Looking for your buy or sell your next home or real estate deal? You’re going to need something to help cut through the noise for your new search. Regardless of why you’re on the market, there are dozens of places you can go to find listings. Here we group the best real estate sites together so that you can get an understanding of what makes each platform different from the other and how to narrow down your search.
Aggregators for real estate listings are giant search engines over many sub-sites. Think of this as a place where you can see across agencies and some of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) listings in your given search parameters. Not only are these popular search sites, but many of them have specializations that will help you find the exact type of property you’re interested in.
HomeFinder allows you to immediately search for basically all public information about properties that you’re interested in.
Upon entering the site you’re immediately able to search for sale, for rent, foreclosures, and home values of properties. Additionally, you can search the minimum and maximum price, beds, baths, and property type you’re interested in. Search results will show up in list or map format and there are options to filter listing results by newest listing date, price, and other features. The search functionality is really simple and the location-based results and map are really useful when paired with the street view feature.
The site has details about tax assessments and tax paid on the property as well as details about the bedrooms, bathrooms, and square feet of a building. There are also utility estimators to help you understand what additional costs there may be on your property. Some public data about the area you’re searching is also made available in the results such as information about the neighborhood including population, household incomes, and the number of local homes that are rented or owner-occupied. You can request a monthly payment estimate to get an idea of how affordable the neighborhood is as well. This is a particularly useful feature if you’re looking to be a landlord or one day rent out your property as it gives you some idea of what the market rents are for comparable properties.
One of the best features of HomeFinder is the ability to search for detailed information about foreclosures and pre-foreclosure properties. While you may not see a sale price on all of these properties, information about the original loan amount and what the homeowner is having trouble paying off can help you find really good deals on the market.
HomePath & HomeSteps
HomePath & HomeSteps are search sites owned by Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac respectively and they focus on searching for foreclosed properties specifically. Why might you want to search for such properties? In some cases the companies may offer incentives for you to buy the properties.
You can arrange a tour of the properties through your local agent to make an initial offer or you can take advantage of the ability to make offers through the online portals of these sites. Of course, before you make an offer on a property you’re sure that its the right one for you, especially if you’re making an online offer.
These search sites also have the added benefit of having some interesting financing and warranty options available through Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac. Freddie Mac will offer incentives for first-time homebuyers and offers home warranty allocation for their properties while Fannie Mae allows buyers to make use of FHA and other low-down-payment loans for as little as 3% down if you are a primary resident of the property for a year. This type of property is great for the first time home buyer due to these incentives as well as making a great option for those considering house hacking to build their wealth.
Homes.com has an enormous inventory of homes to search for with over three million listings generally available on the site. The website shows many home details, many of them similar to the other sites listed here, but include estimate mortgage rates from various financing sources. It also has a long list of Q&A guides to take advantage of such as referrals to local contractors, insurance agents, and other resources for making the right purchase decision.
Some of the nice search features of the site include the ability to filter by property type, lot type, and some additional amenities you can search on including fireplaces, central air, etc. One of the newest features they’ve added recently the ability to filter by listings with virtual tours. You can also request a video tour of the property directly through the site to a local agent who can perform one for you.
Other than the large inventory listing and some of the unique search options, there aren’t many distinguishing features of the site compared with some of the other sites we’ll cover throughout this post.
HomeSales.gov is a site that exclusively shows government-owned properties owned by agencies. The site is maintained by the government and it is probably the worst user interface and search functionality on this list of sites. The only real reason we’ve listed it here is it has extremely unique property listings that aren’t shown through the MLS or the other sites.
There are special financing options available depending on the agency that owns the loan. This can create special opportunities for rare property types, but you have to be actively searching for those deals.
Realtor.com is a great resource and is closely aligned with the National Association of Realtors, meaning the realtors on the site must abide by the NAR’s ethical codes.
The site provides searches for homes for sale, for rent, the ability to be pre-approved, you can search for just sold homes as well as a means of looking up home values by neighborhood along with neighborhood research insights. There are long-form property detail listings on the majority of properties that can be searched through their keyword tool and the ability to search on whether a property has a garage or parking.
