Realtor.com’s iPhone application is tops among real estate apps offering nationwide coverage in terms of the number of features, end-user ratings and performance, while Redfin led among apps with regional coverage, according to a report by real estate consulting firm, Clareity Consulting.
"But, this is a highly competitive space and it wouldn’t take much for others to overtake the leaders," the report said.
The firm compared 23 consumer-facing property search applications available on the Apple iPhone as of June 1.
These include: Realtor.com, ZipRealty, Coldwell Banker, ApartmentGuide.com, Redfin, NearBuy, Zillow, ApartmentFinder, SmarterAgent, RE/MAX Pros Real Estate Search, BestHome4me, MyNewPlace, Trulia, Complete, Homes.com, Puluwai, ForRent, Street Easy, Blue Atlas, Apartments.com, New York Times Real Estate, PMZ, and Alexander Mobile.
The firm first did an apples-to-apples comparison of the apps’ features, setting down a list of 16 criteria: search listings; find an agent; GPS-aware search; listing price; new listings; sold listings; home alerts; saved search; driving instructions; Layar (augmented reality); demographics data; Walk Score; e-mail; text; social networks connections; and login.
Realtor.com had the most features, 11 out of 16, missing new and sold listings, Layar, Walk Score, and ability to send listing information in text.
Coldwell Banker and Redfin followed close behind with 10 out of 16 features each. Zillow, SmarterAgent and BestHome4me had nine out of 16 features. The rest had between eight and five of the listed features.
The report next compared end-user reviews on the Apple App Store as of June 11.
Purely by rating, Realtor.com, ApartmentGuide.com, Redfin and BestHome4me got the most positive reviews, earning an average of 3.5 stars. Zillow, Trulia, SmarterAgent and New York Times Real Estate followed with 3 stars. RE/MAX Pros Real Estate Search and NearBuy got 2 stars, while the rest got 2.5 stars.
The number of user reviews that these ratings were based on varied widely, however. BestHome4me got its 3.5 star rating from 19 reviews, for example, while Apartments.com got its 2.5 stars from 11,025 reviews — the most of any other app compared. Redfin had the second-highest number of user reviews: 5,851. Realtor.com got its 3.5 rating from 570 user reviews.
Next, the firm conducted its own tests for ease of use, style and reliability. Out of a possible five points, Realtor.com got five out of five for each of the three criteria and the testers offered commentary on the app’s pros: "Had almost every feature, easy to use, no glitches, seamless task transitions." A con: "Cannot sort by listing date."
Another leader for nationwide listings was MyNewPlace, which garnered five points for reliability, 4.5 points for ease of use, and four points for style.
Pros from the testers: "Very easy to use, all of the functions worked, no crashes, could search by criteria or present location easily and with lots of results."
Cons: "Some apartments do not have pictures, there are no pictures of floor plans, and information is basic."
Regionally, Redfin tested just as well, with five points for reliability, 4.5 stars for points, and four points for ease of use.
Pros: "Great app — it had every feature looked for as well as others we hadn’t seen anywhere else. There are lots of search criteria, maps, options, (multiple listing service), and agents."
Con: "Limited to certain areas of the country."
New York Times Real Estate also lead regionally with 4.5 points for ease of use and style, and four points for reliability.
Pros: "One of the smoothest interfaces, very detailed listings including building histories, numerous and high-quality large photos, good map interface."
Con: "Limited to listings in New York."
ApartmentGuide.com had five points for ease of use and four points for style and reliability.
Pros: "Innovative interface and easy to use. Had far more information than expected — including floorplans, rent prices and options, pictures, even hours of operation and phone numbers. No crashes."
Cons: "A lot of users complained it crashed a lot, though we did not experience this problem. Ad banners are annoying."
Overall, most apps tested well in terms of style and ease of use. Only NearBuy and Puluwai got fewer than three points on either criterion.
Reliability, which was based on how often an app crashed or bugs were discovered, seemed to be a somewhat more difficult standard to attain. Six apps got fewer than three points in that regard: Homes.com (2.5 points), ZipRealty (two points), NearBuy (two points), ForRent (two points), Apartments.com (one point), and Trulia (one point).