As rent prices continue to soar all over the country, you may be finding yourself entering your first real estate search.
You’re not alone. According to the National Association of Realtors, millennials are ending their leases and buying homes in large numbers. Those in their late 20’s to early 30’s now make up the fastest-growing segment of buyers today. But how to even shop for a home these days?
First-time buyers might remember being dragged to Sunday open houses with their looky-loo parents, but those days are gone. Everything is online, and many real estate apps have sprung up to help buyers find their dream homes.
The 7 Best House-Hunting Apps
Zillow, Trulia, HomeSnap, Redfin and even Realtor.com are among the house-listing websites that have become an essential part of the home-buying process, and all of them have mobile apps to make it even easier to jump into the real estate game. We assessed seven of them keeping first-time buyers in mind by looking at ease of use, connection to calculators, photo quality and more.
Best House Hunting Apps at a Glance
|App||Best For||Details||Key Feature|
|Zillow||Overall usability||Virtual tours||Push notifications||SEE DETAILS|
|Realtor.com||Reliability||3D tours||Detailed descriptions||SEE DETAILS|
|Trulia||Community insight||34 map overlays||30M neighborhood reviews||SEE DETAILS|
|Rocket Homes||One-stop shop||Agents/lenders links||Area trend reports||SEE DETAILS|
|Homesnap||Convenience||High-definition photos||Optimized for mobile||SEE DETAILS|
|Redfin||Multilevel support||User-friendly interface||Calculates mortgage/fees||SEE DETAILS|
|Homes.com||Quick listing updates||Home showings via Zoom||Mortgage calculator||SEE DETAILS|
- Between for-sale-by-owner and official properties, it provides users access to over 135 million property listings.
- The “Zestimate” algorithm uses tax records to produce home value estimates, which sometimes are inaccurate.
The Zillow house-hunting app app is the most downloaded real estate app on the Apple store and Google Play — and for good reason. Its database constantly updates and has 36 million users monthly. You can set up push notifications for new real estate listings that meet your search criteria so you’ll never miss out on your potential dream home.
The app allows you to filter real estate listings by price, ZIP code, square footage, must-have features and more. You can even coordinate your search with a partner or roommate by tagging home features and sharing your favorites.
Zillow provides 3-D tours and a scheduling feature to set up an in-person tour. One of its best features is self tours of Zillow-owned homes, a feature available in some markets that allows house hunters to stop by the property at their convenience and simply unlock the house with the app.
- It’s the official search portal for the National Association of Realtors, meaning its updates are the most accurate.
- Clicking on “contact agent” will not go to the listing agent, but instead to a local real estate agent who has paid for this lead service.
Realtor.com is one of the best home buying apps out there for on-market listings. Being the official search portal for the National Association of Realtors means you can trust the home listings that pop up in your search. The data is directly mined from the MLS (multiple listing service) and refreshes every 15 minutes.
The search features include a wide variety of filters and provides the most detailed real estate listing descriptions, which include things like crime rates, school ratings, property tax and history of home value estimates — even things like the neighborhood noise levels or whether a home is in a FEMA flood zone.
Because the app updates so often, setting up push notifications means you’ll quickly know when a new property hits the local market. You’ll also have the power of the “Sign Snap” tool in your pocket the next time you drive by a “for sale” sign. All you have to do is take a photo and Realtor.com pulls all of the home’s details instantly.
- Shows names and contact information for listing agents, so users know who they would be working with for each listing.
- You’re prompted to call or email the listing agent on any property you view, which can get in the way of casual browsing.
Acquired by Zillow in 2015, Trulia has access to most of Zillow’s database of over 135 million active listings and has become one of the best real estate apps. What sets it apart is the focus on community insight provided by those who are located in the area you are searching. You’ll not only get details on the property, but information on what it’s like to live in that specific neighborhood.
You’ll be alerted about price reductions and upcoming open houses, and the app will recommend new listings. Insights sourced straight from locals and 34 neighborhood map overlays offer details on commute times, nearby businesses, crime rates, nearby schools, and more.
