If you’ve ever been involved in a conversation about home prices and real estate, chances are, you’ve heard of Zillow.
Much like other online platforms created in the late 1990s and early 2000s — think Amazon which primarily sold books and Facebook which was only available to college students — what began as a specialized site has grown into something much larger that now includes home loans, closing services, and Zillow Premier Agents. Zillow also owns other companies, including Trulia, Out East, StreetEasy, HotPads, and Showing Time.
When you start your home search or decide to list your home, chances are, you’ve checked out what Zillow or Trulia has to offer, but there are similar companies that can facilitate the buying and selling process — and some may even be a better fit!
What is Zillow?
Zillow was founded in 2004, as a response to the difficulties co-founder and CEO Rich Barton faced as he tried to find information on houses when he was looking to buy a bigger home for his growing family. Its website launched in 2006 with Zestimates (home value estimates) and data on more than 40 million homes in the U.S. — today Zillow has over 130 million listings.
Since its inception, Zillow has become a massive player in the online real estate industry. According to Statista, Zillow is the leading real estate and rental website in the U.S. based on monthly website visits, receiving 36 million unique visits a month as of October 2021.
These are a few of the services that Zillow offers:
- Real estate search engine: Zillow’s search engine allows you to narrow their over 130 million property listings to a specific area. You can choose to view homes in the list feature or map feature. You can also search for rental homes and apartments on their app and website.
- Home listings: Zillow’s listings include the Zestimate, photos, listing description, school information, comparable home sales, maps, and more.
- Agent finder: Zillow’s agent finder allows you to search for agents by location, name, specialty, and language.
- Zillow Premier Agent: This service allows real estate agents to advertise with Zillow Group and gain additional exposure to users.
- Zestimate: The Zillow Zestimate is a home value estimate based on Zillow’s proprietary algorithm.
Previously, Zillow offered an iBuyer (instant buyer) service called Zillow Offers that bought homes based on the Zestimate. This service allowed the company to make a cash offer to sellers, fix up the property, and then sell it. But Zillow eventually lost $881 million from the venture and shut Zillow Offers down in late 2021.
What is Zillow most known for?
While Zillow offers many real estate services, the company is perhaps most known for its popular “Zestimate” home value estimating tool. In a 2016 interview with GeekWire, co-founders Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink said that when they were searching for homes, they had to compile their own public data and do the math to figure out what a property should cost. They decided to create an algorithm that would do the work for them.
According to GeekWire, in 2016, the Zestimate had a median error rate of 7.9% nationally, with that number varying across states and neighborhoods. Today, the nationwide median error rate is 1.9% for on-market homes and 6.9% for off-market homes.
The Zestimate is just one example of an automated valuation model (AVM) — an algorithm that pulls together a variety of publicly-available data along with user-submitted data to calculate an immediate home value estimate. This technology is now widely available, with other real estate tech companies offering home value estimators.
HomeLight’s free Home Value Estimator gives you a real-world ballpark estimate in less than two minutes, so you can find out what your home might be worth.
How does Zillow make money?
It’s free to search for homes on Zillow as well as list homes for sale, so you may be wondering “how does Zillow make money?” The company makes money from high volume ad sales on their platform — property managers and Premier Agents as well as mortgage lenders and other businesses pay to advertise properties and services — as well as from their home loan program. Rental managers also pay weekly to list their properties through Zillow with the cost varying depending on the state.
Does Zillow own Trulia?
Zillow purchased Trulia, a former competitor, in 2015 for $2.5 billion. The Zillow Group maintains both sites separately. Where Zillow is known for its detailed house information and Zestimate, Trulia offers in-depth information about the area and neighborhoods. Listings feature a map that filters for places to shop and eat and the “What Locals Say about…” section features real Trulia user comments about the area, including filters for Community, Dog Owners, Parents, and Commute.
Do Zillow and Trulia cost money?
For the majority of people who use Zillow and Trulia, it doesn’t cost any money. For Premier Agents who pay for advertising and landlords listing a property, there is a cost associated with the platform.
9 of the top alternatives to Zillow and Trulia
Since Zillow’s inception, many other companies have built on and improved the model that they pioneered. Many real estate websites use algorithms and data from public and private records to make home buying and selling much easier.
We’ve compiled a list of nine top alternatives to Zillow and Trulia that allow you to tailor your home search to your specific situation.
HomeLight is a technology platform that gives hundreds of thousands of homebuyers and sellers the opportunity to partner with top real estate agents. HomeLight’s Agent Match platform is free to use and generates the names of top-performing agents in your area that will help you sell your home faster and for more money.
