Today’s real estate landscape is almost unrecognizable from what it was a mere five years ago.
Technology and the internet have changed the way we shop for homes: in many cases, you can go from browsing listings on a Friday afternoon to submitting an offer on a home by Sunday night — without ever setting foot inside.
Apps like Zillow and Trulia are giving buyers and sellers of residential real estate new tools for finding and selling homes.
Not only are they incredibly useful, but these apps are making money hand over fist. In the third quarter of 2021 alone, Zillow reported consolidated revenue of $1.7 billion.
So, how can you get a piece of that pie? One way is to build your own real estate app. But let’s back up a bit.
Making money off a real estate app is the last piece of the profit puzzle.
The first piece is understanding the basics, such as what a real estate app is, who are your competitors, and how they monetize real estate mobile apps.
We’ll also talk about the best features to include in your real estate app development and how to make sure you’re meeting your customers’ needs.
Let’s get started.
What is a Real Estate App?
At its simplest, a real estate app is like any other mobile app: it runs on your smartphone or tablet and performs a specific function.
In this case, that function is helping someone find or sell a home. You can also:
- tour properties
- check out the neighborhood
- hunt down open houses
- compare multiple listings at once
- view ratings and reviews of homes
- read broker reviews
- get advice on how much to offer for a property
- see details about local schools or crime statistics in the area
- sell your own property
- monitor how many people have viewed your listings
- contact an agent
- and more!
You can also use them to access market information, like average list prices or inventory levels.
And that’s just scratching the surface.
Real estate applications are especially attractive because they’re always up-to-date with the most recent information.
Unlike print publications, which have to be printed weeks ahead of time and don’t reflect new listing or sales data until after they go to press, real estate mobile apps can be updated at any time. Updates and changes appear automatically without the need for another printing or delivery process.
Some of these updates are as simple as price adjustments, but others may include new listings, photos, and home details.
On top of that, some apps offer advanced features like chatbots, live digital open houses, and voice-activated search.
What’s the difference between a real estate app and MLS?
Some people confuse real estate mobile apps with Multiple Listing Services (MLS).
While both provide a way for brokers and agents to share information about home listings, their intended users and how they operate are completely different:
The Multiple Listing Services or MLS was established in 1961 by the National Association of Realtors as an online database that houses information about homes for sale across the U.S. It replaced a paper-based system in which brokers hand-delivered or mailed printed copies of their listings to other brokers and agents.
Brokers use the MLS to list available properties, along with details including price, photos, property features, and property tax information. Some areas allow brokers to post open house times and dates on the MLS site as well.
The main users of the MLS are brokers and agents who subscribe to the service and can access listings and reports on their own searches, as well as their clients.
Real Estate Apps
On the other hand, unlike the MLS, real estate mobile apps are not limited to brokers and agents. Anyone can download a real estate mobile app, and many of them are your average homebuyers who want to search for homes on their own.
Apps give users access to information that’s specific to their local housing market, making it easy to shop using only a smartphone or computer.
Top Real Estate Mobile Apps 2022
Before you start diving into real estate app development, you have to know who you’re up against. Below are some of the major players in the real estate business:
There are several big-name players in the world of real estate applications, but the Zillow app is one of the biggest. The Zillow Group has its fingers in several pies, including buying and selling homes, home improvement, mortgages, rentals, and property management.
Zillow has both a free real estate mobile app that includes listings from participating agents and brokers in the US real estate market, along with access to mortgage information and local schools, as well as a Zillow Premier Agent app that’s designed for individual real estate agents who want to stand out from the crowd by marketing themselves to users of the free app.
Trulia is another popular real estate mobile app that offers home listings in various cities across the U.S. The company also provides access to neighborhood guides, research tools, interactive maps, school data, rental listings, and Trulia Voices – a unique feature among real estate websites featuring user-submitted Q&A plus articles about life in local neighborhoods.
Like Zillow, Trulia has both a free real estate mobile app you can download from Google Play or the App Store as well as paid apps for agents and brokers who want to brand themselves through the platform.
