The demand for real estate application development has never been higher than it is today. Due to the global pandemic, more people are discovering new ways to buy and sell their properties to skip the hassle of in-person interactions and months of stress. As Forbes states, 95% of buyers search for homes online, and 51% purchase properties that they have found on the Internet. As people are seeking to make the entire selling and buying process less complex, yet more effective, the need for real estate app development services won’t fall into decline.

Still, many business executives dismiss the idea of developing a real estate app, mainly because they feel uncertain whether they can get access to the listing data. In the United States, the data can be retrieved from a Multiple Listing Service (MLS). However, MLS is not available in every country to help with buying and selling properties, which appears to be an obstacle for real estate companies. 

Based on the 6-year experience in real estate app development, JatApp has prepared an article on how to handle the challenge mentioned and transform a home buying experience following the example of industry giants – Zillow, Trulia, and Opendoor. 

What’s the difference between Zillow, Trulia, and Opendoor?

Most customers who want to purchase or sell property are using real estate apps like Zillow, Trulia, and Opendoor. Zillow and its subsidiary, Trulia, ensure an on-demand buying and selling experience along with the seamless end-to-end service, while Opendoor helps customers to determine a fair price for their homes and speed the selling process.

Opendoor is a brokerage company that acts as an intermediary between sellers and buyers helping to make real estate transactions happen. The company purchases properties off-market with the goal of reselling them to homebuyers. 


Opendoor app functionality

Opendoor app functionality


Unlike Opendoor, Zillow and Trulia, are real estate marketplaces that provide rental and for-sale listings, connecting buyers with listing agents. Both online platforms aggregate the real estate data from numerous MLSs – databases created by brokers to share home listings. Trulia and Zillow have similar functionality. The main difference is that Zillow navigates app users through all home buying stages, while Trulia is designed to facilitate the process of property searching. 


Zillow and Trulia apps

Examples of Zillow and Trulia app functionalities


If you’re looking to build a house hunting app, the first thing you need to decide is whether you’ll follow an Opendoor example and become a brokerage company, or opt for a real estate marketplace approach like Zillow and Trulia. In order to determine which option suits you best, let’s discuss business models commonly used for these approaches. 

What’s similar between the 3 mentioned applications is that neither Zillow and Trulia nor Opendoor charge homebuyers and sellers for accessing and posting their listings. But how are companies able to provide their services free of charge and still make profits? Let’s have a look at their business models. 

Advertising sales to property management agencies

For example, both Zillow and Trulia make money by allowing property management agencies to advertise their rental listings. It’s worth mentioning that property rentals present a more important business opportunity for both companies. This is because tenants tend to move to apartments or houses with better conditions frequently, so homeowners have to invest in advertising to keep their places occupied. 

Premier services to brokers

Real estate marketplaces provide premier services to agents, connecting them with active sellers and buyers. These services include tools that help to build customer loyalty and ads that improve the visibility of the agent’s listings to homebuyers. Zillow, for example, offers a customer relationship management (CRM) system that enables real estate agencies to track customers that have shown some interest in cooperating with them. The pricing for premier services typically varies by zip code. 


iBuyer companies rely on technology to get an instant home, allowing users to quickly receive cash for selling their real estate. iBuyers, like Opendoor, earn profits from the difference between what they purchase and resell the property for. Such companies also charge fees from sellers for providing repairing services after they move. The money for these services is deducted at a real estate closing so that a seller does not have to pay out of their pocket.

Ad sales to businesses 

Another popular model is to sell advertising space to companies that want to reach the customers of real estate businesses. Such companies include, but are not limited to general contractors, interior designers, and home organization retailers. For example, mortgage lenders pay Zillow for the ad views and for the number of times users click on their ads attached on the real estate website.

Now that we’ve covered the most popular business models, it’s time to learn how well-known real estate portals access their listing data.

How do Opendoor, Zillow, and Trulia get the data for their listings? 

There are three common ways house hunting companies gain access to property listings: aggregate the property data from local MLSs, work with the listings syndication platforms, or let users and other agencies publish their listings for free

  • Local MLSs

In the United States, MLSs allow real estate companies like Opendoor, Trulia, and Zillow to repost their home listings on their websites. While Zillow and Trulia need to sign data-sharing agreements to access the listings, Opendoor doesn’t have to go through all this hassle. As a brokerage company, it can freely use the real estate data, thanks to its realtors’ MLS membership. 

