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Nearly all homebuyers start a home search online. Use our guide to research the best real estate websites for you. Real estate websites offer search tools and information that make it possible for homebuyers and renters to find homes with all the features they want. We explain what features to look for in different types of real estate websites.

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What real estate website features matter most to homebuyers?

Search features

Finding the perfect house is challenging, but real estate sites make it easier by giving you the option to search hundreds of homes from the comfort of your current home.

  • Map: If you are looking in a specific area, sites with an easy-to-use map feature will make your search much simpler. On some sites, you can limit your search to particular geographic locations even if they cross over city or county lines or multiple zip codes.
  • Filters: Once you’ve selected the area you want to live in, you can narrow your search by home type, price, the number of bedrooms/bathrooms, age, lot size and other features.
  • Keywords: Some sites also allow you to enter keywords when searching properties. If, for example, you want a house with hardwood floors, you can enter that as a search term.
  • Images: All sites will show you pictures of the property if the listing agent or owner has posted them. Some sites also feature virtual walk-throughs.

Update frequency and notifications

If you’re looking for a house in a competitive housing market, it can be beneficial to see new listings quickly. Real estate websites help you do so.

  • Frequency: Although different websites update their information at different rates, all of them will provide more up-to-date listings than older avenues, like print newspapers. Many sites update as often as every 15 minutes.
  • Email notifications: You can create e-mail alerts so you’ll receive notifications every time a new property matching your criteria is listed.
  • App-based notifications: Websites that have mobile apps can alert you to new listings, price drops and other changes through the app.

Market information

You can easily access financial information related to a specific property on real estate sites.

  • Property values: On the property listing page, you can see a breakdown of price per square foot, estimated property value, last selling price, changes to the listing price and other details about the value of the listed property.
  • Mortgage estimates: Mortgage estimating tools show you an estimated monthly mortgage for any property when you enter your down payment amount, approximate credit score and term of the loan you wish to take out.
  • Property taxes: Sites can pull data from public records to provide you with an estimated property tax for a given property. Knowing annual property taxes in advance can help you purchase a home that is affordable in the long term.

Neighborhood information

The location of a house or apartment is an important factor in choosing a new home. Real estate sites show you details to help you select the perfect neighborhood.

  • School district ratings: Websites use other online information to give you a sense of the quality of the school district where the property is. Different websites use different information to rank schools, so look at multiple sites to get an accurate picture.
  • Crime statistics: Although it is easy to find crime reports online, some websites make it easy to see crime near a particular property. Having information about a neighborhood’s safety can help you make the best choice when selecting a new home.
  • Local venues: If you’re moving to a new area, you probably aren’t familiar with what kind of businesses are near a house or apartment. Some sites show you nearby businesses and may even show reviews of those businesses.


Real estate websites list contact information for many types of professionals who work in real estate or a related industry. Some sites also have recommendations and/or reviews from previous customers.

  • Realtors: All sites will make it easy for you to find a local real estate agent who can show you local properties that are available for sale or rent.
  • Contractors: If you want to have upgrades or repairs done on your new home, you can use real estate website to find local contractors. These sites can also help you find someone who builds new homes.
  • Lenders: Both real estate websites and realtors can help you connect with local lenders to finance your new home.
  • Home inspectors: Before purchasing a new home, you will need to have it inspected by a professional. Use websites’ directories or forums to find a qualified person in your area.

Real estate partners

You should be aware of whether or not a real estate website partners with specific realtors or realty firms if you are using the site to get recommendations about a local professional.

  • Corporate site: Websites operated by real estate firms list all local properties for sale in your area, but they will only recommend realtors who work for them.
  • Fee-paying partners: Realtors can often pay a fee to be listed as premier agents on websites that are not associated with any specific real estate company.
  • No affiliation: Some sites do not offer realtors a membership or partner option. These sites might sell ad space so you will still see realtor listings on these sites.

What are different types of real estate websites?


Free sites are available for anyone to search. To use these sites, homebuyers do not need to purchase a subscription or have a real estate license. Posting a rental or house that is for-sale-by-owner may or may not be free.


Certain sites allow house hunters to search for properties in their area, but will only provide them with the exact address if they purchase a subscription.

Listing type

Some sites cater to those looking to purchase a home, while others serve to people looking to rent a house or apartment.


Most newspapers have online versions of their classified section, including local estate listing. These sites may be seen by a different audience than sites that are not associated with a certain location.

Who should use real estate websites?


Anyone looking to purchase a home will be able to see more options and narrow in on the perfect home by using these online resources.


Individuals who are not ready to buy can use these sites to find rental properties and to find information about neighborhoods where rental properties are located.


Homeowners can periodically check these sites to estimate their home’s value.

Real estate professionals

Real estate agents can use sites to advertise their services and build their reputation by answering questions in forums.

Real estate websites FAQ

What is a real estate website?

