How to Create a Real Estate Marketplace Like Zillow, Redfin, CREXi, and LoopNet

May 23, 2023
10 min

As the world is slowly recovering from mandated lockdowns and economic uncertainty, it is clear that the pandemic has had a profound impact on how people search for real estate. Consumers have developed new digital behaviors and now expect:

  • to have information about properties available in real-time online
  • less face-to-face or over-the-phone communication with a broker and more digital experience.
  • to be able to reach out to buyers/sellers directly.

All of the above is made possible with public-facing real estate marketplaces like Zillow, Redfin, CREXi, and LoopNet that match buyers, sellers, owners and tenants within a single system. Some of these platforms have been around for decades having withstood the test of time and are now booming with the surge of consumers that have moved online in the pandemic.

In this article, we analyze what makes these marketplaces so popular, and how to build a real estate marketplace like Zillow step by step, what features to implement, and what tech stack to use.

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Validate Your Real Estate Marketplace Idea

The first step in building a real estate marketplace like Zillow is a valuation of your business idea. Conduct market research, define the benefits of your solution for the target audience, and choose the business model of your future real estate marketplace.

Let’s look into each step in detail.

Market Research

The first stage of creating a real estate marketplace (website) like Zillow is market research, which, in turn, must begin with a study of the target audience. You need to understand the users’ needs and the problems your solution will solve.

In the case of the real estate marketplace, you will have three personas: Buyers, Sellers, and Brokers.

So, what do buyers, sellers and brokers expect to get from real estate marketplaces like Zillow, LoopNet, Redfin, and TEN-X?

What do clients expect from real estate marketplaces?

What do clients expect from real estate marketplaces? | AscendixTech



Business Model of Real Estate Marketplace: Platform Players vs. Brokerages

Once you’ve conducted a market research and identified the needs of your target audiences, the next step is to analyze the business model of your real estate marketplace.

Note, the business model will largely depend on the type of the real estate marketplace you intend to develop. We allocate the following:

  • for brokers that want to share their listings and make money by helping sell properties or leasing them;
  • for matching buyers with sellers (Zillow, LoopNet, Redfin, CREXi, etc.)

These business models will slightly differ from each other.

Brokerages, on the one hand, leverage real estate marketplaces to advertise a property and attract more phone calls, emails and other enquiries from customers. Their major revenue is in commissions they get when they win a deal. So, automatic valuations, enquiries and online bookings are much appreciated within this business model.

Real estate marketplaces like Zillow, Redfin, Costar, and LoopNet, on the other hand, make money by selling subscriptions and targeted advertising to mortgage lenders, homebuilders, and rental property management companies.

The type of business model you choose depends on the requirements of your business.

After the validation of the business model, the next step in building platforms like CREXi, Zillow, and Redfin is choosing the functionality, tech stack, creating UI/UX and a MVP. That’s the topic of the next passages.

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Real Estate Marketplace Features: Mandatory, Core/Linear, Exciter

Creating your own real estate marketplace is a gradual process.

Once you’ve validated the business model, conducted market research, and defined the needs of target personas, you need to determine the mandatory, core/linear, and exciter features.

Mandatory features – the features that users expect by default

Linear features – the core features that set your real estate marketplace apart from competitors, e.g., complete home-listings data.

Exciter features – the nice-to-have features that users might not expect by default but find greatly beneficial when come to use them. This functionality should “excite” and thus drive the initial decision to upgrade.

Below we share a list of mandatory and linear features that will help you get started.

Mandatory features:

  • Quick on-website authorization
  • User profiles
  • Easy search for property listings
  • Property functionality view
  • Mortgage calculators
  • Intuitive property listing creation and adding
  • Quick view of property listings
  • 360-degree virtual tours
  • “Find a Broker” functionality

Core/Linear Features:

  • Integration with MLS
  • Roles and authorization
  • Advance search capabilities
  • Personal and public profile data
  • Map integration
  • Listings
  • Rental comparison tool
  • Messaging
  • Property tour booking system
  • Estimated monthly costs

Let’s go over each of the core features more specifically.

1. Integration with MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and User Contribution

There are two ways to get your inventory:

  • Through Multiple Listings Service
  • Through User contributions

Most property websites and real estate marketplaces rely on MLS for property data.

However, there are some pitfalls you should be aware of when proceeding with MLS integration.

First, to access an MLS and integrate this database into your marketplace, you must be a licensed broker /a member of a specific realtor organization and pay an annual fee.

Second, data standardization. Each MLS keeps listings data (data fields, etc.) in different formats making it problematic to display all that data in a unified form on a single marketplace. Hence, you might benefit from including data standardization functionality to your real estate platform.

Under user contribution, we mean that brokers, sellers, and buyers can upload listings independently. Encourage your customers to do so for free with a smooth, well-thought-out interface and process that will guarantee you a stable flow of listing information even without an MLS.

add listings crexi

User contribution to real estate marketplace | AscendixTech

2. Roles and authorization

Typical users of the real estate marketplace are brokers, sellers, and tenants. Accordingly, there should be 3 types of profiles on the platform with different functionality and ways of authorization.

For tenants, authorization via social media accounts is okay, whereas for brokers and sellers, the authorization must include several steps of verification.

Real estate marketplace owners (brokerages or entrepreneurs) also require diversification in roles. There should be profiles for marketplace admins with extended functionality for analytics, controlling user profiles, etc.

3. Advanced Search Capabilities

It doesn’t really make sense to develop a real estate marketplace without advanced search capabilities, even if you have the most comprehensive listings database. The good news is you don’t have to invent the wheel as platforms like Redfin, Zillow, LoopNet and others have already created close-to-perfect filtering.

