If you’re in the market for a new home, it helps to be informed. You’ll not only want access to listings as soon as they come on the market, but you’ll also need to be able to learn as much as you can about the neighborhoods you’re considering.
Fortunately, there are many online websites that can tell you all you need to know. We’ve picked 10 of the best home buyer sites that you should bookmark and refer to again and again during the home buying process.
Zillow collects data from numerous sources, including Multiple Listing Services from across the country. Its database consists of 110 million properties, including not just homes for sale but also properties for rent and homes not currently on the market. You’ll find homes on Zillow, including For Sale By Owner listings that won’t necessarily show up on every competitor site.
Zillow also offers multiple ways to search for properties, including by neighborhood, address, or zip code. When you click on a property, you’ll see its listing history, neighborhood details, the tax history, nearby cities, details about the school district, and a list of similar homes. And if you want to dive even more deeply into researching the real estate market in the area, Zillow has an entire Research section available for free.
Another feature that sets Zillow apart is its proprietary home estimate algorithm, Zestimates. While Zillow isn’t the only site to provide estimates of what a home is worth, it’s one of the more accurate tools, and it provides Zestimates for properties that are both on the market and not currently for sale.
Homes.com, like ZIllow, is a website that allows you to search for properties that are for sale. But while its database of properties is smaller than Zillows, it offers some unique features that other online listing websites don’t.
In particular, when you’re looking at a home you’re interested in, there’s a helpful comparison tool that gives you a view of that property side-by-side with similar ones in the area. You can see at a glance the price per square foot; pictures of each property; and specifics such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the year built, and the lot size.
This feature can help you see almost instantly whether a property is priced reasonably and what some of your other options are. That can really save you time during your search as well as help ensure you’re paying a fair price.
RealtyTrac is one of the largest databases of foreclosed homes available on the web, with more than 120 million properties listed on its site. You can search by neighborhood, city, zip code or address and can browse both homes in foreclosure as well as bank-owned and repossessed properties. And RealtyTrac also provides a comprehensive searchable database of real estate auctions across the United States.
You will have to pay a $49.95/month subscription fee to gain access to all of RealtyTrac’s information, including to find out the location of auctions or the addresses of properties in foreclosure. While there are free alternatives, they generally don’t provide the breadth of information RealtyTrac offers. The convenience of accessing data on homes at all different stages of foreclosure from one website is well worth paying for.
And, if you purchase through a foreclosure auction, there may be liens or back taxes owed on the property. If so, you’d become legally liable for paying that debt as the property’s new owner. It may also be difficult or impossible to secure a mortgage to buy a home at auction, so you’ll need to be prepared to pay cash.
HomeSales.gov allows you to search a narrower subset of foreclosed properties — specifically, those that were purchased using a government-guaranteed mortgage loan. If a home buyer obtained a USDA, VA, or HUD mortgage and defaulted, the foreclosed home will be sold on HomeSales.gov.
While this website has a smaller pool of foreclosed homes than RealtyTrac, you may be able to obtain a very good deal as the government is a highly rational seller. You will need a real estate agent, broker, or servicing representative to submit an offer or a bid though. The Real Estate Witch has partnered with Clever to match buyers with full-service agents with proven track records, so contact Clever today if you need an agent to help.
Remember, the home is still a foreclosure and will generally be sold as is — the government is not going to make sure it’s in good condition before selling it to you. Viewing the properties can also be a challenge and in some cases you won’t be able to see them in person before making an offer.
NeighborhoodScout lets you take a deep dive into data on any neighborhood you’re considering. You can obtain a complete crime profile by searching for an address or neighborhood and the exact rates of violent crime and property crime are available for every single address in the country.
Scout indicates its crime data is up to 90% accurate. The site obtains information from more than 18,000 local law enforcement agencies across the country and includes more than 60 crime statistics in its comprehensive reports.
Neighborhood Scout also makes interpreting this data easy as you can compare crime rates in your chosen area with national data. The report will even give you specifics on your chances of becoming a crime victim in the location you’re searching.
You’ll have to pay a subscription fee to access a full report, but Neighborhood Scout stands apart from other websites because of the scope of its analysis and its detailed breakdown of the risks of violent crime; property crime; murder; rape; robbery; assult; theft; and motor vehicle theft.
