How to create a real estate website like Zillow

When you want to buy or rent a house, would you choose to hire a real estate agent or browse a real estate website? Most of us prefer to search for a property via real estate websites to save time and get access to a vast amount of options. During your search, you may visit Zillow, the leading real estate and rental site in the U.S. This website gathers real estate agents, buyers, and sellers, helping them buy and sell real estate property. 

How did Zillow manage to become so popular? What steps should you take to develop a real estate website like Zillow? How much will a real estate two-sided marketplace cost? 

In this article, we will answer all these questions and give handy tips on how to build a real estate website without spending a fortune. 

create real estate website like Zillow

The story behind Zillow's success 

The Zillow story began in 2004 when two former top Microsoft managers, Lloyd Frink and Rich Barton, joined forces to launch a website that could estimate a home's value and rental rates for homes. The following year they  launched a website with real estate data from 300 cities. In the first three days, a million users visited the site to "Zestimate" the value of their homes. 

Since that time, the company has grown into an industry leader and acquired other real estate tech companies, including:

  • StreetEasy, a leading real-estate portal in New York 
  • Agentfolio, a communication tool for real estate buyers and sellers 
  • HotPads, home rental search engine, and map-based apartment site
  • Restly, a service for developers to access real-estate data from multiple listing services

The logic is simple - by acquiring real estate tech companies, Zillow increases its audience. The platform offers users a bunch of useful functions, including:

  • Listing a property 
  • Finding the perfect house 
  • Finding out about the neighborhood before moving in
  • Connecting with the right specialist, whether it is an agent, home inspector, or builder
  • Calculating the mortgage, refinance, and amortization costs
  • Paying for rent via the website payment gateway 

Since its launch, Zillow has become something more than a property listing website since its monetization strategy includes running ads and promoting brokers and agents. As Spencer Rascoff, the CEO of Zillow Group says, "We are a media company. We sell advertising. Having a large audience is critical." 

How does zillow make money

To earn money, Zillow provides users with the following promotion services:

Premier Services for real estate agents who pay the website for running ads and receiving leads. Agents are charged:

  • Cost per ad impression, i.e., the cost per 1000 ads views
  • Cost per lead that varies from $20-60.

Selling Promotions aimed at real estate companies. The website charges property management companies cost per lead, cost per click, and cost per lease for running ads within the Zillow Rental Network, which includes AOL Real Estate, Trulia, MyNewPlace, Yahoo! Inc., Hotpads, and MSN Real Estate websites. 

The advertisement sales model includes selling advertising space to lenders, mortgage professionals, and other businesses. The platform charges a cost per lead fee. 

Subscription model for mortgage services, which means the website connects custom quote services and lead management platform. 

real estate sites similar to zillow

In a nutshell, Zillow has become the ultimate real estate platform across the U.S. that connects home builders, rental professionals, buyers, investors, and agents. The website includes unique features and tools that help buyers to find the perfect home,  real estate agents to promote their business. 

Now, let's dive into the real estate website development process. 

How to make a real estate website like Zillow: essential features 

As we can see, Zillow is the industry leader which others are trying to keep up to. However, it is almost impossible to duplicate  Zillow's feature list without going bankrupt. According to an Aberdeen report, in 2018 alone, Zillow spent $20.8 million on technology. In view of this, we offer you to take you on your own path in the development of your real estate website. Below, we have gathered essential features for a real estate listing website MVP that will save time and stay within budget. 

Property listings and databases

Databases with properties are an essential feature for a real estate marketplace. If your real estate agency already has its database of properties located in your city, region, or country, the web development team will integrate it into the website's back-end. But, if you have no databases, what should you do? Let's find out.  

If you want to develop a real estate marketplace in the U.S., you can follow the Zillow example and integrate databases from:

  • National Association of Realtors (NAR)
  • Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

These sources of real estate databases list properties across the U.S., however, this is the most complicated option. You will receive access to MLS and NAR only if you get a real estate license in each U.S. state, which requires both time and money. Are there other ways to integrate property databases to a Zillow type website? Let's see. 

  • Zillow API

You can integrate Zillow API to your website and get access to homes posted for sale. According to Zillow data and API Terms of use, the company allows integrating its API to websites, but not to mobile apps

  • Post by owners

Since you are going to develop a two-sided marketplace, you can allow landlords to place the information about their real estate for sale. 

  • Listing syndication platforms

You can enter the data-sharing agreement with one of the national real estate companies and list their property directly to your marketplace. To achieve that, you may choose among the following real estate platforms: 

how to make a real estate website

[Zillow property listing]

Filtering Algorithms

To allow users to find the property they are looking for more conveniently, you need to integrate a filtering algorithm to your marketplace. We suggest you consider the following search parameters:

  • Location 
  • Price

develop a real estate app like zillow

[Zillow “Price” filter]

  • Type 

real estate sites similar to zillow

[Zillow “Home type” filter]

  • Area
  • Number of bedrooms 

real estate platforms like Zillow

[Zillow “number of beds” filter]

  • Floor, etc.

build your own real estate website

[Other Zillow filters]

Mapping and geolocation 

Your marketplace users will want to learn about the area they are moving to beforehand. To achieve this, you can integrate Zillow API that contains neighborhood boundaries, and a bunch of other APIs with the neighborhood and geographical information, including:    

  • GeoNames, a dataset that includes over 10 million geographical names
  • Google Places API that provides info about local businesses, such as restaurants, sports clubs, and supermarkets
  • MapBox to build your custom map with property listing, market data, videos, and photos. This tool also allows users to draw a polygon on the map for better search results. 

