How to Make a Real Estate App like Zillow?
Real estate app development is booming now. The reason? Modern people are more mobile than ever. By saying that I mean that you probably won’t be surprised if you find out that someone you know moved to another city or even country. And I’m not talking about moving to another apartment — this happens to almost everyone.
Of course, this change in our lifestyle has also been reflected in mobile technologies as well. With apps similar to Trulia or Zillow it became easier than ever to rent or even buy a house. But what’s so special about them - and more important, what do you need to build a similar App-business?
Let’s find out together!
📘 The Story Behind Zillow And Trulia
If you were ever interested in the American real estate market, you’ve definitely heard of Zillow. I bet that app’s stats will speak for themselves:
- Zillow has over 160 million monthly active users. This is equal to the half of the U.S. Population (or of Germany, France and the Netherlands combined).
- 80% of US homes have been viewed on Zillow.
- 186 homes are viewed per second via mobile (as of 2014; now this number is even bigger!).
It’s obvious that Zillow has the same position in the real estate market as, for example, Uber in the taxi niche. Yet, behind this fascinating result are years of hard work and gradual development.
Zillow was founded back in 2006 by two former Microsoft executives. The whole project started as a website and it took 3 years to go mobile. However, Zillow iPhone app still was the pioneer in the field of iOS rental apps in 2009. Android version was also delivered soon — in March 2010.
By the way, did you know that the Zillow mobile app was initially developed by a Ukrainian Mobile Agency?
The story behind the Trulia real estate mobile app is quite interesting. Actually, it proves that great ideas sometimes come accidentally and unexpectedly. As it often happens, Trulia’s founders (Pete Flint and Sami Inkinen) were “inspired” by challenges that they’ve faced on their own.
While studying for his MBA, Flint tried to find an off-campus housing but failed. Much to his surprise, the local real estate information that he managed to find online was either out of date, insufficient or both.
That was exactly the moment, when the idea of Trulia was born. The main aim of the founders was to provide people with a fast and easy access to comprehensive and relevant real estate information. And they succeeded!
Eventually, Trulia was acquired by Zillow for $3.5 billion in 2014. Today Zillow Group owns such services like Trulia, RealEstate.com and StreetEasy.
So what are the main lessons for us?
- The best app is the one that solves your users’ headache — faster and cheaper than your offline-competitor. Often, it’s your headache, too. Without this, it’s impossible to achieve success.
- If you are aiming at the American market: take your niche. To make a revolution, you need to think different and offer something unique. You can’t create new Zillow but you can find your target audience by providing specific services or content.
- Also, if you want to create an app for a real estate company outside of the USA(for example, in Europe), an app like Zillow may be a good choice for you. Actually, this is the popular strategy for many startups: to take a well-known app and scale it for their country (or city, region etc.).
Yet, the success of Zillow and Trulia was predetermined not only by the fact that they were pioneers on the market. Targeted functionality and a great UX played a role, too. Let’s review the best features of both applications that you can reuse during your real estate mobile app development!
⚙️ Top 6 Features For Your Real Estate App
# 0: Databases 🖥️
Without any doubt, this is the essential part of your app. Despite it’s an “invisible” feature, your app won’t have much sense without it at all. I’m talking about databases of property located in your city/country/region.
Zillow and Trulia used every source of data they’ve managed to find. Since they were aimed at the US market, companies mainly accessed the data of:
- National Association of Realtors (NAR);
- Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
When you decide to build real estate apps, look for similar to NAR structures in your country. For example, the National Association of Estate Agents in the UK and the Canadian Real Estate Association can provide you with the needed data within these countries.
Moreover, you can fill up the listings using the following sources:
- Other real estate companies or agents.
- For Sale By Owner (FSBO) properties.
- 3rd party vendors.
- APIs from Zillow and Trulia.
The main idea here is simple as that: the more relevant properties are listed in your app, the more useful and successful it’s going to be.
# 1: Onboarding | Sign Up 📝
This welcoming screen is a common element of almost every application and we believe that you should implement it in your real estate mobile app as well.
Onboarding is a walkthrough that informs users about basics of your application: what features are available, what the main navigation patterns are and so on. It helps to smoothly introduce the app and not leave users frustrated.
