If you’re aiming to create a real estate app, you should know how to develop an app like Zillow or Trulia. In this article, you’ll learn why the Zillow and Trulia apps get millions of downloads. You’ll also find out what tech stack you need to build the features in these apps and how much it will cost.

Real estate market analysis

Reasons why you need a mobile app for your real estate business

The National Association of Realtors’ 2020 report says that 97% of homebuyers go on the web to find a dream home. If you’re a real estate company, you need a website, a YouTube channel, and/or a social media business page.

Read more: How to make a real estate website

These statistics from the National Association of Realtors also show that a mobile app gives you a powerful tool to market your services:

  • 3 out of 4 homebuyers find their dream homes via mobile devices

  • 62% of homebuyers consider mobile search a useful source of information

  • 20% of homebuyers find their agent using a smartphone

Thanks to a mobile app, you can also keep up with digital trends in the real estate industry and sidestep your rivals. For example, you can:

  • Use big data technology to help your users compare properties by a lot of parameters and choose the best option. Big data algorithms can provide you with estimates of homes your clients seek. Split-second access to property values based on big data with Zestimate is Zillow’s killer feature.

  • Integrate an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm. AI-powered tools enable you to store users’ preferences, personalize in-app alerts, and send targeted push notifications. Using AI technology, Trulia doubled customer demand for its listings.

  • Include 360-degree virtual tours. The NAR report says that after going on the web, homebuyers often walk through homes in virtual tours. These tours help homebuyers get a sense of one of the most expensive purchases of their lives. Since 2019, the Zillow 3D Home feature has been making real estate purchases seamless for users.

The biggest real estate marketplaces like Zillow and Trulia find their apps beneficial. Let’s find out what benefits you can achieve from building your own real estate app.

Benefits of a real estate mobile app

Who are your app users? Usually, there are three types of users for a real estate mobile app: buyers, sellers, and realtors. Each will get their own benefits from your real estate mobile app.

Benefits for buyers:

  • Access to up-to-date information at any time

  • Time savings by comparing properties without driving to them

  • Property search using a variety of filters

  • Easy way to contact an agent and get 24/7 support

  • Guidance for buying and document signing

Benefits for sellers:

  • Great way to double-check pricing

  • Increased market reach

  • Can show properties at their best

  • Speeds up property sales

  • Guidance for selling and document signing

Benefits for realtors:

  • Exhaustive property information while on the go

  • Automation of routine tasks

  • Increased market reach and ability to retain leads

  • Extra revenue stream

  • Greater brand awareness

Think you need to clone the Zillow app to get all its advantages? Think again. Behind the scenes of every successful mobile app lies a ton of data-driven decisions. Zillow’s development team needed to analyze the market, select the right niche, choose a development methodology, work out a marketing strategy, and do much more.

What’s so special about Zillow?

What’s so special about Zillow

According to Investopedia, Zillow’s app is the best no matter if you use it to buy, sell, rent, invest, or estimate. Zillow’s marketplace boasts stunning statistics:

  • Over 200 million monthly active users
  • Eight out of ten US properties can be found on Zillow
  • Users view 186 homes per second on Zillow via smartphones

The secret to Zillow’s popularity is its user-friendly interface, well-targeted functionality, and wide scope. When you open the Zillow app, you enter a real estate business community that allows you to:

  • Find a property on the map or using a search bar

  • View detailed information (photos, 3D videos, cost, number of rooms, build date, rental rate, and so on)

  • Search for a desirable property using lots of filters

  • List your property for sale and advertise it

  • Rent an apartment or house in a selected area or lease yours

  • Use different calculators to check mortgage rates, home values, rental costs, refinancing, and amortization

  • Consult any real estate professional you need (builders, home inspectors, landlords, property managers, and agents)

  • Unlock Zillow-owned houses through the app and tour them without an agent

  • Tag home features and share favorites with your partner or roommates

  • Promote your services as a real estate broker, agent, or lender officer

If you want to know how to build a custom real estate app, you should study how the Zillow app works.