Home Bay is a real estate app that aims to make the home buying process easier for both buyers, agents and property management companies by focusing on ease of use, transparency, teamwork, and speed.
Using Home Bay’s mobile or web app, prospective buyers can communicate with their agent about property listings they’re interested in through the app without ever having to leave it or share personal information with the agent until they’re ready.
Aspiring homeowners can download Home Bay’s free mobile app from Google Play or the App Store so they have access to details about available homes including price, photos, floor plans, local schools, open house times and dates.
Redfin is an app that combines real estate industry listings from the MLS with its own internal data to give users additional information about homes. The Redfin Mobile App lets buyers search for property listings using filters, schedule showings online, chat with their real estate agent through the app, and even connect directly to a lender.
All of these features are free, but Redfin does offer paid subscriptions to agents and real estate companies who want extra exposure for their listings. Redfin’s free real estate mobile app is available on both Android and iOS devices.
Realtor.com is the official real estate website of the National Association of Realtors. It has a mobile app that’s available for both iOS and Android users, as well as desktop browsers, so buyers can search for homes from just about any device they have at their fingertips.
The Realtor.com app includes listings from participating agents in the U.S., information about schools, open houses, home value estimators, tips for staging your home to sell, exclusive deals on services related to buying or selling a home, and advanced real estate search tools designed to help prospective homeowners find properties that fit their needs perfectly based on things like commute time to work or school districts.
Neighborhood Scout’s mobile app is available for iOS and Android devices. The company also offers a website where users can search for homes, as well as tools designed to help people find the best home based on their own unique criteria such as affordability, safety, property taxes and more.
A feature that sets Neighborhood Scout apart from other real estate mobile apps is its Crime Risk Report, which provides information about local crime statistics so prospective homeowners can learn about possible safety risks before choosing to buy a property in an area known for higher than average crime rates.
Homesnap works a lot like Pinterest in that it has a photo-sharing component where people can save images of homes they’re interested into a searchable personal collection. Users have the option to narrow their searches by property type, bedroom count, number of bathrooms, location and price range.
Agents who want to use Homesnap for marketing purposes can do so entirely free of charge thanks to sponsored listings that give brokers or real estate teams the ability to promote certain properties on the app. The company also offers an agent profile page that prospective clients can view before choosing an agent with whom they’d like to work.
OfferMarket is a mobile app available for Android devices that enables users to find homes, discuss offers with their real estate agent or property owners, schedule showings, and more. A unique feature of the app is that it allows people to submit an offer on a home without ever having seen it in person first. Buyers can request up to three different types of inspections through the OfferMarket platform before submitting their final offer.
Who uses real estate mobile apps?
The next part of making money from a real estate mobile app is learning who is likely to be using your app.
Here are some eye-popping numbers from the National Association of Realtors’ 2020 Consumer Profile:
- A whopping 97% of home buyers use the internet to find their dream property.
- 3 out of 4 buyers use mobile devices to find their dream properties.
- 62% of home buyers rank mobile search as one of their most valuable real estate resources.
- 20% of home buyers use their smartphone to search for and hire an agent.
What do these numbers tell us? Well, they show us that apps can be a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of local real estate trends. They also tell us that many home buyers are likely to download a real estate app before they even start searching for a new property.
What’s more, around 23% of current homebuyers are now millennials versus just 18% being younger boomers.
On top of that, 9 in 10 millennials own phones, and they use them for everything: searching for jobs, finding friends, connecting on social media and, yes, finding homes to buy.
However, millennials aren’t the only ones hunting down homes on their phones. Everyone from older boomers to Gen Z and younger is increasingly using their personal gadgets to find homes.
Here are more interesting statistics from YouGovAmerica:
- 21% of Americans feel comfortable buying a house without seeing it in person. That’s 1 in 5 of homebuyers.
- Americans between the ages of 18 – 44 are likely to be comfortable buying property after only seeing it through virtual tours or online photos.
