Secret Materials: Real Estate Application Development

16 FEB 2017
12 MIN


My home is my castle. Everyone has their own associations when hearing this phrase. In case living together with parents is no longer an option then you will probably face a problem. What house is it better to choose? Fortunately, commercial real estate apps were created to help us solve this problem. Remember how tiring it is to look for an appropriate accommodation? It takes days if not weeks.

Until recently, you had to keep in touch with your estate agent in order to choose an apartment that corresponds your requirements. Nowadays, everything is much easier since a lot of real estate platforms appeared. Users are only in need of an Internet connection and an application itself.

In this article, we are going to discuss the creation of a similar platform using the examples of the market leaders Zillow and Trulia.

Win-win solution or real estate mobile app ideas

Apps for real estate are not only a promising direction for a new startup creation but also a good idea for an estate agent. Everything is moving towards digitization and many professionals have to adapt to these changes. Sometimes to increase the profit and sometimes to continue professional activities at all.

The Internet is able to simplify professional life, and at the same time endanger it, since a certain part of the demand for services goes online. Concerning estate agents, they are still in demand worldwide. However, those without any digital presence are losing prospective clients. A digital presence is able to help estate agents with increasing clients' loyalty and sales at the same time.

Building an app is not enough. Learn how to keep your users engaged all the time in this related article 

The demand for real estate tends to grow and in dozens of cities, there is a thorny question concerning the expediency of it's purchasing or renting. Thus, the creation of an app for real estate is not a bad idea for a startup.

Real estate application development: graph of rental prices

Example of U.S. cities with the highest rental (Source: Statista)

Real estate software development

Before you get started with the app development, you should think through all the business processes you will face with. If we are talking about a real estate application, it is extremely important to fill it with proposals for rent and sale.

I mean, you must have a certain database right after the launch. In case users see rental application without any rental proposals - they simply will not run this app the second time.

How to build the database? Well, probably you should cooperate with several real estate agencies to borrow their database for the first time or to build a long-term cooperation in such a way. In turn, you can provide your partners with free advertising within the platform for some time.

The game is worth the candle

High rental prices force people to seek advice in order to decide if it's better to buy or rent property? Where do you think the first place are going is? Of course to their devices. For instance, on Zillow 186 homes are viewed per second. While monthly, this number exceeds 420 million homes.

Impressive, isn't it? This statistics shows that there is an extensive audience interested in apps like Zillow and Trulia.

The working model of these apps is quite similar. In both cases, there is a database with information about property for sale or rent. The deal itself is conducted by an estate agent. Users choose an agent from the proposed list before applying for the house. Thus, these apps are only mediators between users and agents.

Let's compare two market leaders and find out what features attract users there.


Available: Web, iOS, Android

Founded: 2004
Founders: Pete Flint and Sami Inkinen
Downloads: over 10 million

On the home screen of the app, users can see a list of homes from different categories. For example, 'Homes with Pools', 'Homes Under $560,000' etc. This way, users get immediate access to different estates that may interest them and lead to successful purchases.

The Trulia real estate app has a full-featured map that allows users to gain understanding of a separate districts or areas.

The first thing the user sees after zooming a map is a variety of homes for sale or rent with their prices. Also, the map interacts closely with search features. Since you can choose needed parameters, only those real estates corresponding them will be displayed on the map. Filters are quite flexible and a user can choose from a wide range of options from price to the number of beds.

One more map-related feature is local info. This feature is intended to extend knowledge about a certain area via the map. For example, a user can learn whether there are any schools in that district as well as the level of crime, availability of various amenities and even natural disasters.

Trulia mobile app: map screen

Trulia local info interface

The next worth noting feature concerns mortgages. Trulia mobile app allows users to see current mortgage rates and calculate them individually according to the income or mortgage itself.

Real estate calculator app in trulia mobile app

Trulia mortgage calculator


Available: Web, iOS, Android

Founded: 2006
Founders: Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink
Downloads: over 10 million

In the Zillow real estate app there is a map on the home screen. Users can start searching as soon as the app is launched. The principle of the real estate displayed on the map is exactly like Trulia, i.e. house location with it's price.

Concerning search filters, they are pretty similar to Trulia's and function in a similar way.

Using Zillow, users are able to calculate the mortgage and hide property they are not interested in. However, this app offers more detailed information about the house itself. This way, a user can learn the price and tax history of his future accommodation. In the Web version, there is an opportunity to see the forecast on the property's price.

Probably one of the main distinctive features of the Zillow rental application is Google Street View support realized by mobile developers. Thus, clients may take a closer look at the property they would like to buy.

Zillow real estate app: Google Street View

Zillow app interface

Switch on your critical thinking

Do not try to build a Zillow or Trulia app clone. In case you want to make the grade, your solution should contain features and opportunities your competitors cannot offer clients.

So, looking back on the market leaders, we can conclude that a convenient and informative map is a must as well as detailed real estate information. Then, you should analyze weak sides of the most popular apps like Trulia or Zillow and think about what aspects you do not like as a user. After that, you will have a certain understanding of your future app concept.

You may apply AR or VR technologies in your app too. Talking about AR, it is possible to create a feature that allows users to find real estate for sale or rent while pointing their phone camera at some buildings or houses.