There are additionally detailed reports and guides to many of the large US metropolitan areas. It also has resources to search for specific state real estate markets. Similar to other sites, there are also school ratings, current and available homes, and lists of top-rated local agents.
Trulia.com is exactly what you should expect from a real estate site allowing advanced searches of properties, an accessible user interface, and the ability to hunt down properties based on filters related to your location or on lifestyle preferences.
Some core features include calculating mortgage rates and finding local agents. There are also advanced search features that allow you to enter your commute destination so that Trulia can estimate your commute time and help you get information about what is nearby the location of property including restaurants, stores, etc. This gives you a great understanding of the neighborhood before you go there including using the map function that allows you to see the street view, schools, crime rates, commute times, and a “Shop & Eat” function. Using this data you can actually filter out the most dangerous neighborhoods and other unsavory aspects of a home that don’t interest you.
It’s also easy to look at multiple properties as you can save them to your favorites.
Zillow.com is the market-leading site on this list and is one of the best real estate sites on this list for an all-around search site. Zillow is actually such a large company that they actually own Trulia.com, StreetEasy.com (a NYC area-specific search site), Auction.com, and several other companies.
Zillow has some really unique features including Zestimates, a predictive model that helps them estimate the price of a home on a specific level of detail to let you understand how above or below market a home is priced at or could be priced at if you’re thinking of listing.
They have integrations with WalkScore and GreatSchools to show you how walkable the neighborhood you’re looking in is as well as how well the schools are ranked compared with others nationally. The school data is quite interesting as it provides details on schools at all levels (elementary, middle, high school).
There are also great search features available on Zillow. You can filter on properties with 3D house tours so you can shop for properties remotely, filter down on must needed amenities, identify properties that have views of a city, mountain, park, or the water and perform advanced keyword searches that can provide you more relevant results based on your specific needs. When comparing financials you can also set limits, if you’re looking for apartments or townhouses in managed properties, for max HOA fees that you’d be open to.
Listings also have some details about how the market has shifted over time in their specific zip code such as, “Home values in 06854 have risen 0.2 % (↑) over the past 12 months.”. There are also Zillow based predictions about how home values will trend over the next year and details on how a specific home value ranks compared to the median home in that neighborhood.
Agency Specific Search Sites
As opposed to aggregation search sites which look across many agencies and databases, agency-specific sites may be useful for you if there are one or two dominating agencies in your local area, especially if you are using an agent from one of these agencies during your search. Unlike the other search sites above that we covered, the agency sites will provide little detail about potential financing options, so you shouldn’t expect a full feature suite compared to something like Zillow.
Redfin is a brokerage, unlike the other listings here, which means sellers must pay a 1% fee for listing on the sites with one of their agents. When searching, you can access the site as a seller or buyer and have the option of searching around for mortgage options.
Similar to the other search providers above, you have advanced filtering capabilities to dig into specific markets and find unique amenities that are important to your property search. This includes being able to filter on property types (Single Family Homes, Multi-Families, etc.), search off market homes, and use advanced keyword searches to find matches to your unique needs.
Sotheby’s International Realty
Sotheby’s International Realty offers properties like no other agency in the world. They’re the elite agency for top tier properties globally. So if you’re thinking that you need to find properties at the top of your local market, Sotheby’s is likely the right place to be for your search.
While you’ll likely need a high budget for a Sotheby’s property relative to other listings, the quality of the listings you’ll find on the site are the best out there. The listings all have high-quality photos, detailed gallery images, and extensive and standardized details about the property itself that you can search on.
The best real estate sites include the ability to search based on commute distance and other keywords that can help you build a highly customized search for your next property.
For those who are first time buyers, sites like HomePath and HomeSteps offer significant value if you know how to find the right deal and the right financing options.
When it comes to shopping around for the best financing rates, some of these sites provide decent comparisons of mortgage providers, but for all the options you should pursue a separate search for the best rates. However, do make use of third party data on crime statistics, walkability scores, and school quality that several of the options above provide.
When in doubt, almost everyone can take advantage of Zillow and it’s advanced features and integrations with its other sub-companies and the services integrated into the platform.
It’s our strong recommendation to try a few of these search sites out to see which one works for you and your specific market as some can simply miss the mark when it comes to certain localities.