- 41% of home buying Americans would rather use apps instead of agents (38%).
The data is clear: people are increasingly relying on apps to find homes they want to buy.
How do real estate apps make money?
Before you can decide what to include in your real estate app, you need to decide your monetization model.
There are lots of ways people can make money on apps, but here are some of the most common strategies:
Charging subscription fees
Real estate agents are often required to pay a monthly fee to use the app, but they also have the option of paying for certain premium features or services. For instance, some apps give agents access to advanced analytics tools that help them find better leads after having their property listed. Others offer brokers and teams the ability to create branded profile pages that are prominently featured on the app.
Charging real estate agents and users one-time fees
You can also charge for your apps by offering them as one-off purchases rather than monthly subscriptions.
Charging users per search
A more recent trend in mobile apps is charging users for each time they perform a search through the app. This strategy gives real estate professionals another option that lets them pay only when certain features are used, but it may not be the best choice if you want to drive users toward more long-term engagements.
You may be surprised at how much people will pay to get in front of your audience. But the truth is, there’s a lot of money in real estate and those who can afford to market themselves with banner ads and even videos will pay top dollar for that prime spot on your app.
Aside from paid ads, you may be able to strike lucrative partnerships with other companies in your field. For example, a home decorating app might partner with a real estate developer who wants to reach an audience of potential customers. Meanwhile, a financial services firm may want to reach people who are in the market for new homes and mortgages.
You can add new revenue streams to your real estate app by offering exclusive content, like advanced analytics tools or detailed neighborhood information.
This strategy also lets you connect with other professionals in related fields — homebuilders, for instance — who want to reach the same people.
Did you know that Zillow’s revenue comes primarily from advertisements? It’s a free app, but they get paid big bucks to advertise people’s ads on there.
Why does it work?
Because Zillow focused on building a top-notch real estate app first.
They began by building the best way to find listings and get details about homes for sale in local markets, which has meant more people use their app than competitors’ apps. This makes Zillow a key source of revenue for other sites that want to advertise properties by listing on their site.
The lesson here is to focus on building great features before you start worrying about revenue.
The Best Features for Real Estate Apps
Below are the most important features users look for in real estate applications:
1. Property Listings
Users expect to find a mobile version of the MLS listings, where they can search for homes by location, price range and more. This is typically combined with some key features that make it easier to explore listing data on apps. These might include:
- The ability to view all listing data and home values in an area at once or filter them by type of property (single-family home, rental properties, condo, etc.), plus whether the property has sold recently or if there are photos available.
- Detailed information about each listing’s tax history, previous home prices, and how long the current owner has had the property on the market so users know what kind of deal they’re getting
- Zoning restrictions and homeowner association fees so buyers can compare listed properties with any they’re interested in to see if there are any restrictions that might affect their ability to build houses or fences
- A map function so users can pinpoint listings by location, so they know how far they are from schools, shopping centers, or other amenities.
2. Detailed Information About Properties
Most real estate mobile apps include plenty of property information these days, but it’s important for buyers to have access to detailed property reports that give them accurate information about the home’s construction quality, energy efficiency, and more. This includes:
- Property details that show users where all of the utility shut-offs are located on a property if someone is offering power turn-on through their app
- Home inspection records because every buyer wants to know what kind of shape the house is in
- The square footage of the property, along with each room’s dimensions. If an agent can match a floor plan to the purchased house, buyers are more likely to be interested in it.
- Relevant info about the neighborhood, natural disasters, and various factors that can affect homeownership
3. Photos of Each Property Available for Sale
Photos of listings are important because they go a long way toward giving users a better idea of how different properties are laid out on the inside and outside.
Users should have access to enough photos so they can get a sense of whether or not this is somewhere they want to live or buy as an investment, plus some that highlight features like built-in bookshelves or fireplaces.
4. Ability to Schedule Showings and Lock In Offers
Real estate mobile apps can be excellent tools for making deals happen between buyers and sellers, because it allows them to schedule in-person showings quickly and easily.