A real estate website provides an easy way for people to search online for homes they want to buy or rent. Real estate websites offer search tools like map views, filters, keywords and images to help narrow down your results. This way, your results only include properties with features that are important to you.

How do I find the value of my property?

You can use a variety of methods to find the value of your property, including:

  • Using online valuation tools
  • Asking a real estate agent for a comparative market analysis
  • Using the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s house price index calculator
  • Hiring an appraiser
  • Looking at comparable listings
Can a real estate agent buy their own listing?

Yes, under specific circumstances, a real estate agent can buy their own listing. The problem that realtors run into when buying their own listing is there is a conflict of interest because the realtor is representing both the buyer and seller. Simply put: What's stopping a realtor from placing the property up for far less than it is worth, buying it at a price they set and then selling it for more money?

Accordingly, realtors must contractually disclose they are buying the property to the seller. If a realtor fails to disclose this information, the seller may have grounds to sue. If all parties are contractually in agreement that the realtor can represent both the buyer and the seller, the realtor may be able to buy the home.

Can I get access to MLS listings?

Yes, you can access multiple listing service (MLS) listings. Although MLS listings are only available to realtors and affiliated professionals, you may access MLS listings by working with a real estate agent. You can even ask them to set up a private home search for you. You can also look through local real estate agents' websites that have MLS listings.

How do you find homes for sale?

The easiest way to find homes for sale is to use a real estate website. You can also:

  • Look through your local newspaper
  • Work with a real estate agent or broker
  • Drive around neighborhoods where you want to move
  • Ask your friends and family
Does no longer on the market mean sold?

Possibly, but not always. The property could be sold, the listing could be expired or the seller could have changed their mind. Sometimes, the seller wants to do a remodel to sell for a higher price.

Are home appraisals public record?

Home appraisals are not public record, but Federal Housing Administration (FHA) appraisals are sometimes an exception.

Can I buy a house online?

As far as using a website to fully purchase a house, no, you cannot buy a house online. Real estate websites allow you to search for homes but do not give you the option to buy a house on the website. To buy a home, you have to contact the real estate agent or seller of the home and work out how much you can afford with a lender if you will be taking out a mortgage.

How do I sell my house online?

There are two options for selling your home online.

  • Agent: You can work directly with a real estate agent to list your home on MLS websites.
  • Sale by owner: You can sell the home yourself by listing it one of the many real estate websites. You may also want to try social media sites and online classified advertising sites.

Not sure how to choose?

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    Real estate website author reviews


    HomeFinder.com collects listings from partner newspapers, realtors, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and other sources. It makes those listing available to consumers on a single website. The site has tools for homebuyers, renters and real estate professionals. The company was founded 1997 and is owned by Gannett Co. Inc., The McClatchy Co. and Tribune Co., with headquarters in Chicago.

    Read more about HomeFinder.com

    Move, Inc. owns and operates realtor.com. It is the official website of the National Association of Realtors and uses data from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

    Read more about realtor.com

    Redfin was established in 2006 in the Pacific Northwest with the goal of making the real estate industry more consumer-friendly. It is a real estate brokerage website whose agents do not work on commission, and its real estate website lets consumers search MLS listings. The company now operates in most U.S. states and advertises that it has helped consumers save $300 million.

    Read more about Redfin

    Trulia launched in 2005 and is operated by the Zillow Group. The company focuses on providing neighborhood information to house hunters and renters, but it also has features to help real estate professionals. Consumers can access Trulia online or by using the company’s iOS or Android app. The site lists both properties that are for sale and for rent.

    Read more about Trulia

    The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a real estate listing service and advertising agency for realtors and brokers. MLS does not list any properties, but instead allows realtors and brokers to advertise properties listed with them. Most real estate websites pull information from MLS.com.

    • Education: Those considering buying a house can use the MLS website to learn basic real estate details and terms. Their glossary page has definitions most consumers will find useful.
    • Partner websites: MLS works with several other websites to provide consumers with listing information on houses, rental properties, foreclosures, condo and other types of real estate.
    • Agent education: MLS partners with educational institutions and websites to offer online courses for real-estate related fields. Subjects include selling property, giving appraisals and performing home inspections.
    • New home search: Homebuyers who want to purchase a newly-built home can search for contractors and developers on MLS.com. The website will show houses and developments currently under construction.

    Zillow was launched by two former Microsoft executives in 2006. It is owned by the Zillow Group and makes a profit by selling ad space on the website and through its partner with U.S. newspapers to provide real estate searches on their websites. Zillow lists all types of real estate available for sale and rent.

    Read more about Zillow.com

    Homes.com has a long history in real estate advertising. It originally existed as Homes & Land Magazine, which began publication in 1973. The magazine began publishing digitally in the 1990s and later became Homes.com. The site is now owned by Dominion Enterprises and headquartered in Norfolk, Va. The site lists properties that are for sale and rent.

    Read more about Homes.com

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