Interested in VR feature for your app? Learn about VR perspectives in our related article 

Except for AR, VR technologies also take place in applications connected with renting and selling property. Thus, the feature of virtual tours of the house can be realized. Actually, there are already several services that allow you to easily take a virtual tour by means of a 3D camera and some cloud-based technologies. However, it will cost you a pretty penny since you should buy specialized video equipment plus monthly subscription payments.

Ways to increase the user base

In order to draw the customers' attention to your real estate app, you need to think of a strategy that provides you with constant user growth. Let's discuss some components that can help you to handle this task.

Build referral program

Statistics claim that 92% of people trust to digital resources recommended by their friends or relatives more than to any other kind of marketing. Moreover, 82% of all transactions in real estate business are made due to referral or repeat business. You may suppose that nobody wants to give referrals but that is not true. Again, statistics say that 91% of satisfied clients are willing to give referrals while only 9% of salesmen ask them about that.

Strong motivation to build your own referral program, isn't it? However, the ways it can be implemented depends on various peculiarities of your real estate app. For example, it is a widespread practice to give a premium for certain actions such as sharing, recommendations or inviting friends.

Your referral model should coincide with a monetization model in order to motivate users for giving referrals.

Be a multi-platform

When it comes to a potentially huge target audience it is vital to provide them with access to your service on any device suitable for them. Engage mobile and web developers for your real estate development software.

How can you prevent miscalculation when choosing a platform? Find the answer to this question in our related article 

Thus, users can start searching for an apartment in the morning using a desktop with a huge screen and continue doing that having breakfast somewhere outside. This step will definitely increase clients loyalty and extend the number of successful transactions.

Real estate application development: graph of platforms' ratio

The ratio of time spent on content and platforms (Source: Statista)

Be marketing-friendly

You should not underestimate the importance of such things as promotional emails and promotion in social networks.

Email promotion has become a kind of a standard in recent years. Marketers claim that emails are the most effective way to gain a user's awareness about their company's news and campaigns.

What makes them effective? The fact that 70% of people always open the emails they receive from the companies they are interested in.

One more resource opening great opportunities for real estate app startups is Instagram. Every social network should be involved in your marketing campaign. However, I would like to single out Instagram as a network that fits perfectly for this kind of business.

People are fond of visualization. Instagram not only easily handles this task but complements it with another useful feature - geotagging. Users can geotag their photos to a specific location. In turn, Instagram creates a photo map of all geotagged posts in a separate area and when somebody is typing the area name into a search line your post is seen in a result list.

Commercial real estate app: graph of Instagram importance

The number of Instagram users is growing (Source: Statista)

Monetize your real estate investment app wisely

It is a high time to talk about the profit models.

Advertising model

Zillow and Trulia earn money on professional advertising. Their ad system is implemented in a way that allows estate agents and brokers to promote themselves directly to the transaction-ready customer. So users will not find any annoying advertisements.

Since Trulia was bought by Zillow, they connected their efforts and created a real estate agent app focused on professional activities. Now, agents are able to manage their business in a more convenient way and use the power of both apps. This step has helped the company to acquire more loyal consumers represented by agents and brokers.

Worth to mention that Trulia has already added one more monetization model - Premium while Zillow will do this step later this year.

Trulia mobile app: monetization model

Monetization model in Trulia mobile app

White label model

In case you have a really great platform with interesting capabilities, some other developers may be interested in using the power of your app's code in their own projects. Thus, you can license your code and sell it to other companies.

Level of app usage

In case you have not chosen the previous two models, there is one more widespread method. I am talking about simple ads that you can see in every third free app. You can give users an opportunity to switch them off with the help of a premium account or some in-app purchases.

There is a positive side - you earn a profit, in any case, be it ordinary or premium users. However, this model implies the rejection of the monetization model connected with agents promotion and means tit will be necessary to create a new transaction model.

Summing up

As we can see, real estate mobile app development demands clear goals, good planning, and well-thought out branding.

If you decided to launch your own real estate startup or to make an app for your clients - contact us. Our professional team will be glad to help you build your ideas.

Frequently Asked Questions
  1. Research the market. Study your competitors (Trulia, Zillow) and come up with the general conception of your business.

  2. Form a list of features. Based on your research, make a list of features your real estate app should have. Search, filters, description, and photos are must-haves.

  3. Collect proposals for rent and sale. Your real estate app must be filled in with offers right after the launch. That means you'll need a specific database of real estate for rent and/or sale.

  4. Find a software development company. If you're not an experienced developer yourself, cooperate with a software development team. Try outsourcing if you're on a limited budget.

There are quite a few ways to monetize a real estate app. The most common are:

  • In-app advertising
  • White labeling (license your code and sell it to other companies)
  • Freemium model (all people can use the app, but premium users have access to more features)

Before you start developing a real estate app, it's a good idea to analyze current competitors, their apps, monetization sources, and features. There's little use in making another Zillow clone: without a great idea, you'll never catch up to the company.

We can divide the expenses for making a real estate app into three categories:

  1. Business analysis. Suppose all you have is just an idea and no documentation. In that case, you'll need to work with a Business Analyst who will help you analyze competitors, make a list of features, and prepare documentation. Same for the UI design of the future app done at this stage.

  2. Development. The cost depends on the number of hours and developers spend on implementing the features from your list.

  3. Support and maintenance. After release, you'll need people to fix bugs and control the app's performance. If the project turns out to be a successful one, it's a good idea to expand its functionality over time.

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