How does Zillow make money?

The Zillow Group (which includes Trulia) reported revenue of $3.9 billion in 2020. But Zillow allows you to list your property for rent or sale for free. So how does Zillow make money?

Zillow’s revenue is completely based on advertisements:

  • Paid advertisements for property management companies
  • Paid premium services for real estate agents
  • Paid advertisements for mortgage lenders and other businesses interested in Zillow’s audience

You can follow the path taken by Zillow or test other revenue streams. For example, you can try the freemium monetization model. It works by giving users access to basic features for free and charging for premium content.

How to build a real estate app like Zillow?

5 features for real estate app development

Modern mobile apps for real estate agents include a variety of features and require a lot of time and money for development. To validate your app idea quickly and at a low cost, it makes sense to develop a minimum viable product (MVP). You need to select several core app features, develop your real estate app MVP, and then run a lot of tests. The results will tell you whether you should change your MVP a bit, add extra features, or go back to the drawing board.

How can you define what features you should include in your app to make it marketable and keep within your budget?

Read more:

The simplest way is to clone the five basic features that Zillow and Trulia provide users with.

Feature #1. Extensive database

If you’re a real estate agent, people in your region can hire you to assist them with selling their properties. Thus, you form your own database of homes for sale in your region. But if you don’t have your own database or you want to expand the database you do have, you need to take data from third-party sources. Getting listing data from Zillow will suit you if you’re an American or Canadian realtor. If you aren’t, in addition to Zillow’s ways of getting property listings, we’ve highlighted several other sources that are applicable to any region.

How does Zillow get listing data?

Zillow’s online platform publishes 110 million US property listings acquired from different sources: multiple listing services (MLSs), listing syndication platforms, brokers, agents, landlords, and homeowners.

Multiple listing services

An MLS is a database created to regulate the process of sharing and selling homes between participants (licensed brokers and agents).

To include property listings in multiple listing service databases, brokers, agents, and technical partners need to complete five main steps:

  1. Be members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and conform to certain MLS rules.

  2. Get written consent from homeowners before adding homes to multiple listing services.

  3. Pay commission to list properties for sale to MLS databases.

  4. Follow the Internet Data Exchange (IDX) policy. IDX is a set of rules, standards, and technologies real estate players follow to track the way data moves from an MLS database to their website or mobile app.

  5. Integrate real estate APIs like the RESO Web API standard, SimplyRETS API, ATTOM Property API, or Mashvisor API to get adaptable data from MLS web portals.

Since the US real estate market counted almost 600 multiple listing services in 2020, making arrangements with MLSs can turn into a time-consuming and expensive process. Knowing this, the Zillow Group has come up with three alternative ways of getting up-to-date property listings.

Listing syndication platforms

You can collaborate with real estate companies in your country to integrate their property listing data directly into your real estate app. At their early stages, Zillow and Trulia entered into data sharing agreements with ListHub, one of the biggest real estate listing syndication platforms in the US. After their agreement ended in 2015, Zillow and Trulia began to collaborate with 40 more providers and hosted more property listings than ever before.

Brokers, agents, and landlords

You can allow landlords, agents, and brokers to place their property listings in your real estate app. To encourage them to do this, create convenient tools that will help them manage property listings and efficiently promote their services in one place.

Zillow allows agents to create free profiles, gather reviews from past clients, and promote their listings. Agents can also opt into the Premier Agent advertising model, where they pay for showing their contact information next to active listings in selected zip codes. For landlords, Zillow has created a real estate app called Zillow Rental manager where landlords can:

  • List rental properties
  • Verify tenants through online rental applications
  • Create rental leases
  • E-sign lease agreements
  • Get rent payments straight to their bank accounts

Property owners

According to Zillow’s research, one-third of sellers try to sell their real estate assets themselves. To satisfy this type of user, Zillow has For Sale By Owner (FSBO) listings. One more option for homeowners is Zillow’s Make Me Move listings, which allow homeowners to figure out interest from potential buyers and receive unexpected offers. If you encourage FSBO homeowners to post to your real estate mobile app, you’ll get your own fruitful source of property listings.

