The Best Apps to Help Consumers Navigate the Housing Market

Whether you’re renting or buying, these apps can help you find your dream home or apartment.

Buying or a renting a new home can be an overwhelming experience. There’s a ton of research involved: you need to find a neighborhood, figure out where the schools are, the home or apartment needs to have certain amenities and so on.

But it only has to be as stressful as you make it. Mobile apps for house hunting are growing and they can be valuable assets to your search. But how do you know what app is right for you? ESTATENVY reached out to Amanda McMillan, a real estate advisor for @properties and CEO of Chicago Home Partners, and Ryan Storck, a real estate agent with Spaces Real Estate, to get a better idea of what apps work best when you’re looking to buy or rent.

If you’re buying

McMillan said there’s a ton of data out there and while that’s awesome, it tends to be very overwhelming for consumers. When working with clients, she mostly deals with sales, she said she recommends one of three mobile apps: Zillow, RedFin and Realtor.com.

Zillow is a third-party vendor app that isn’t tied to any one real estate company. “It feels very unbiased to people,” she said. She said the app itself is very user friendly and includes a lot of location based stuff, but the shortcoming is that not every listing from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) – a national database of listings—will be available.

“Zillow makes its money by selling advertising space. If a company chooses not to purchase a relationship with Zillow then that data won’t be in there. It’s not a direct feed from the MLS. They’ll see a good amount, but not everything,” she said.

McMillan said RedFin, a brokerage app, cures that Zillow issue. McMillan said the app

has a direct line to the MLS and gives the user a bigger picture out there. RedFin uses its own agents and support staff to work with a buyer throughout the entire process.

McMillan said that sometimes she will send clients to RedFin just to see what’s out there and not necessarily to work with them.

But Realtor.com cures both the RedFin and Zillow problem: It’s an unbiased third-party vendor with a direct feed to the MLS. The only problem is that they’re still kind of behind the times, she said. She said there’s been a tremendous push to get up to date and when they do revamp everything they’ll have a chance to trump both Zillow and RedFin.

Storck added that Homesnap is another good app to use because it’s the most up to date information you’ll get about the housing market. He said that Zillow or Realtor.com might have a delay in its listings. Homesnap is interesting in that it allows anyone to take a photo of any home and it access the MLS and the public records data to tell you everything about the home.

If you’re renting

Storck said two apps really stand out for his clients who are looking to rent: Hotpads and Apartments.com.

Hotpads is part of the Zillow network of apps—Zillow, Hotpads and Trulia are all part of the Zillow network. The app has a user-friendly map view of all the listings so it’s easy to see what’s available. Storck added that it helps the client see what’s available and where, so they can plan your attack in specific neighborhoods.

Apartments.com is another good app, he said, because it’s easy to navigate and there’s a lot of information. The only downside to that is they allow paid advertising. So if you’re looking for an apartment in a specific neighborhood, the paid listings would come first and you’d have to sift through before you found what you were initially looking for.

Should you be using multiple apps?

The quick answer to that is no. McMillan emphasized that more apps doesn’t mean a better experience.

“If you have one [app] that you enjoy and one that’s giving people the data they need, going to 10 different apps and 10 different websites is not going to help. It’s going to hinder the search,” she said.

McMillan said to pick an app that you like and use it as a supplemental piece while working with a real estate advisor.

Storck agreed. He said often times you’re going to find the same properties listed but they’re promoted by different relators. The key is to find the multiple listings from the same relator.

“Find one relator with a lot of listings, call that person and chances are they have access to everything anyway,” he said.

The apps mentioned in this story are free and available on iOS and Android devices.