Moreover, by implementing user profiles (that’s why you need the sign-up feature) you significantly increase the UX. Thus, for example, users will be able to get more personalized content according to their needs, compare and save properties in which they are interested in and much more.
Also, since we’re talking about sensitive personal data, security requires your attention as well. Make sure to cover points from the OWASP Top 10 and GDCP compliance, which will get active in May 2018 during your real estate mobile app development.
Note: forced sign up scares off users. Therefore, you should provide your audience with as much functionality and content as possible without forcing them to sign up.
# 2: Search & Filter 🔎
We’ve already mentioned the importance of having a broad database of properties (for example, as of 2017, Zillow had 110 million homes listed in the app). So what is the challenge here?
The challenge is to create an effective searching feature that will let users quickly get the most relevant results. Buying or renting a house is an important decision so the more aspects can be considered, the better it is for the user.
Undoubtedly, the list of “must-have” criteria includes searching and filtering by:
- Price range.
- Property type (townhouse, condo, single family home).
- Listing type (FSBO, resale, new construction).
- Year built.
- Lot size.
- Square foot range.
- Extra facilities like an in-unit laundry, an on-site parking, a pool, a balcony etc.
But if you want to achieve even better relevance and user engagement, we in Stormotion strongly recommend you to implement additional filter-types + map functionality (read about it a bit lower).
After all, people are interested not only in the house itself. If you have kids, it would be great to have a good school nearby. What about crime rates? Everyone wants to live in the safe neighborhood. And that are just a few examples that may be useful for your app.
So whatever relevant data you can get access to and provide it to your users, use it to enrich the search of your customers.
If you decide to make a mobile application similar to Trulia’s one, pay attention to the in-app map. It has a few particular qualities that are interesting to us. Let’s take a closer look!
# 3: Map 🗺️
Trulia allows demonstrating a bunch of cool and a bit unexpected stats right on the map. This helps potential buyers and tenants discover city districts from the perspective of people who live there.
So what local info does Trulia provide to its users? Here you go:
- Crime rates.
- The location of schools with their ratings.
- Nearby shops and eateries.
- The possibility of natural disasters.
- Local population stats (median age, college degree, family status and so on).
- Boundaries (regarding neighborhood, county or zip code).
- Opinion of locals about the neighborhood.
How do they manage to get this info? Actually, it’s not that difficult as it may seem.
For example, Data.gov provides over 8 000 datasets about crimes, demographics and much more in the USA. Moreover, almost every city in the US has own open data portals where they post information that you can use in your app. For example, this is how the portal of Los Angeles is organized.
As informatization goes over the globe, more and more cities and countries have their own open databases. So if you want to build real estate apps with this kind of data, finding the right source may be not as challenging as it seems.
Another source of information for Trulia is votes of actual App-users who live there. With just a few taps, you can provide an opinion on questions like “Do you regularly see kids playing outside?”, “Are sidewalks well-lit with street lights?” or “Do you decorate your home for any holidays?”.
The second option is even easier to implement since you don’t have to look for any external databases — your users will become your main “database”.
But of course, such features can be implemented once you have a critical mass of users, so it’s a feature to consider way down the road.
# 4: Apartment details 🏡
And now we come to the part, which actually means the most to your users.
In addition to detailed information about neighborhoods, both Trulia and Zillow provide a comprehensive description of listed properties. The same rule works here: the more info you will make accessible, the better view of the house your user will have.
So when you create an app for a real estate company, these are the points that should be covered:
- Address (or at least an approximate area).
- Monthly mortgage.
- Square foot range + price for each square foot.
- Number of rooms and stories.
- Property type.
- Lot size (if it’s a single-family house).
- Year built.
- Written by owner/agent description.
- List of additional features (parking, flooring, heating/cooling/air conditioning systems, basement/attic, furniture and everything else that seems important).
It would also be great to offer users a list of similar homes (first of all, in the same price range and location). It’s always better to have an alternative when the house you’re exploring right now doesn’t suit you for one or another reason.
A monthly mortgage calculator is another feature that you can find on this screen in the Zillow and Trulia estate apps. It shows the amount of money to be paid each month for this property.
