indication of how hot a property is. Zillow also offers its Zestimate; an algorithm based estimate of what the house is worth. But this feature can end up causing you more pain than providing any actionable information.
Trulia: This app is owned by Zillow and has similar functions and advantages. One thing Trulia offers is a link to the street view which is indispensable when looking at property. A quick look at the street view will help you see the street as it really is. The discovery feature will show you houses with similar features but that can simply lead you down a rabbit hole and waste your time. But Trulia has no comparables and no indication how many people have viewed the listings so there seems no advantage over Zillow in terms of its overall functionality. The business model for both Zillow and Trulia is to sell ads to real estate agents. This means that the apps constantly try to get you to contact an agent for more information. Most of the agents appearing in the apps have “paid for the position” so they offer no specific information that any other agent couldn’t provide.
Redfin: Redfin is a real estate brokerage business based on its app. Like Zillow, it offers an estimate of the home’s value, but compare it to the Zestimate and in many cases, you will see why these instant valuations are worthless. Redfin also as a street view link and its best feature is the ability to be notified when the price or status changes. Also like Zillow, Redfin provides property history so you can see when the house last sold and for how much.
HomeSnap; I use the Pro version of this app to view properties on my phone. It is designed to work in collaboration with your agent and includes most of the better features in the apps previously mentioned. One benefit it offers is a quick and easy way to search for homes for sale served by a specific school. It also allows you to snap a picture of a home and get info on that house regardless of whether it is for sale or not. One downside to HomeSnap is you cannot draw on the map in order to search a specific area. But their map function can show houses in different colors based upon the status. This function is especially good for open houses which show in purple on the map.
There are other apps out there; Realtor.com, Homes.com, etc. Most of the large brokerages offer an app as well. Coldwell Banker has an app and it has some of the features mentioned above.
You probably will not be buying the first home you see, so you should try out these apps just like viewing a few homes. When you become serious about house hunting, pick one and stick with it.
Once you are in full house hunting mode and have a decent agent working for you, share your saves with your agent so they can see what you like and what you don’t, this will be the best way to ensure you do not get lost sorting through all of the properties out in the marketplace.