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How to Create A Real Estate Website Like Zillow

During the early 2000s, people interested in purchasing properties had limited options and often relied on real estate agents and brokers for assistance. Roughly a decade ago, people would use Craigslist ads or Google to search for property addresses and then personally travel to the location to investigate. However, the advent of other sites like Zillow has revolutionized the entire process, making it far more convenient. Nowadays, potential buyers can browse the site, examine property photos, arrange inspections, and even complete transactions with a click of a button, all from the comfort of their homes.

But how did Zillow become such a dominant force in the market?

What strategies can you utilize to create a site similar to Zillow?

This article aims to answer these questions and guide you through developing your real estate website like Zillow. You'll learn about constructing a two-sided marketplace, the associated expenses, and the steps required to make your site profitable. By implementing these suggestions, you can create a highly effective and lucrative real estate platform without incurring high costs.

How did Zillow start its way?

The company was established in December 2004 by two former Microsoft executives, Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink, who realized a need for a site that could calculate a home's value and rental rates. Their plan gained traction quickly and attracted a million users in just three days after launching a site with real estate data from 300 cities. The business model became popular among homeowners, buyers, and sellers, with their home value estimates.

Zillow's move into the on-demand home-buying market through Zillow Offers marked a significant turning point for the company. By buying houses directly from homeowners, Zillow aimed to make the buying and selling process more efficient and revolutionize the conventional real estate brokerage model. In 2018, Zillow expanded its market by partnering with Century 21 Canada, which allowed them to list Canadian properties on the site and enter the Canadian real estate market.

Zillow's triumph exemplifies the potential of innovation and disruption. The founders' ability to identify a gap in the real estate industry and develop a solution that addressed the problem demonstrates the importance of using technology to solve real-world issues. The company showed how a brilliant idea and excellent execution can transform its business into a multi-billion dollar enterprise.

How to build a website like Zillow

Zillow business strategy and user roles

Zillow primarily follows a horizontal strategy, meaning that the company offers its customers a range of existing estate-related products and services. The platform caters to different users with their unique needs and goals, including home buyers, renters, homeowners, and real estate professionals. To provide a personalized experience to each user, Zillow offers a range of user roles:

  1. Home buyers and renters that can search for homes and apartments, save their favorite listings, and receive alerts about new listings that meet their search criteria.
  2. Homeowners that claim their home on Zillow, update information about it, respond to reviews, and track their estimated value over time.
  3. Real estate professionals that can create a free account or upgrade to a paid subscription to access tools for managing their listings, promoting their services, and generating leads.

What are Zillow's revenue models?

Identifying the right monetization is the next crucial step after deciding on the most suitable business model for your marketplace. The appropriate monetization system is a critical factor in building a thriving marketplace.

Zillow provides free services for users to list a home for sale or rent, search for properties, and view estimated property values. However, Zillow's parent company, Zillow Group, generates revenue through several paid subscription plans and advertising services. Here we will examine how Zillow makes money and explore its subscription plans.

To generate revenue, Zillow provides several promotional services, which include:

  • Premier services that allow real estate agents to run ads and acquire leads for a fee. Agents are charged based on the cost per ad impression and cost per lead, which can range from $20 to $60.
  • Promotional sales targeted towards real estate firms. Zillow charges these firms a cost per lead, cost per click, and cost per lease for displaying ads within the Zillow Rental Network, which includes popular websites like AOL Real Estate, Trulia, MyNewPlace, Yahoo! Inc., Hotpads, and MSN Real Estate.
  • An advertisement sales model involves selling advertising space to lenders, mortgage professionals, and other businesses with a cost-per-lead fee.
  • A subscription model for mortgage services connects users with custom quote services and a lead management platform.

Zillow provides various subscription options tailored for people working in the real estate sector. These plans provide access to additional features and tools to help users promote their listings and grow their businesses. Among them are:

  1. Zillow Rental Manager, a subscription-based service for landlords and property managers. The service lets users list and manage their rental properties on Zillow, Trulia, and HotPads. The plans start at $9.99 per week for a single listing and go up to $29.99 for five listings.
  2. Zillow Premier Agent, a service for real estate agents. It provides agents with branding on Zillow's website, increased visibility for their listings, and a customer relationship management system. It helps track Zillow users who have expressed interest in working with an agent.
  3. Zillow Pro for Brokers, which increases visibility for listings and access to Zillow's lead-generation tools. Costs for services vary by the size of the brokerage.
  4. Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, which allows lenders to advertise their services to Zillow's users and provides them with leads generated by Zillow's mortgage calculators. Costs for services vary based on the number of charges purchased.

Zillow generates revenue through advertising and paid subscription plans, and as the platform expands, it is expected to introduce new subscription plans and income streams to sustain its financial success. Zillow's specific tools and features have made it the preferred platform for home builders, rental professionals, buyers, investors, and agents across the United States.