View property

A detailed representation of property is one of the essential functions for real estate websites like Zillow. To show website users the excellent visualization of real estate objects, you can use: 

  • Photos

how to build a real estate website

[Source: Zillow]

  • Videos 

build your own real estate website

[Source: Zillow]

  • 3-D models 
  • 360° panoramic images

making a real estate website

[Source: Zillow]

Cloud infrastructure 

Since your real estate marketplace will include a considerable amount of high-quality photos, videos, and even 360° panoramic images, to keep all this data you need powerful hosting. Otherwise, you will face issues with image system scalability, performance, and disaster recovery challenges. 

In this case, the best option is to follow Zillow's example and integrate a cloud-based infrastructure from the very beginning. As for Zillow, the company uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to store over 100TB of data, over 1 billion objects, and 300 million images. "Maintaining an object count in the billions doesn't work so well on a traditional file system. We would have to split those objects across many file systems, which would be a management nightmare. The scalability of Amazon S3 seemed like the right technology for us," says Nick Michal, Unix systems engineering manager for Zillow Group.

Since you are now aware of the essential features of a real estate website, let's find out how much it will cost. 

How much does a real estate website like Zillow cost

The development of a real estate website is a complex project, not only because of API's integrations, but also because it includes different user roles, such as buyers, sellers, and admin. Therefore, the development team should build your real estate website for three types of users. To save you time and money, we recommend launching such projects as MVP, a website with only main features. In this way, you can discover whether or not your business idea has earning potential. Below, we have gathered the main features for building a real estate website MVP. 

Feature\Screen

Functions required

FrontEnd

BackEnd

Architecture/DB

16 hours 

40 hours

Design

450 hours

Deployment

40 hours

User interface

Home page

- Search by the address

24 hours

24 hours

Menu bar

- Menu options

8 hours

Registration

- Account creation

- Registration

16 hours

16 hours

Login

- Login by facebook, google

- Restore password

8 hours

20 hours

Search Results

- List of properties with images

24 hours

8 hours

Search filter

- Search filters (rent, sale, budget, home type)

16 hours

16 hours

Map for search results

- Google Map API integration

- Define the user's location

16 hours

8 hours

Listing information about house/property

- Fill the information about the property

- Insert images

16 hours

16 hours

Applications for listed property

- Application details for listed properties

16 hours

Property page

- Information (static)

- Features (static)

24 hours

8 hours

Maps directions

- Direction to the property (only for authorized users)

Static pages( About us, help)

- Static text (not editable)

32 hours

System rules, authority rules

- Authorized users and non-authorised users have different

level of rights (directions to property)

User account/profile

- Edit profile, account

- User settings

- Applications

16 hours

40 hours

Real Estate Agent interface

Log In

- Login, logout, password recovery

- Account creation

8 hours

20 hours

Home page

- List of requests from users

24 hours

4 hours

Requests

- Requests details

- Requests from consumers

24 hours

20 hours

User account/profile

- Edit profile, account, settings

16 hours

8 hours

Contact Us

- Static text (not editable)

32 hours

Admin Panel

Admin Login

- Login

4 hours

List of users

- Manage the list of users

- Manage user information

16 hours

Property List

- Review the list of properties

4 hours

Property page

- Review information about properties

20 hours

Total

Front-end from 786+ hours  

Back-end from 332+ hours

Ready to develop a real estate site similar to Zillow?

Estimate your project now

How to build the real estate marketplace with The App Solutions? 

Before we start making a real estate website MVP, we will launch the discovery (inception) phase, to explore and elaborate on the project idea. Moreover, we will also define the scope of the project and the possible solutions to be implemented. The main goal of the inspection phase is to identify the project's scope and the requirements and create an Inception Technical Documentation, which may cost from $4000. 

Next, using technical documentation, the team will compose a list of requirements of MVP (Minimum Viable Product) features in the form of User Stories. The business analyst will clarify User Stories by splitting them into Use Cases Investigation and analysis of third-party system integrations. Then, we will start planning and projection of the future project MVP server architecture. When all these documents are ready, our team will launch the MVP development stage. 

The cost to create a real estate website MVP starts from $45,000, while the cost to build a real estate website with an integrated calendar, payment gateway, and other bells and whistles will cost from $100,000 to $200,000. 

However, the costs to develop a real estate app like Zillow are only approximate, because the final estimation of the real estate website will depend on website requirements and the number of features. 

To find out more about real estate website development costs, you are always welcome to contact us for a free quote

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Daria Dubrova

Content Marketing Manager