  • The listings syndication companies

Once the real estate platforms operate at the national level, it can be increasingly difficult to sign agreements with thousands of the local MLSs. That’s why such portals cooperate with national syndication companies to directly obtain the listing data. This source of real estate data can be readily used by home buying companies that operate in countries with no MLSs. 

  • Users and other companies’ posts

Another way to access listings without depending on MLSs is to allow users and agencies that represent rental property or construction companies to publish their listings free of charge. Zillow, for example, lets users that choose the “For Sale by Owner” method make their listing posts on its platform. 

What home buying app features are currently in demand? 

Once you know how to work out the issue with listing data, you may start wondering how to build a real estate app that would be competitive in today’s market. For your convenience, we’ve made a brief roundup of real estate mobile app features that are highly needed in 2022. 

  • Filtered search feature

Filtered search is crucial for ensuring a positive app user experience. It’s critical to structure the data for listings to show criteria that are relevant to homebuyers. You can include not only basic search criteria, such as price range or location, but also other important details, like in-unit laundry, year built, on-site parking, and such. This will give users a better understanding of what it’s like to live in a house they’ve selected.


Zillow filtered search
An example of Zillow filtered search feature

  • Style quiz feature 

Going through hundreds of home listings can be a real headache for homebuyers. Nomad Homes decided to change that by matching users with the most fitting properties. The app asks clients to take a quiz to understand what types of homes they are searching for and then suggests the most suitable options.  


Nomad Homes style quiz

An example of personalized buying experience with Nomad Homes ‘style quiz’ 

  • “Saved homes” feature

A “saved homes” feature is definitely worth including to keep users coming back. Such functionality allows clients not only to keep their favorite homes in one place but also enables real estate agents to better understand customers’ preferences, so that they can suggest similar options.  


Zillow save search

Zillow “save search” functionality

  • Share button

People who buy a home together are often willing to share their thoughts on real estate they find on the Internet. Pressing a share button allows them to send each other properties they love. The more homes users share, the better the AI-driven technology can get at determining the most suitable options for them, creating a more customized buying experience. 


Zillow share feature

Zillow share feature

  • Graphical data presentation 

The best way to introduce home listings to clients is to present them visually. Providing a visual breakdown of the information enables users to detect patterns that are hard to reveal otherwise. Let’s take Trulia as an example. The app can show the crime data statistics in the property neighborhood in the form of a heatmap. 


Trulia crime heatmap

Trulia crime heatmap

  • Home valuation feature 

More sellers across the United States are turning to technology to find out the price for their houses and sell them without brokers. Companies, like Zillow Offers and Opendoor, invite home sellers to enter the data on their real estate online. The information is then processed by an algorithm that makes an offer. If a seller is satisfied with the offer, then the iBuyer’s representative views the home and decides whether the price adjustments are needed. In such a way, the technology enables users to list their homes for a reasonable price and close a deal more quickly. 


Opendoor home value estimator

An example of Opendoor home value estimator

  • Virtual tours

Virtual home tours have been around for several years now, but the global pandemic has accelerated their widespread adoption. These days, listing agents and homeowners opt for 3D tours to provide homebuyers with a contact-free experience that is more immersive than photos alone. Listings that have virtual tours receive twice as many views on Zillow. The platform allows brokers and sellers to make virtual tours of the property for sale from their mobile devices at no cost. 


Zillow 3D home

An example of a 3D tour created with Zillow 3D Home

  • CRM features

The housing trends report shows that broker’s responsiveness is extremely important to 80% of homebuyers. So it’s no surprise why real estate industry leaders like Zillow invest in realtor app development. Zillow CRM systems help brokers track clients’ text messages alongside incoming calls and emails. When agents contact homebuyers for the first time, the system automatically records their conversation. This allows real estate agents to never miss an important detail.  


CRM recording feature

An example of CRM’s recording feature

Develop your own real estate app with JatApp

As you can see, app development for real estate is not that challenging once you know the latest trends and how to deal with potential challenges. Still, to make sure that your real estate solution stands up from competitors, you need to have a strong development team or trust the matter to an experienced software vendor. 

Having completed more than 200 projects, JatApp helps to build advanced and feature-rich products for the real estate market that receive positive feedback from investors. As an example, our recent case, a property management platform, received a return on investment only 7 months after product release. Our app developers helped the client to increase customer retention by 10% and what’s more, we cut their real estate app development costs by up to 60% compared to American and European markets. 

Looking for a vendor to create a real estate website like Zillow? Send us a note for more detailed information and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.