Also, this screen also has to include some information about brokers (name & phone), agents (name, phone & agency). Finally, you can place buttons “Call” and “Email” that will let users quickly contact the agent and request additional info, schedule a tour etc.
# 5: Push Notifications 🔔
As always, we cannot help but mention push notifications as an important part of your real estate mobile app. They encourage users to visit your application more frequently and sometimes even if they didn’t plan it before.
Here are some typical cases when you can send push notifications and users will likely open them:
- When the price of the property they’ve saved or looked through dropped.
- When a new house appears in the district or street where they’ve searched before.
- Alerts for other property updates.
So, these were top features for your real estate app like Zillow. But how to implement them? This is the topic of our next paragraph!
👨💻 Tech Stack For Real Estate Mobile App Development
Our Stormotion developers made up a list of useful tech tools. We are sure they will come in handy during your real estate app development. Check it out:
- CoreData or Realm frameworks — to manage the list of saved properties.
- Google Places API — to provide users with information about cafeterias, stores, groceries, spas and other similar places near viewed houses.
- Firebase SDK or Apple Push Notifications Service — to integrate push notifications into your app.
- SimplyRets, iHomeFinder, Spark APIs — to normalize data flows from MLSs.
- Facebook SDK — for having a Facebook sign-in option.
- Zillow API — for Zillow’s neighborhood information and listings.
- MapBoxGoogle Maps APIs — to build real estate apps with custom maps.
- The Onboard Informatics Community, Spatial Neighborhood APIs — to provide demographic and other data about districts.
Let’s move on to the financial aspect of the development!
💰 How Much Does It Cost to Create an App For a Real Estate Company?
As always, Stormotion developers prepared an estimate for you. Don’t forget, that this is just a rough calculation, so if you want an estimation of your specific project - just get in touch with us using the button under the article.
Note: we took an average rate of $40/hour but it depends on many different factors so don't think of it as the final price.
So, development costs to build an app similar to Trulia using React Native start from $25,920.
Well, enough talking about spending money. Let’s better find out how you can earn them!
💸 Best Monetization Models For a Real Estate App like Zillow
At the end of the day, your app has to be profitable. Otherwise, you won’t be able to find investors to support your idea and develop the project further.
Yet, choosing a monetization model is always a challenging task. It should allow you to earn enough but still be acceptable to users. So here are some ideas that may work out!
# 1: Professional Advertising
This monetization model is used by both Zillow and Trulia. This system allows brokers and estate agents promote their services for a fee directly to qualified leads — prospective renters.
Thus, everyone’s happy. Agents are promoted to the transaction-ready customers while users don’t see any random annoying ads — only profiles of specialists that can help them to rent or buy the chosen house.
# 2: Simple Advertising
On the other hand, you can integrate usual and well-known ads that now can be found in every second app. In this case, you will get money either for the number of views or taps.
This model lets you keep your app free for users but still make a good revenue. Moreover, the bigger your audience is, the higher income you can expect. The downside of this model is a negative impact on the UX.
Yet, make sure your app isn’t flooded with ads, otherwise it will look too cheap and unprofessional.
# 3: Freemium Model
Another option for you is the freemium model. The idea behind it is simple as that: your app can be used for free, but users have to buy a premium account to get access to some additional features and services.
For example, the premium account may include:
- No ads.
- Access to the neighborhood info.
- Access to the mortgage calculator.
- Any other feature and service that you find reasonable.
However, don’t limit the free version too much. It may scare users off and make them leave your application at the very beginning. Remember a simple rule: try to make money by selling something to the third party and not users.
After all, real estate app development isn’t that difficult as some say. We hope this article was useful for you. Let’s briefly remember all the key ideas.
Must-have features for your application are:
- Comprehensive database of properties (the more, the better).
- Fast, easy & protected sign up process.
- Improved searching & filtering features.
- Nice-looking map with different layers (neighborhood info) that matches the general real estate app design.
- Apartment details, including the full description, monthly mortgage calculator and “call/email” button.
- Push notifications.
The costs to create an app for a real estate company start from $25,920.
Finally, the most effective monetization models are:
- Professional advertising.
- Simple advertising.
- Freemium model.
Need help with your real estate mobile app development? Contact us and Stormotion developers will make your dreams come true!