Here are the different subscriptions NeighborhoodScout offers:
- Pro Lite: $39.99/mo
- Search radius up to 5 miles
- Unlimited city and state data
- Printable PDFs
- 122 selectable criteria
- Pro: $79.99/mo
- Everything included in Pro Lite
- Search radius up to 75 miles
- Search nationwide and statewide
- 266 selectable criteria
- Pro Plus: $119.99/mo
- Everything included in Pro Plus
- 680 selectable criteria
Greatschools.org allows you to search by city, zip code, address, or school to find ratings of local schools. Schools are scored on a scale of 1 to 10, with many data points used to assign ratings, including:
- Ratio of teachers-to-students
- College acceptance ratios
- Student test scores
Current and future parents will obviously appreciate the opportunity to search for a home in a good school district where their children can get a quality education. But it’s not just parents who should use this site. The quality of a school district has a tremendous impact on home values, as many people simply won’t buy properties in locations with poor schools.
If you want a home that stands the best chance of holding its value and appreciating in price, you can’t afford to buy in a bad district and remove most families from your potential pool of future buyers.
7. Google Maps
Google Maps isn’t technically a real estate website, but it can give you more information about potential local neighborhoods than most sites do. That’s because Google Maps will show you where a home is located in relation to everything else that matters in your life.
You can use Google Maps to see how long it would take you to commute to work from your potential new home, or how far away you’d be from family and friends.
You can also see local stores, restaurants, and attractions nearby.
Google’s mapping tools also offer a Street View feature, which can save you lots of time. Real estate listings often show only the home itself, not the surrounding neighborhood. With Google’s Street View, you don’t have to leave your house to see if there’s anything in the neighborhood that would be a deal-breaker for you — such as a landfill across the street or a noisy bar down the road that you’d prefer not to live near.
Yelp allows you to find restaurants; services; and other businesses near your preferred location. From plumbers to coffee shops to HVAC contractors, Yelp will show you everything near your potential new home.
Yelp not only lets you know what’s local but also provides detailed reviews of listed businesses. By doing a quick search, you can easily find out if there are restaurants and other amenities near you that receive good ratings or if you’ll have to drive for miles just to pick up a quick bite to eat.
9. Walk Score
If you don’t want to have to hop in your car every day, Walk Score is the website you need. You can enter any address, neighborhood, or city into its search feature to find out how walkable the area is on a scale of 0 to 100.
Walk Score actually does more than just tell you whether you can walk to amenities, though. There are interactive maps revealing everywhere you can easily travel to within 20 minutes by car, bus, bike, or walking. You’ll also be able to see how bikeable the area is, and whether there are options for public transportation nearby.
10. Real Estate Witch
Real Estate Witch helps you learn about the home buying process and it’s partnered with Clever to help you take the next step beyond just browsing.
Clever can match you to an elite buyer’s agent from within its network of partners who will help you find your perfect home and negotiate to buy it at a fair price. In the 40 states where it’s legal, buyer’s agents you’re matched with will also provide you with a home buyer rebate.
Home buyer rebates return a portion of the commission to you that your buyer’s agent receives from the seller. When you work with a top agent you find through Real Estate Witch, you’ll become eligible for either a $1,000 rebate if your new home is priced at $150,000 or above or a 1.5% rebate for homes priced at $500,000 or more.
Contact Clever today to learn more about how it can help you to find a buyer’s agent who will be your advocate throughout the purchase process — and who will save you a little money in the end.
There’s a lot to know when you’re buying a home. These articles will provide you with more details so you’ll be better prepared for what will likely be one of the largest purchases of your life.
Here’s How to Get a Home Buyer Rebate (And Save Thousands): Home buyer rebates put money back in your pocket after you complete a home purchase. Learn which websites offer home buyer rebates, whether they are legal in your state, and how you can qualify for one.
Buyer’s Agents: What They Are & What They Do for Home Buyers: Buyer’s agents represent people who are purchasing homes. They do much more than just help you find properties — they provide invaluable advice about local markets and negotiate on your behalf. Find out more about the role a buyer’s agent will play in your home purchase.
How Can I Lower My Closing Costs? Home buyers can incur many costs beyond just the purchase price of a home. These expenses, including prorated property taxes, title insurance; and transfer taxes, can add up to thousands of dollars. Find some tips here on how to keep these costs down so buying your new home will be more affordable.