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The era of business digitization has dawned. Companies of all kinds are going online because their CEOs see it as the only way to survive and thrive in a highly competitive environment. The pandemic also influenced this trend by forcing us to look for ways to remain effective without leaving houses and apartments.


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Of course, the real estate market is no exception to the rule. According to a 2020 study, less than 30% of people bought the property with a traditional realtor, and less than 10% used newspaper ads. The rest resorted to real estate websites and apps.

And no wonder, in the end, online tools make the process of buying or selling property much faster, more transparent, and convenient. They allow realtors to work more efficiently and make their services quite affordable. As to ordinary customers, they’re given the opportunity to manage deals from the comfort of their homes.

We’ve compiled a list of the best real estate websites considered top resources in the modern US market. You can read about them in our article and draw your own conclusions. Maybe you’ll get inspired too, why not?

In other words, let’s discuss the main things to bear in mind when starting a real estate business online.


Why Do We Need Real Estate Websites?

Today we cannot imagine life without technological advances and the benefits they give us. But that wasn’t always the case…

The difficulties of the pre-Internet era

Before the advent of digital technologies and, accordingly, real estate websites and applications, people had a hard time buying or selling a property. And by people, we mean both ordinary homeowners and professional realtors.

Of course, even today, real estate deals aren’t exactly cheap, and sometimes they’re rather labor-intensive, but IT innovations have greatly simplified the whole thing, that’s for sure.

In the old days, a certain John Smith, who, say, wanted to sell his house, had to make an appointment with a realtor and discuss all the details of the future deal with him during the meeting (which is much longer and more hassling than arranging everything at home with a couple of clicks). And the realtor, before proceeding with the sale of the property itself, had to conduct a market analysis in order to offer the client the best terms (and the best price).

Today, such a realtor usually resorts to great real estate websites like Zillow, which provide him with the necessary market information and give him a place (a listing platform) to promote the property in sale. And in the past, he had to look for a potential buyer on his own (‘manually’, so to say) or enlist the help of specialized companies and share a part of the profit with them. As a result, the property sale process became longer and more complicated, and the total price grew. All the parties involved lost.

A new digital era

Now you understand what caused the growth in popularity of various sites and, later, applications. But anyway, here are the main benefits each participant in the real estate deal gets (in case if the reasons are still unobvious):

  • Agents find it easier to manage customer orders. And while they have to pay site owners a commission to place ads, the costs are still lower than they used to be. And the work itself is simplified too because some of the tasks are being performed by digital algorithms now, which cheapens the process.
  • Ordinary people who want to buy or sell property are also happy to order required real estate services through online platforms:
    • Buyers get the chance to view dozens of homes in the shortest possible time, without ever leaving the couch. That’s quite possible since each object of sale is usually supplemented with high-quality photographs and a detailed description. So choosing the house to buy isn’t so difficult.
    • Sellers (homeowners) can find the right agent to get them through the deal in a very user-friendly way (and also without leaving the home or office).
      • Most often, each realtor has his own profile with a rating and reviews, which allows customers to understand how many deals he has concluded and whether buyers were satisfied with his services.
  • Owners of web platforms get their profit, which means they also win.

A website is good, but you can’t do without a real estate app. We tell you how to create one in the article at the link.

Okay, let’s say you’d like to build your own real estate website. But what kind of features to include in it? And what IT trends should you follow to get the most out of it?

We cover these and other related questions with great pleasure.

Key Real Estate Website Features

Above, we indicated (and even illustrated) which features are in special demand today (according to surveys and research). However, they’re clearly not enough to make your real estate website work properly. So you should implement the following:

  • Registration and account creation depending on the group to which the user belongs. Your users will include homeowners, property buyers, realtors, and each needs a different profile. And if the buyer of a property can do without registration at all and directly contact the agent through the special form, the realtor must have a personal page with experience identification, ratings, reviews, status update, and so on.
  • Database (information on the real estate market). Yes, the extensive database is one of the main conditions for starting a real estate business online (at least with a true chance of success). And keep in mind, the more often your database is updated, the better your resource works.
  • Map with the determination of the user’s location. No need to explain why such a site requires a map, right? Among others, the buyer would be able to use it to choose the area in which he wants to purchase the property.
  • Calendar, which would make the deal course more transparent, time-bound, and deadline-following.
  • Search with filters and sorting. Below, describing the best real estate websites, we tell you what type of search engines your competitors have created. You should offer your users something similar (or better).
  • Diverse photographs of real estate objects, so that the buyer can evaluate a particular house whenever and wherever he wants (without leaving his own home).
  • Information on the property (the more, the better), which plays just as important a role as the photographic image thereof.
  • Push notifications to keep users up to date. Let’s say a new house for sale has appeared in the area the client is interested in, and it fully meets his requirements. The user will immediately receive a notification inviting him to visit a website and take a look at this new property.
  • Online communication. Online chat, feedback forms, chatbot, and other features of the sort will help the user stay in touch with you around the clock. So he’ll be able to solve emerging problems in real-time (as much as possible).
  • Rating & Reviews. And we mean not only the ratings clients give to realtors but also the reviews they leave to your online service. Let users express their opinion about your platform and how it works. Does it meet their expectations? After all, in order to make your resource named one of the best real estate agent websites, you have to work on its optimization and improvement on an ongoing basis. And user reviews are just the thing to help you find the right line of development.
  • Real estate value calculators. Zillow has its famous Zestimate (which is discussed below), you also need to come up with an equally effective feature.

Where can you get real estate data? These useful APIs will help you obtain the information you require!

If your development budget allows you to get creative, try implementing some of the high-demanded features (see infographics above). They’re more expensive to build (except, perhaps, notifications via email, which needs to be included in the basic functionality anyway), but they’re worth the money and effort spent (if approached properly).

Digital real estate trends to follow

When starting a real estate business, be prepared to compete. And don’t forget, your opponents have been on the market for years and know how to attract and retain customers. How can you overcome their experience? Only by proving your perseverance and commitment to excellence! Among other things, we advise you to pay attention to the latest digital industry trends, such as:

  • Big Data Technology. Information is the key to prosperity, and Zillow’s example is the best proof of this (in the next section, we’ll go into more detail on how big data helped Zillow succeed).
  • AI algorithms. Make your real estate website evolve and improve day by day thanks to machine learning mechanisms.
  • Virtual 3D tools. By giving the user the opportunity to virtually “visit” this or that house, to evaluate it in three-dimensional reality (in volume), you increase the chances of him making a real purchase. And your income is also growing.

Best Real Estate Agent Websites

There are now 3 main players in the modern US real estate market:  Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor. These are your competitors, and they’re also your sources of inspiration.

Let’s analyze each of them… who knows, maybe you’ll like some of their ideas (which might come in handy if you’re serious about starting a real estate business in the digital space).


Without any exaggeration, Zillow is the main leader in the modern real estate market (at least, in the US). It has managed to force the competition out of business and become indispensable when it comes to buying, renting, and selling property in the United States.

Zillow boasts nearly 30 million unique visitors every month, from ordinary people and real estate agents to mortgage companies and property developers. Still further, Zillow covers all areas, one way or another related to real estate. So now it is a true entry point to the market in question.

Surely, today Zillow belongs to great real estate websites… but when and where did it get started? How did its owners achieve such howling success?

The history of Zillow

Zillow came into being a long time ago (in 2004). Its creators were Rich Barton and Loyd Frink. Both had achieved considerable success in the IT industry by that time (for example, Mr. Frink was once the head of divisions at Microsoft).

The guys didn’t really think about starting a real estate business… they just wanted to create a simple listing service and get a source of steady income. And they got it… and soon found out that their product was in high demand. However, users (mostly US residents) weren’t 100% satisfied, they needed more. So, it was time to improve the resource to fully meet their expectations.