Rather than listing all of the agents, HomeLight analyzes over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to make sure we’re recommending the most experienced and qualified agents based on your needs. Agents don’t pay to be listed, so you can rest assured that you’re getting the best match for your individual situation.
The HomeLight Home Loans program lets you make a cash-like offer and complete the financial underwriting process upfront so you know exactly what you can afford. This means you can head to the proverbial negotiation table with confidence — and the ability to potentially waive your financing contingency.
For sellers, HomeLight offers Simple Sale, a fast and simple way to receive a no-obligation, all-cash offer on your home.
You can also receive a real-world home value estimate in less than two minutes with HomeLight’s free Home Value Estimator. After answering seven simple questions, our algorithm goes to work and uses housing market data to give you a ballpark idea of your home’s value.
HomeLight also offers a wealth of resources in our Buyer’s Resource Center and Seller’s Resource Center. If you have a question, chances are we’ve found an answer through extensive research and in-depth agent interviews.
While Zillow is known as a real estate marketplace, Redfin is considered a discount brokerage, offering sellers a 1% listing fee (with some fine print, of course). Founded in 2004, the Seattle-based company has a large database of home listings that it updates every five minutes.
Redfin’s website also offers a variety of resources like an affordability calculator, home buying and selling guides, and information on market trends. With RedfinNow, Redfin will buy your home for cash. And for high-end homes, Redfin Premier provides exclusive services that offer the convenience of a concierge.
Realtor.com is the listing site trusted by Realtors®, real estate agents who are members of the National Association of Realtors. Operated by Move, Inc., realtor.com offers various home buying resources, like a Mortgage Calculator, Refinance Calculator, and the opportunity to get preapproved for a mortgage.
While it doesn’t offer the detailed neighborhood information that Trulia does, it does offer a “Get Local Info” section where you can enter the name of a city and get information about home values, the local housing market, schools, and amenities.
If you’re looking for a deal, foreclosure.com might be the place for you. Their nationwide database is updated at least two times each day (as opposed to other sites that update weekly or monthly).
This site does require a subscription and a monthly payment of $39.80 after the seven-day free trial. But members can see auction information, like the minimum bid and the auction date among other information. This site also lists whether a property is in bankruptcy, preforeclosure, or foreclosure.
RealtyTrac is another subscription service that offers access to pre-foreclosure, foreclosure, auction, and bank-owned properties — you can even filter by these options depending on your goals or investment strategy. With a subscription or free trial, you can unlock their Deal-O-Meter which will give you an estimated profit. You’ll also be able to see property debt info, equity and profit potential, and ownership information. After the free trial, RealtyTrac is $49.95 per month.
Homesnap lets you snap a picture of a home, whether it’s on the market or not, and reveal details about the home, including estimated home value, photos, and school and neighborhood information. One unique feature on their listings is the ability to calculate your commute time and, if you follow the Explore This Neighborhood link, view a map that includes restaurants and attractions in the area.
While Trulia prominently features neighborhood information, if you’re looking to get into the details, NeighborhoodScout is the place for you, offering detailed demographic data, appreciation and housing market trends, crime rates (including your chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime or property crime), and public school ratings.
You can also use their Match Any Neighborhood feature by clicking the puzzle piece icon to find similar neighborhoods throughout the country. When you find a neighborhood you love, you can do a home search that directs you to Homes.com to continue your search. If you’re not sure where you want to live, you can use their CREATE feature to select criteria and get matched with a neighborhood (more robust features are available with a paid subscription).
Homes.com boasts “The most homes. The best agents. The right tools.” Its listings include all of the standard information but also include school ratings powered by GreatSchools as well as Points of Interest in the home’s city and neighborhood. Their menu offers how-to guides for buying, selling, financing, and more. Homes.com also offers a home value estimate to help you begin the process of buying, selling, or refinancing.
This site gives people who are selling their house themselves the chance to list it on the multiple listing service (MLS) for a fee that varies depending on the package. For house hunters, this is a great place to find “for sale by owner” homes in your area.
It should be noted that Zillow allows homeowners to post FSBO listings on their website while many similar sites do not.
You have lots of great options when buying or selling a home
No matter what you’re looking for in a real estate search engine — whether it’s robust neighborhood data, the ability to search FSBO homes, or check home data with the snap of a picture — chances are you’ll find it. While Zillow is a great option for many, there are similar companies that have refined the home search or sale process, so there’s something for everyone.
But no matter how much research you do on your own, one of the best ways to successfully navigate the ever-changing real estate landscape is to partner with a top-rated agent in your area. HomeLight analyzes millions of home sales to match you with a high-performing real estate agent who can help you sell your home faster and for more money, or find your dream home.
Good luck with your home searching or selling!
Header Image Source: (Drew Dau / Unsplash)