Two other features added in 2018, “what locals say” and “local legal protections,” combine local feedback and public data to provide information about what a neighborhood is like, from level of dog-friendliness, day-in-the-life details, and even how folks decorate for the holidays.
You’ll also be able to see whether there is legislation in the area to protect against discrimination for gender identity or sexual orientation in employment, housing or public accommodations.
- Lets you access your TransUnion credit report, which is updated every week.
- Does not provide a home value estimate.
Similar to Trulia, Rocket Homes puts an emphasis on getting to know your soon-to-be neighborhood, but from a market statistics perspective.
This real estate knowledge will come in handy when searching for a home. You can compare properties in the area, seeing how long they’ve been on the market and what they sold for. If you’re not planning on living in your first home forever, this will help give you an idea of what kind of return on investment you can expect from your purchase in the future.
Rocket Homes is a product of Quicken Loans, giving you the opportunity to shop for homes from new and updated listings and have access to lending services all in one place.
This real estate app also helps you stay on track when it comes to some of the more boring parts of purchasing a home, like tracking your credit score. Rocket Homes gives you access to a free TransUnion credit report that is updated frequently, so you know exactly where you stand before starting the mortgage application process.
- Get extensive details on a home just by snapping a photo of it.
- Lack of coverage in some areas; Homesnap must partner with individual multiple listing services.
The Homesnap real estate app is perfect for the on-the-go house hunter. You can simply snap a photo of a home and get all of the data available. This feature means you have real-time connection to your local multiple listing service from the road.
If you choose to search from the comfort of your home instead, the Homesnap app allows you to search for open houses by date, and even provides live-broadcast, virtual showings if you want to avoid mingling with other buyers in person.
You can collaborate with your real estate agent through a built-in private messaging function that automatically saves your listings for quick reference. Like most real estate apps, you have a ton of customizable filters for efficient searching, and will be provided with up to date information about the home and neighborhood like commute times, satellite photos and more.
- Updates every five minutes so you never miss a new listing.
- If you don’t live in one of the 90 U.S. and Canada markets where Redfin has agents, you won’t be able to connect with one.
Redfin’s out-of-the-box-business model combines the convenience of a high-performance app and the expertise you can only get by working with a real estate agent directly. Because Redfin is also a brokerage firm, you’ll have access to their top-quality real estate agents.
Working with a real estate agent gives you more in-depth market insights so you can make smart home buying decisions. And through the “Hot Homes” feature you’ll know which homes are more likely to sell fast so you don’t miss your chance of putting in an offer while house hunting.
The most unique perk of using the Redfin app is the opportunity to pocket some cash. You’ll get a percentage of your agent’s commission from the home seller when you purchase a home with a Redfin agent.
- Most of 2020 was spent updating the speed and user-friendliness of the app.
- Limited information on neighborhood and demographic data.
The Homes.com app is partnered with the MLS to bring you quality leads on your home buying search. The app offers a plethora of filter criteria like the other apps, such as square footage, ZIP code, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, but has an emphasis on lifestyle. Not only will you find the best house, but in the neighborhood that’s right for you.
The exclamation icon makes it easy to spot new real estate listings when scrolling through your search results. You also have the option to “favorite” or “block” certain properties in your feed so you can revisit the ones you love and eliminate the ones you don’t.
The mortgage calculator on Homes.com includes specific financing options like FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loans and special rates for active military members or retired veterans.
The Bottom Line About Home-Buying Apps
As you can see, if you’re ready to break up with your landlord, calculate what down payment you can afford and start your journey to home ownership, you have plenty of house-hunting apps to take advantage of.
Along with all the other details involved in this adventure, it may take some trial and error to find the app that hones in on your specific house-hunting search criteria. But it’s worth spending the time if it helps you get everything you want in your first home.
Contributor Tiffany Beyer is a social media coordinator and marketer specializing based in St. Petersburg, Florida. She specializes in real estate and lifestyle issues stories.