Trulia & Zillow – How to build a big-time application for real estate
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Trulia & Zillow – How to build a big-time application for real estate

7 min
Dec 23 2020
Everyone needs a home. Growing up, you no longer wish to live with your parents, or maybe you start a family of your own. In any case, people encounter the problem of searching for apartments and houses and choosing the best option for themselves. Fortunately, anyone can use a real estate application to solve this pain point in the shortest time. It’s much more convenient than keeping in touch with your agent by phone. And no wonder that the development of a smart-working application for real estate business has become a popular service. In this article, we’ll discover how to build a platform similar to the industry leaders Trulia and Zillow.

Time to Upgrade your Real Estate Business

Mobile applications are here to simplify your professional life. It’s an excellent time to build such an app for the existing real estate agency or create a startup. All businesses have been shifting towards digitization for the last decade, and adapting to these changes is crucial for both your profit and professional growth. People from most cities frequently need real estate services, which include selling, purchasing, and renting. You can see the most significant demand for online services today, and real estate application development is the future. How can you, a real estate agent, not only survive but find more clients? You need to build their trust with a digital presence.
A desktop version of zillow  a real estate platform
Zillow is a real estate platform for buying, selling and renting

Business models for a Real Estate Application

An application for a real estate business should have a particular database with rent and sale offers. How to build it? One way is to have your own database before the application’s launch. Another way is cooperation with other real estate agencies and agents before you start the software development process. In the first case, you’ll create an app for your particular business, while the second one is an aggregator application development. If you build a long-term partnership, you’ll get the chance to monetize a real estate app in a very profitable way. For a start, you give real estate agents free advertising; then, when your application gets popular, you can create commission systems for your new partners to place a profile. Real estate agents carry out all the deals, while users have to choose between agencies and properties that your app offers. Nowadays, over 65% of people turn to their mobile devices to find information and seek advice on the best price and quality, says Statista. The same is right about renting and buying via real estate applications. For example, Zillow has reported the following stats: their users view 186 homes a second and over 420 million homes a month. What conclusion can we make from that? There is a vast audience who will download and use a real estate application like Zillow or Trulia. It also means that you have all chances to succeed if you build one. The primary business model is quite simple, and all you need is to hire a dedicated team for application development. Let's have a closer look at two market leaders and compare their approaches. What strategies and functionality do they use to bring a lot of users?

Trulia – a Reinvention of Real Estate Searches

Launch year: 2004 Creators: Pete Flint and Sami Inkinen Available: iOS, Android, Web Downloads from stores: over 10 million
Trulia has been a breakthrough in the real estate industry. The development of this application opened a whole new world and paved the way for many similar projects.


  • The home screen with a list of categories and subcategories. Each user can choose different facilities or prices to watch the real estate they’re interested in. It’s the right way to successful deals in the real estate business.
  • The fully functional map. It allows a user to find a property nearby and explore other districts or areas. Zooming a map, customers see all real estates for sale or rent and check their prices.
  • The connection between flexible search filters and a detailed map. Users choose specific parameters (location, the number of bedrooms, price, etc.) and see the options displayed on the screen.
A real estate search on trulia
The search with filters and a detailed map on Trulia


  • The detailed description of an area. Anyone can use a real estate application to explore the map, photos, neighbors’ reviews, local highlights and facilities (groceries, schools, restaurants, etc.), crime level, weather, and other significant characteristics.
  • The mortgage option. This is one of the most attractive features in any real estate mobile app. The creators of Trulia have used the benefits of application and website development to build a mortgage calculator that shows up-to-date rates. Each user can find a suitable bank offer and make a successful purchase. It’s helpful for clients and beneficial for a real estate business.