The goal was set, and the guys began to bring it to reality. They developed a special algorithm, which allowed Zillow to collect and process information about US properties from a huge variety of official sources. The data obtained were being converted into user-friendly schemes and offered to customers in a grouped form, something like this:

  • analysis and dynamics of the value of property objects in accordance with certain criteria (say, houses in prestigious areas are much more expensive);
  • the comfort of the area (availability of schools, cafes, catering establishments, parking lots, and other things increases the level of comfort and also affects the real estate price);
  • ethnic characteristics of the area;
  • crime rate as a percentage;
  • and other stuff like that!

And so, step by step and year after year, Zillow has become what it is today: a top resource and powerful market leader, the first among the best real estate websites.

Zillow & Big Data

Surely Zillow wouldn’t have achieved its incredible success had it not managed big data so skillfully and efficiently. You have something to learn from its experience!

Let’s imagine the huge number of houses and other properties existing in the United States. In fact, there are more than 100 million of them, and Zillow has detailed information on each. And as we’ve written above, this information is diverse and detailed and includes even the history of the building’s renovation! Cool, isn’t it?

However, collecting data is half the battle. It’s also important to handle it properly, and Zillow knows how to do it (or rather, it learned to do it). That’s why its real estate services are so wanted.

But we’re a bit distracted from the issue at hand. So Zillow is collecting a lot of useful data. And, more importantly, it’s skillfully managing the information received. Here is a simple example: if there is a Starbucks within half a mile of a property object, Zillow increases its value by 20-30%. And if there is a popular health food supermarket like Whole Foods, the price can be increased by 50% (and sometimes even 60-70%).

The algorithm is clever enough and rarely wrong (almost never). It even has a name, which is Zestimate.

Figuratively speaking, Zestimate is a patented pricing formula and a real-life trademark. And over the last years, this trademark (a special calculation algorithm) has been actively influencing the pricing of real estate in the United States.

Wanna know more about Zillow? Follow the link and read our article about it.

Yes, Zillow has created a unique algorithm, and, in general, its business is booming right now. But none of this would have been possible without Big Data. And if you’re eager to join the ranks of the best real estate websites like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor as well (we’ll talk about the latter two in due course), you’ll have to work with a huge array of information too, there is no way to avoid it.

How does Zillow make money?

  • Commission. Of course, the main thing is the commission that agents pay for placing their property ads on the resource.
  • Zillow Advice. The Zillow owners showed some imagination and found another (and rather original) way to make money, namely, paid expert advice on property issues.
  • Premier Agent. If a real estate agent wants more options to promote himself as a professional, he must buy access to a premium account.
  • iBuying. Do you want to sell your home in no time? In the shortest possible term? Zillow’s real estate services offer what you need, namely, an iBuying feature. Of course, you’ll receive less money than you could if you agreed to wait, but sometimes the time factor is more important than money.
    • Zillow resells your property to other real estate companies and earns on the price difference.
  • Top results. Do you want your real estate ad to be at the top of search results? It’s quite possible if you’re willing to fork out!
    • By the way, it’s not just about the search engine of Zillow itself. The company has partnered with Yahoo, so we’re talking about a more scaled approach to promotion.
  • Paid real estate market reports. Knowledge and information can and should be monetized, the creators of Zillow believe, and they sell advanced reports to all interested parties.

Zillow’s business strategy

Now let’s see how Zillow became one of the best real estate agent websites, and what steps its owners took to conquer the market. Maybe you can adopt some of these practices too, who knows?

  • Internal promotion. It is useless to fight with competitors if your site has no visitors. So Zillow started out by attracting buyers and sellers of properties. It acted as follows (the scheme is simple but effective):
    • real estate agents were attracted by classical methods: through contextual advertising and promises of a huge number of ad views and leads (and promises were fulfilled, actually);
    • ordinary users were invited through SEO marketing and multi-stage retargeting.
  • External promotion. After gaining some prominence among agents and property owners, Zillow went on the offensive against its competitors. And it acted quite aggressively: to make a long story short, the company bought and absorbed all similar projects (other real estate websites), including Naked Apartments, RentJuice, Dotloop, and even Trulia (which is discussed below).


More related tips:

How To Choose The Right Pricing Strategy For Your Mobile App Project?

A Roadmap To Estimate The Cost Of Next-gen MeWe App Development

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