Nine out of ever 10 prospective homebuyers today rely on the Internet during their home-buying journey, with over half turning to the Internet at the start of the process. Research by the National Association of REALTORS®, Google and others show that the continued increase in consumer use of online housing sites cuts across age and other demographics.
The Internet has become a real estate information powerhouse, even while listing accuracy is sometimes less than perfect. Consumers remain either undaunted by the potential for inaccuracies or remain unaware that potential for error exists. Regardless, the end result is a very competitive environment for online home-buying sites hoping to capture the attention of consumers. With the mammoth generation of millennials teetering on the cusp of home ownership, the trend for shopping online—including house shopping—remains open.
There are a number of ways to view a website's popularity and success, including web traffic. Many of the top real estate sites, beyond the initial "giants," are focused more on rental units rather than actual homes for sale. Here is a look at 10 of the top real estate websites geared toward helping consumers find their next home. Rankings are based on total web traffic, using a blend of global and U.S. traffic-ranking statistics.
- Zillow. With an estimated 36 million unique visitors every month, Zillow tops most real estate website lists. As the industry giant, Zillow offers information not only for prospective home buyers, but current home owners as well, even when a property is off the market. The company's popular "zestimate," while still considered by most industry professionals to be lacking in accuracy, has served the copy well as a key driver in bringing consumers to the site.
- Trulia. Keeping it in the family, with an estimated monthly traffic total of 23 million unique visitors, the Zillow-owned real estate site Trulia remains popular with consumers, despite its parent company's long shadow. Homebuyers accessing Trulia can expect a site emphasizing neighborhoods and amenities.
- REALTOR.com. Some industry experts consider Realtor.com to be the second most-popular real estate website nationwide following Zillow's purchase of Trulia, with just under 20 million unique visitors to the site each month. The site, owned by the National Association of Realtors, is operated by a Move.com subsidiary known as RealSelect, an arrangement that has been in place since 1996. Buyers visiting REALTOR.com expect accurate listing information as well as a wealth of information on the home-buying process.
- RedFin. Founded in 2004, the RedFin.com site claims to have been the first to offer visitors map-based home searches. The company has since expanded into other areas of the real estate industry, including reduced-services brokering. With about 6 million visitors monthly, the site emphasizes the need to build relationships with prospective clients.
- Homes.com. The site continues to grow, with about 5 million unique visitors each month. In addition to a home search, the site offers other resources, including real estate apps for consumers as well as professionals.
- Apartmentguide.com. With an estimated 2.5 million visitors each month, Apartmentguide.com has found its niche with prospective apartment dwellers who are not yet interested in, or ready for, home ownership. The site prides itself in being first-to-market with mobile apps on iPad, iPhone and Android. The site's complex search capabilities allow the site visitor to sort by a wide number of parameters.
- Hot Pads. This site has built a reputation for its apartment home rentals, but is also popular for its sale listings. The site offers would-be home owners a wealth of information with a variety of localized content and welcomes about 1.75 million visitors monthly.
- ZipRealty. The ZipRealty site emphasizes home ownership through a sales search among local MLS listings, but also reveals information on neighborhoods and schools. It offers existing home sellers a market analysis in helping them to price their home. The site sees about 1.6 million visitors monthly.
- Apartments.com. As its name clearly implies, this site offers consumers information on available apartment homes to lease. It is geared toward those interested in renting an apartment, but also has information on leases available for condos, town homes and houses. About 1.5 consumers visit the site each month.
- Rent.com. The Rent.com site not only provides a home search for new apartment rentals, but also offers other resources, such as detailed apartment reviews and 3-D floor layouts. The site has about 1.4 unique visitors each month.
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