5. Property Documents Available for Download
Buyers want quick access to property reports but also to bank statements and other documents that might be required for a loan or a mortgage. They can generally download these directly from the app instead of going through the entire process of getting them from the listing agent.
6. Mortgage Calculator
A mortgage calculator is another way apps help buyers narrow down what they can afford, based on their income and assets as well as any money they’ve saved up for a down payment, closing costs, and moving expenses if necessary.
The ability to figure out different monthly house payments gives users an idea of how much they would have left over each month if they buy one property instead of renting somewhere else — information that’s useful whenever there’s a big life change like this one.
7. Virtual Property Tours and Live Streams
Virtual property tours, live-streamed open houses, and VR technology with 360-degree views gives real estate apps a massive edge. There’s nothing like being able to “walk” through a home and see how it actually looks instead of depending on the seller’s words or edited photos/videos.
In addition, live-streamed open houses and virtual tours are excellent tools for people who don’t have time to physically show up at an open house or are not interested in these time-consuming activities.
[Read more about the difference between virtual and augmented reality.]
Of course, the final list of features you include on your app will depend on what kind of real estate listings you handle and who you’re trying to appeal to as a target audience. But this list can help you get started with real estate mobile app development.
How much does it cost to make a real estate mobile app?
It depends significantly on what you require from your app, but it can be anywhere from $10, 000 to $100, 000 or more.
Some factors that will influence the price are:
- UX/UI design
- Tech stack
- Graphics and artwork
- App features and functionality
- Native development
- Testing and quality assurance
- Project management
- Artificial intelligence
- App modifications that may be necessary after release
- Ongoing support
Collaborating with a reputable app development company can help you avoid some of the potential pitfalls while saving money in the end. For instance, you can avoid:
- Confusing and wasteful designs
- Inefficient code resulting in a poor user experience
- The high price of going over budget to complete app development
- Incorrect pricing for recurring costs like hosting, support and maintenance.
- Buying out-of-date or overpriced assets
- Developing an app that’s easy to crack and hack
- Spending too much time and money on coding and testing
- Launching an app that’s not compatible with certain types of phones or operating systems
Choosing the right app development partner is critical to the success of your app, and it can make or break whether or not you actually profit from your investment.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to build an app like Zillow?
Zillow has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in their real estate mobile app development and is able to collect user data and monetize through ads.
Without that investment, you can expect to pay about $30, 000 to $100,000 and more for a good developer. Naturally, this depends on how much functionality you want as well as additional features like augmented reality, currency converter, and different types of calculators.
Can you make money on Zillow?
Yes, Zillow is a for-profit company and the most valuable real estate site in the world.
How much does it cost to develop real estate applications?
It depends on what you want your app to do. A basic, custom, native app can start at $20,000 and go up from there. These apps have a wide range of potential features and functionalities. The price of real estate app development varies according to the cost of working with each individual company and its technology.
How do property apps make money?
The best apps are free to download but use in-app purchases to generate revenue. They also profit from sponsored listings, ads, and more. Others have counterparts in real estate sites, so everyone can use them no matter what gadget they’re using.
Does Zillow make a profit?
Absolutely. In Q2 2021, the company reported a net income of $9.6 million from consolidated revenue of $1.3 billion.
What is Zillow’s annual revenue?
Here’s a year over year breakdown of annual Zillow revenue from Macrotrends:
- $5.054B (2021)
- $3.34B (2020)
- $2.743B (2019)
- $1.334B (2018)
Dom & Tom: Real Estate App Development Services
As a web and mobile app development company, we are also experienced at developing apps for businesses in a wide range of industries, including:
- Real estate
- Medical and healthcare
- Sports and recreation
- Professional services
- And many more
We will work side-by-side with you to develop your own real estate app that doesn’t just make your users happy, but grows your business, too.
If you’re up for a quick chat about real estate app development, contact us today!