Wondering how to build a website like Zillow? Let’s discover in detail what features made the platform unique.

Must-have features to build a website like Zillow

To build such a comprehensive online platform like Zillow, you must offer unique tools and features to help individuals in the real estate industry buy, sell, rent, and easily promote properties. Below is a list of the most important ones that your users may need.

Property listings

One of the essential features of any real estate website similar to Zillow is property listings and databases. If your real estate agent already has a property database in your city, region, or country, integrating it into your website's backend is crucial. But what if you don't have a database? Let's explore some options.

Suppose you want to develop a real estate marketplace in the United States. In that case, you can follow the footsteps of Zillow and integrate databases from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) or Multiple Listing Service (MLS). However, this option is complicated, as you'll need a real estate license for each state to gain access to MLS and NAR databases, which can be both time-consuming and expensive.

Another option is to integrate the Zillow Application Programming Interfaces (API) into your website, which provides access to homes posted for sale. According to the company's data and API terms of use, Zillow allows integration of its API into websites but not mobile apps.

One more approach is to allow landlords to post information about their real estate for sale on your two-sided marketplace. This approach can be advantageous, as it creates a more comprehensive database of properties.

Finally, you can also enter into a data-sharing agreement with one of the national real estate companies and list their property directly on your marketplace. Several real estate platforms are available, such as 365 Connect, RealBird social media, mobile listing marketing platform, and JBGoodwin Realtor's marketplace with the broker-listed property.

Zillow property listing

Search filters

Integrating a filtering algorithm into your marketplace is essential to enhance user experience and make it easier for users to find the properties they need. Here are some indispensable search parameters to consider:

  • Location
  • Price range
  • Property type
  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Square footage
  • Year built
  • Amenities such as a swimming pool, garage, or outdoor space
  • School district
  • Walkability score
  • Property condition
  • Listing type (for sale or rent)

Zillow_Search filters

By including these search parameters in your filtering algorithm, you can create a comprehensive and efficient user search experience. This approach will enable users to find the property that best fits their needs and preferences, increasing engagement and satisfaction.

Map search functionality

The functionality of property searching on a map is a crucial feature for any real estate marketplace. This feature enables users to view properties in their desired location. Users can easily browse properties in a particular neighborhood or area of interest through a map search functionality. Map search can help potential buyers better understand the region and its specifics.

By integrating various APIs, you can offer a comprehensive experience of valuable insights into local neighborhoods and businesses. Zillow provides this with the help of a specific API, which contains neighborhood boundaries and other relevant geographical information.

In addition, there is another valuable dataset to consider integrating, GeoNames. With over 10 million geographical names, it allows users to explore different areas and better understand their location.

You can use the Google Places API to give users more information about the local area. The API will provide details about local businesses, including restaurants, sports clubs, and supermarkets. This information can help buyers determine how well a particular region fits their lifestyle.

Finally, consider using MapBox to create a custom map with property listings, market data, videos, and photos. This powerful tool also allows users to draw a polygon on the map for better search results, making it easier for buyers to find properties that meet their needs.

By integrating these APIs, you can provide users with a more comprehensive experience, helping them make informed decisions about where to move and ensuring they feel confident in their purchase.

Registration function

The Zillow registration function allows users to create a free account on Zillow's website, which provides access to additional features such as saving and tracking favorite properties, receiving alerts about new listings, and accessing more detailed information about properties.

By registering on Zillow, users can also engage with the platform's community by leaving reviews, asking questions, and sharing their experiences. Registration involves providing basic personal information such as name and email address and creating a password. Once registered, users can customize their profile and take advantage of Zillow's many features.


This functionality offers advantages for both purchasers and agents. Home buyers can save their preferred choices by adding properties to the list of their top picks. The option allows them to revisit these options without starting their search from scratch each time they visit your website. Additionally, users can stay informed about any changes to their favorite properties, such as availability and price updates.

This feature also allows agents to understand which properties pique their clients' interests the most. This knowledge enables agents to offer more appropriate options to their clients based on their favorites.

Payment methods

An integrated payment system is essential to a successful real estate platform. Integrating reliable and secure payment gateways like PayPal, Braintree, or Stripe can make transactions easier for both buyers and sellers. One can select from a wide range of APIs and methods available. It is vital to consider the region where your platform operates and select the most commonly used payment gateway in that area. It must be noted that integrating gateway APIs onto the platform will place the responsibility for credit card data and security on the forum. As such, ensuring the service has robust security measures to protect users' sensitive information is crucial. Additionally, offering multiple payment options to users can increase the likelihood of successful transactions on the platform. With these considerations in mind, enhancing payment methods on a real estate platform can lead to more seamless and secure transactions for all parties involved.