Zillow – a Deep Dive into Real Estate Offers

Launch year: 2006 Creators: Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink Available: iOS, Android, Web Downloads from stores: over 10 million


  • The home screen displays the map encouraging users to start exploring real estate immediately. Zillow shows the offers with their locations and prices, just as in Trulia.
  • The application has a search filter system that allows selecting houses and apartments by price, amenities, size, location, etc.
  • The mortgage calculator.
The real estate mortgage calculator on zillow
The mortgage calculator on Zillow shows a payment plan


  • The detailed information about each home – including tax history, price change, etc. It’s quite helpful if a user is planning a purchase. The web version development was a bit different – the website also displays the price forecast for each property. Giving more details about each item helps real estate agents build trust with clients. Therefore, it’s an essential feature for any application or a website.
  • The integration with Google Street View. Thanks to qualified mobile developers, this feature works smoothly and allows clients to take a closer look at houses and neighborhoods.
  • The option to hide properties in which a user isn’t interested.
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How to Build a Real Estate Application Like Trulia or Zillow

Is the development of a clone solution worth it? No, if you wish to stand out among the multiple competitors in the real estate market. Your application should have at least a couple of unique features and offer potential clients some new opportunities. Every real estate app may have weak sides – even the giants like Trulia and Zillow. Look at these apps as a user and find the aspects you don’t like. Then decide what things you can build better. It will help you understand app development opportunities and the whole concept of your real estate application. Let’s analyze Trulia and Zillow’s successful experience. What conclusions can we make?
  1. Think about what a user wants (find a home quickly and easily, study all parameters via an application) and make it happen with modern software development.
  2. You should create an informative and easy-to-use map giving detailed information about real estate objects.
  3. Build killer-features that will single out your application and your real estate business.
Search page to find a real estate agent at zillow
Real estate agents search at Zillow
Add some exciting features to your real estate app – for example, AR or VR. The current level of development technologies allows building an Augmented Reality feature that demonstrates the real estate for sale and rent every time a user points their phone camera to a building. What is more, you can use VR technologies for virtual tours on your application. This way, you’ll turn the process of renting and selling property into a fun activity, almost a game. Some apps have already implemented this feature into the real estate business – the development becomes possible thanks to 3D cameras and cloud environment technologies. It’s a costly solution, but attracting a new audience is worth it.

Expanding an Audience in the Real Estate Business

There are some working methods to attract new users and convert them into potential clients. All you need is a good strategy providing your real estate business with constant growth. This strategy may consist of various components. Let’s look at them in detail.

Marketing tools

Social media and promotional emails should play the greatest part in your business strategy. Use all channels that can present your application to potential users and remember to hold the existing clients’ interest. You can rely on social media like Instagram – uploading high-quality visual content and using geotags are the classic marketing techniques for real estate businesses. In the application development, we create a functional map. Instagram can do the same thing with geotagged posts so that people could find photos by typing the location name. Don’t miss this opportunity to promote your real estate business.

Referral Programs

Let’s look at some positive statistics. According to Nielsen’s research:
  • 92% of people trust their friends and family’s recommendations when it comes to new digital resources.
  • Many real estate businesses have been using referral or repeat programs for years, and today 82% of transactions in this industry happen this way.
  • If your referral program is well-thought, people will gladly participate in it – 91% of satisfied customers want to.
One of the best ways is having a premium subscription on your real estate application and giving it for actions like sharing, recommending, or inviting new users. You should think about your strategy on the stage of web and app development and create a referral program in line with your business model.

    Multi-platform approach

    This is an excellent way to broaden your target audience. You can use all benefits of application and website development to provide your services on mobile platforms (iOS, Android) and on the Web. This time, people will turn to your real estate business in any convenient way. For example, a potential client starts looking for a home via a desktop version and sees the photos on a vast screen; then, this person continues their search via a mobile application; finally, they make a decision and contact you. Multi-platform approach increases clients’ loyalty and leads to successful deals.

    How to Monetize your Real Estate App after its Development

    • Advertising. Both Trulia and Zillow use this system, enabling various estate agents to promote themselves to target audiences. Since the two companies merged, they built a specific application for agents, brokers, and other real estate business professionals.
    • Premium subscription. This kind of monetization model allows you to charge commissions for additional services like “advert-free” or cutting-edge features such as AR, VR, and so on.
    • ”White label” solutions. This way, you monetize a successful business idea for other companies’ application development. All you do is licensing your code and then selling it to those who are interested and agree to build their application on certain conditions.
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    Final Word on Application Development for Real Estate Businesses

    If you wish to build a smartly working mobile app for real estate, you will need a team of professional developers. These specialists should have experience with mobile and web apps and know the real estate industry’s specificities. As a business owner, you have to create a good plan with clear, achievable goals. Do you have a promising idea? Contact our team to build a mobile app or website for real estate.
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