Can you use the Zillow API for your real estate mobile app?

As a realtor, you constantly need to analyze homes, assisting sellers with pricing homes and buyers with financing homes. To be aware of current real estate property values, it seems sensible to integrate APIs from Zillow into your real estate app. But according to the Zillow API terms of use, you can do so only for a website, not for a mobile app.

Feature #2. Filtered search

Zillow’s filtered search

Narrowing listings by price and location is nice, but if your objective is to make a real estate app like Zillow, you need to extend the list of filters. Also, think about enabling users to store selected search filters. This way, you’ll be able to notify users of new listings that fit their criteria.

Zillow offers users to search for a dream home using the following filters:

  • Location
  • Price range
  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Home type (house, townhouse, multi-family, condo/co-op, lot/land, apartment, manufactured)
  • Homeowner association (HOA) fees
  • Square footage
  • Lot size
  • Year built
  • Parking spot
  • Basement availability
  • Number of stories
  • Tours (open house, 3D tours)
  • Other amenities (A/C, pool, waterfront)
  • View (city, mountain, park, water)
  • Days on Zillow
  • Zillow-owned (move-in ready homes evaluated and repaired by Zillow)
  • Keywords

You can implement filtered search in your custom real estate app using:

  • CoreLocation to track a user’s geolocation
  • CoreData or Realm to retrieve a list of saved properties
  • Elasticsearch for customizable, smooth, and quick search based on any number of criteria

With a variety of search criteria and user types, it’s better to define what kind of filters your target users mostly need (maybe they wish to sort homes by agent). To do this, we recommend integrating analytics into your real estate app prototype and analyzing feedback from beta testers and early adopters.

Feature #3. Mapping

Zillow’s draw function

In the Zillow app, you can view property information by clicking on the map. Using the draw feature, you can circle an area on the map you’re interested in and get data about all properties within the boundary drawn. Zillow displays detailed neighborhood information including:

  • Median Zestimate of nearby properties
  • Foreclosure rate
  • Home value predictions over the next 12 months
  • Availability of nearby public and private schools along with their proximity to the property

34 neighborhood map overlays in the Trulia app give users more insights into living in a neighborhood, such as:

  • Monthly property costs including property taxes, mortgage payments, home insurance, and other associated fees
  • Crime rates
  • Nearby schools with ratings, shops, and eateries with ratings
  • Probability of natural disasters
  • Local population demographics (median age, family status, education, and more)
  • Traffic intensity
  • Neighbors’ impressions

Neighborhood insights from Trulia

One more thing that distinguishes Trulia from Zillow is its heatmap utility. Trulia uses this to display many data points on the map using colors, not markers.

How to develop a real estate application like Zillow or Trulia to provide your users with exhaustive information about the areas they explore? You should use third-party APIs:

More and more countries and cities are creating their own open databases. Finding the right source of information for your app may be less challenging than you think.

Feature #4. Property details

Property details are the most important part of your real estate mobile app. They give users what they seek:

  • Property photos
  • Videos
  • Price
  • Location
  • Property type
  • Number of bedrooms and stories
  • Size
  • Year built
  • Monthly mortgage breakdown
  • Description of owner or agent
  • Additional amenities (furniture, appliances, flooring, HVAC, basement/garage, parking, and so on)
  • Broker’s or agent’s contact information

Pictures, graphs, and charts always beat descriptions. Both Zillow and Trulia use graphs and charts to display property details like mortgage rates. You can use different SDKs to implement graphical elements in your real estate mobile application.

If you want to make an app like Zillow, you need to focus on maximum visualization for your property listings — that is, implementing 3D panoramic photos and 3D home tours. A 3D panorama allows your users to examine the exterior of a property before visiting it. Check out our design concept for 360-degree search in a real estate mobile app:

Real estate app 360 view concept

Based on panoramas captured by a smartphone or 360-degree camera, Zillow’s app creates 3D home tours. To do the same within your app, you can use a tool like EyeSpy360.

