Real Estate Buying

11 Reasons to Check a Home on Every Real Estate Listing Site Before You Buy

Don’t rely on just one source of information when different sites offer different insights into your future home.
Emily Benda Gaylord Avatar
A woman is shopping for a new home on her tablet.
Photo: istockphoto.com

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There’s no question that homebuyers rely heavily on internet sources during their search. Research from the National Association of Realtors shows that 97% of homebuyers use the internet in their home search and that more than half of the homes that buyers viewed were viewed solely online. 

Sites like Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia have made the home search process easier and more accessible for buyers than ever before. However, buyers should avoid relying on one real estate listing site when researching a property’s information, since different sites provide different nuggets of information, ranging from climate impact information to commute estimates. 

Read on to learn about the various features available on different real estate listing sites and why you should check a home’s listing on multiple sites to make the best-informed decision.  

1. Calculate the Monthly Cost

A person is calculating mortgage payments using a calculator and laptop.
Photo: istockphoto.com

According to Zillow’s latest Consumer Housing Trends Report, 84% of buyers say that a home being within their initial budget is very or extremely important. “​​Home shoppers have been loud and clear: affordability is their number one concern,” says Amanda Pendleton, Zillow’s home trends expert. However, buyers need to look beyond the listing price to determine if a home is within their budget. 

To help with this, Pendleton says buyers can use Zillow’s BuyAbility app. Buyers plug their information into the tool to receive a personalized estimate of the home price and monthly payment. The estimate is more accurate than other online mortgage calculators because it factors in personal information, such as credit score. 

2. Understand Climate Conditions 

Most homes have some risk of natural disasters, and as temperatures and sea levels rise, those risks may increase or evolve. Buyers can learn about all of these risks by viewing the home listing on Redfin or Realtor.com. Both sites indicate the risk of natural disasters, such as fire, flood, or extreme heat, occurring in the area via the latest info from Risk Factor.

Natural disaster likelihood also plays a critical role in home insurance costs. Home insurance rates rose 11.3% nationwide in 2023, and according to Realtor.com, those costs will continue to rise as natural disaster risk remains high in many states. As home insurance prices increase, climate conditions will be an important consideration in the home-buying process.  

If you’re looking for a home in a different state, some laws may be different than your current area. Zillow provides an overview of legal protections residents have in each state as it pertains to housing, employment, and public accommodations. This informs potential buyers of any laws or protections they might have been unaware of and empowers them to stand up for themselves if they discover any of these protections has been violated in the home search process.   

Real estate market conditions vary by location, so it can be difficult to understand how competitive a home’s market is, whether you’re buying a new or old home. Redfin’s market competition calculator provides a score to indicate how competitive the home’s zip code is, how much homes in that area typically go for, and how quickly the average home accepts an offer. This can help set expectations for buyers looking in popular neighborhoods and assist buyers in coming up with a desirable offer for sellers.

5. Explore Street View 

Street view of a neighborhood of homes with solar panels.
Photo: istockphoto.com

If it’s not possible to visit the home in person, you can still picture yourself walking down the street with the street view feature available on Redfin, Zillow, and Homes.com. These sites share Google Maps images and allow you to move along the street outside the property to explore what could become your future neighborhood.

6. Check Your Commute Travel Time 

Unless you work remotely, you’ll want to check the commute time to your workplace before locking in your new home. While mileage distance can give you a general idea of the drive, Zillow and Realtor.com offer a commute travel time feature that analyzes the distance and traffic patterns to give you the most accurate prediction of the length of your commute. If the commute estimate is longer than anticipated, you’ll be able to decide if the home is worth the extra drive so you don’t end up buying and regretting it later.

7. See a Rental Income Estimate 

Buyers interested in acquiring rental properties will want to check the listing on Redfin for its “Rental Earnings” widget. This provides an estimate of a property’s potential earnings if the home is leased to tenants by pulling from other rental property listings in the area. This information gives investors a sense of how the property compares to other rentals and helps determine if the property will need updates before listing it for rent. 

8. Read What Locals Say 

Neighborhood information viewed on mobile phone.
Photo: trulia.com

Before buying a home, you may want to learn what kind of neighbors you’ll have nearby. That’s where Trulia’s “What Locals Say” feature comes in handy. Residents in the area vote on Trulia about the neighborhood’s qualities such as feeling comfortable walking alone at night and whether the area is dog-friendly. Trulia also shares comments from residents with more details about their thoughts on the neighborhood.

9. Check the Noise Levels. 

A home may have the right price and photos, but loud highway noise or rowdy neighbors can ruin the appeal. Check on noise levels near the home by reviewing the listing on Homes.com or Realtor.com. Both sites feature sound scores to indicate whether the home is near sources of noise and the type of noise present. If you toured the home and no noise was obvious, it’s still a good idea to check this information since traffic times may affect sound levels. 

10. Find Walkable Spots.

For buyers interested in a home’s walkability, Realtor.com offers location scores that share the walking distances of grocery stores, bars, restaurants, daycares, and more from the listing address. The higher the score, the more walkable options are available within the home’s neighborhood. The site also provides details about cycling access for a comprehensive look at the area’s transportation options. 

11. View the Home in 3D

A mobile and website view of a 3D house tour.
Photo: zillow.com

According to Pendleton, the two most important things buyers should consider when purchasing a home are layout and location. “It’s almost impossible – or incredibly expensive – to change either,” she says. To get a better idea of a home’s layout, it’s a good idea to check the listing across multiple sites since a 3D online tour may be available on one of those platforms. For example, homes listed with Zillow Showcase offer a virtual 3D home tour and an interactive floor plan. Realtor.com, Trulia, Homes.com and Redfin also offer 3D tours on select listings.

12. Get a Popularity Estimate

It’s a competitive market out there and homebuyers often need to act fast to lock in a home. Trulia can help potential buyers with its feature that estimates how quickly a specific home will sell. The site analyzes data from nearby property sales and listing engagement to calculate the sell-time estimate. Check it out to avoid missing out on your dream home!