Messaging solutions

As communication is critical to success in the real estate business, providing an integrated messenger is of key importance. Real-time messaging allows for constant connectivity between the platform and server, ensuring the instant delivery of messages while knowing if users are online or offline. There are several ready-to-use real-time messaging solutions available that can be integrated into your platform. Here are some options to consider:

  • SimpleTexting
  • Text Magic
  • Mobile Text Alerts
  • BatchLeads
  • EZ Texting

Real estate agents and clients can stay connected, receive timely updates, and communicate effectively by using a reliable messaging system integrated into your platform.


Calendars are a vital component of most real estate platforms as they provide realtors and potential buyers with a clear overview of whether a property is available for showings. To achieve this, developers of a real estate website can create a custom calendar or leverage APIs provided by tech giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

By using APIs, real estate platforms can integrate these calendars into their platform to streamline the booking process for showings. Furthermore, real estate sites can take advantage of open-source calendars that offer the flexibility to customize the appearance of the calendar to match the brand's style.

Overall, integrating calendars into real estate platforms is an essential tool for managing showings and appointments. Developers have various options to choose from to implement the perfect solution for their platform.

Wrapping up

Zillow is currently dominating the real estate industry, with other companies striving to match up to its success. However, replicating Zillow's extensive feature list can quickly lead to bankruptcy due to its exorbitant cost. We propose taking a different approach and carving out your unique path toward developing a real estate website. To assist with this, we have compiled a list of essential features for a real estate listing marketplace’s minimum viable product (MVP) that will save time and keep your budget in check.

If you want to build a website like Zillow with all its features and screens, you'll need to ensure that the following functions are implemented:

  1. Property listings: The ability for users to browse and search for available properties, including filters such as price, location, size, and features.
  2. Property details: Detailed information about each property, including photos, videos, floor plans, descriptions, and other relevant details.
  3. User accounts: Users’ option to create accounts, save searches, and save favorite properties.
  4. Real estate agent profiles: The ability for real estate agents to create profiles and list their properties on the marketplace.
  5. Messaging system: Such system allows users to communicate directly with real estate agents and sellers from the platform.
  6. Reviews and ratings: A system that allows users to leave reviews and ratings for real estate agents and properties.
  7. Mortgage calculator: A tool that helps users estimate their monthly mortgage payments based on the property's price and other factors.
  8. Map view: A map that shows available properties in a particular location.
  9. Mobile optimization: The ability to access the marketplace on mobile devices.
  10. Secure payment system: A feature that allows users to complete transactions securely.

The development timeline for a real estate marketplace like Zillow will depend on various factors, such as the feature' complexity, the development team' size, and the development methodology used. It's important to note that building a Zillow-like marketplace is a complex and time-consuming process that requires extensive planning, design, and development work, and may take several months or even years to complete.

Zillow acquired Restly to help developers access real estate data from MLS, had the best Christmas ever, and got lots of gifts.

If you're eager to launch your website, we invite you to contact us for a complimentary quote. Our team knows exactly how to create a website like Zillow. We will be excited to collaborate with you and provide any additional details you may require. Let us help you turn your vision into a reality!

Frequently asked questions

Creating listing websites similar to Zillow will be a costly task. Many factors can influence the final cost, such as the complexity of the website, the required features, the technology stack used, the development team's hourly rate, and the team's geographic location, among others. A rough estimate for an MVP of a listing website like Zillow with basic features will start at $50,000. However, there is no upper limit on the price as more advanced features, such as user registration, search, filter functionality, property listing creation and management, map integration, and payment integration, will increase the cost.

We recommend consulting with a web development team to get an estimate tailored to your business needs.

Creating home apps like Zillow requires a robust mobile presence, a crucial factor in the industry. The first step is identifying your target users and developing functionalities to meet their needs. For instance, buyers and renters require geolocation-enabled search, push notifications, and messaging with agents. However, many home search apps, including Zillow, need more search features that lead to better reviews. Improving mobile user experience by addressing common complaints, such as lack of filters, poor synchronization, and irrelevant notifications, can help you win over users from your competitors.

By identifying and addressing the weaknesses of your competitors, you can offer a better alternative to sellers and agents. However, to do this successfully, you must thoroughly analyze Zillow. Despite being a dominant player in the market, Zillow also has areas that may be improved. Here are the strengths and weaknesses of Zillow.


  • Zillow has the largest market share in the real estate industry and owns a vast database of over 110 million homes in the US.
  • Zillow dominates mobile home shopping, with over 50 mobile apps, and offers a range of free tools such as Zestimate home estimator and mortgage calculator.
  • Zillow has powerful technology for industry professionals, such as Premier Agent and Dotloop, and offers excellent advertising opportunities.


  • Zillow is criticized for outdated home data and inaccurate Zestimates, which can lead to unfair business practices.
  • Advertising at Zillow is considered expensive, and agents often complain about the quality of leads.
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