When you build a mobile application for your real estate agency, keep in mind that agents will simultaneously upload lots of property images. Let’s say up to 100 images each up to 20 MB in size. You should ensure that your app will work flawlessly while uploading photos and videos. Tools like AWS Lambda will help you host backend logic for your real estate mobile app.

Also, you need somewhere to store data on properties, users, and updates. For this, you can integrate mobile app databases like MySQL, PostgreSQL, or Redis.

Feature #5. Push notifications

Zillow’s save home and share home features, along with alerts

How can you make user interactions with your real estate mobile app more efficient? By sending targeted push notifications. To make them targeted, you need to know your users’ preferences. The following app features will help you get insights into your target audience:

  1. User profiles/sign-up. This feature allows users to sign up via social media accounts and email addresses. Analyze what social media channels your target users prefer. According to the NAR, real estate agents, for instance, are most active on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

  2. Save to favorites feature. To better understand what your users are searching for, you can offer them to save properties they like. Buying or renting a home doesn’t mean making a quick decision, which is why users will be thankful for the possibility to return to properties they like and view them again.

  3. Recommendation engine. Using machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technology, you can give personalized recommendations where you show users properties that are similar to their favorites or closest to their requirements.

After defining your users’ preferences, you can send relevant push notifications that will bring users back to your app. For example, you can send push notifications when:

  • A new property is listed in a region where they’ve searched
  • The price of a property they’ve saved or looked at is lowered
  • A saved property listing is updated or changed

The scope of your project also depends on the market. If you want to capture the American market, you need to think differently and create something that isn’t just like Zillow. For example, using augmented reality (AR) technology in your real estate app, you can enable users to virtually furnish homes in consultation with professional designers.

If you want to make an Android or iOS real estate mobile app for a market outside of the US, you can make an app like Zillow or Trulia and scale it for your country, region, or city.

Cost to develop a real estate app like Zillow

Once you’ve decided to create an app like Zillow, you should think about whom you can entrust with application development. Since you need to get the product you want on time and on budget, it’s best to outsource your project development to a third-party software development agency.

Dive deeper with our guidance on how to outsource mobile app development.

To make a real estate mobile app, you need a team of the following specialists:

  • 1 project manager
  • 1 UI/UX designer
  • 1-2 iOS developers (or 1-2 Android developers based on project requirements)
  • 1 backend developer
  • 1 quality assurance engineer

To provide you with an actual estimate, let’s outline what features your real estate mobile app MVP will include. Here’s an approximate list:

  • Onboarding (from 3 to 5 tutorial screens)
  • User authorization (sign-up, log-in, forgot/reset password)
  • User profiles (buyer, owner, agent, admin)
  • Payment methods (in-app purchase by Stripe or PayPal)
  • Create and publish properties (description, photos, facilities, cost, etc.)
  • Search properties by location and keywords
  • Filter properties
  • Sort properties
  • Save properties to favorites
  • Maps integration
  • Contact an agent (via phone call or messenger)
  • Push notifications
  • Share property details page
  • Admin panel

Let’s estimate the time necessary for real estate app development with the above mentioned set of features:

Business analysis and project specification

96+ hours

UI/UX design

160+ hours

iOS development

400+ hours

Backend development

550+ hours


220+ hours


1426+ hours

According to this approximate time estimate, the cost of developing a real estate app for iOS will start at $55,780 and will rise with extra app features or Android app development.

Real estate platform - Rentorr

Real estate app development: Conclusion

Real estate mobile apps are highly convenient, and the demand for them will only increase. So will the competition. Despite Zillow’s and Trulia’s presence, people are still looking for alternatives. So how can you make a real estate app that will take its rightful place in this niche? Find a trustworthy real estate mobile app development company.

Also, keep in mind that your real estate mobile app design needs to be user-friendly. Apps like Zillow and Trulia are popular not only for their large property databases but for their simple and easy-to-use interfaces. Balancing these requirements is no easy matter. But with the right development team, anything is possible. Want to see? Drop us a line.