For example:

  • Find a nearby property within X miles from a specific place/property/address. (radius search)
  • Search by entering a zip code and continue with a map search
  • Find addresses of specific places
  • Conduct a polygon search by drawing a circle around a specific area
  • Get access to neighborhood information by clicking on the map
  • Smart search and smart suggestions based on filtering criteria

All of the above features are consolidated in our product, Ascendix Search, that allows users to perform advanced searches for properties/contacts/availabilities, etc.

Advanced searches for properties/contacts/availabilities in Ascendix Search

Advanced searches for properties/contacts/availabilities in Ascendix Search

4. Personal and Public Profile Data

Here we mean empowering your users to modify their profile data and make their own decisions about what data will be visible. In this section, users should be able to adjust their account settings like e-mail, password, phone number, etc. This feature builds confidence between the customers and your real estate marketplace.

5. Online Map Integration

This function allows customers to navigate the local area and find the most relevant properties for sale/lease/rent. Make sure to add a sorting system and geomapping functionality to enable search not only by property location but also in the nearby area.

Your real estate marketplace should also be powered by Google Maps to let users conduct a geospatial search. In addition to this, custom refinement filters like the below would be highly appreciated by users:

  • Listings type
  • Record Type
  • Price
  • Year Built
  • Property Class
  • Other
Example of advanced search capabilities in MarketSpace

Example of advanced search capabilities in MarketSpace

Allow your users to use a combination of these filters and designate their own custom ones based on multiple criteria to make the search experience even more efficient.

6. Listings

Your real estate marketplace is a huge database of property listings with a myriad of data records about property location, ratings, prices, accessibility, etc.

Depending on the business model of your real estate marketplace, you’ll need to arrange that information within a neat yet informative listing template, accentuating key details that might be a deciding factor in the sale/rent.

Ideally, listing pages oriented at the buyer should contain the following:

  • Property information – well-presented pictures, property descriptions, and key details
  • Price/tax history
  • Mortgage calculator
  • Property Status
  • Asking price
  • Home values in the neighborhood
  • List of agents and mortgage lenders
  • The “Add to Favorites” button

The information must be presented in a very convenient, user-friendly manner. See the example below.

Property Listings View in MarketSpace

Property Listings View in MarketSpace

7. Rental Comparison

Zillow offers a rental comparison tool called Rent Zestimate. It allows users thinking about buying or wholesaling the property to sort, filter, and analyze a customized list of rental comps for a specific area and properties within a chosen neighborhood.

See the example of a rental comparison interface below:

Rental comparison tool in Zillow

Rental comparison tool in Zillow

8. Messaging

Instant messaging capabilities are a vital feature for a solid broker-buyer connection. Messaging in real estate marketplaces can be presented in the form of online chats, video chats, and additional fields to write a message or send an email.

9. Tour Booking System

This feature goes as a separate module. Users appreciate the ability to book a property tour on a specific date and time right from the system, avoiding wordy phone calls.

This feature would also greatly benefit marketplace admins, allowing them to track property bookings and keep them organized.

Property tour booking in Zillow

Property tour booking system in Zillow

10. Estimated Monthly Costs

An excellent feature for tenants looking for the most money-worth properties is a monthly cost estimation available from a specific listing screen. (see the example below).

Estimation of monthly costs in Zillow

Estimation of monthly costs in Zillow

In this passage, we analyzed the core features of the real estate marketplace. As your marketplace scales, you must update it regularly with new features and functionality.

Tech Stack Required to Build Real Estate Marketplace

The tech stack is a backbone in tailoring the web product to your goals and chosen business model and should receive the most attention before the actual development begins. Based on our experience in building CRE marketplaces and real estate websites like Zillow, we advise to employ the following tech stack:

  • Azure Cloud: for cloud storage
  • Salesforce Experience Cloud
  • Azure App Service: PaaS offering for hosting back-end components as well as front-end single page applications
  • Azure Functions: serverless offering for the hosting of background jobs, such as sending emails, etc.
  • Atlas Mongo DB: no-SQL high scalable database which should be used as a main data storage
  • Azure Service Bus: for the asynchronous communication between back-end components and services
  • Azure Blob storage: reliable and high-scalable storage for files, photos, videos, etc.
  • Azure Active Directory B2C: as a reliable and secure identity provider.

However, if your brokerage already uses a real estate marketplace that needs improvements, building off a preexisting platform is a good solution to consider.

In this regard, our team offers implementation and migration to a well-known platform – Salesforce Experience Cloud. The benefit of this cloud is that it seamlessly integrates all Salesforce apps and capabilities under one roof, including sales, marketing, and customer care, as well as analytics, advertising, and content management to deliver connected digital experiences for various portals, customer care hubs, etc.

Therefore, if your brokerage is subscribed to Salesforce CRM, you don’t have to build all the tech from scratch – Salesforce has done it for you.

The Ascendix team has solid experience in building marketplaces for real estate on Salesforce Experience Cloud.

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MVP and Design

Now that we have determined the core features and tech stack, it’s time to create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Building a marketplace MVP helps to test your ideas and analyze users’ perception of the functionality you implemented.

You need to include only the mandatory and linear functionality during marketplace MVP development. Over time, you will scale the platform and be able to implement add-ons and optional features.

Speaking about design features of the real estate marketplace, we’d like to highlight the following: it should be simple and straightforward for all target personas. Whether it’s a broker with a solid tech background or a non-tech-savvy user, design of the interface must be intuitive.



Our Experience in Building Real Estate Marketplaces

As a real estate tech development company with almost two decades of hands-on experience in the industry, we have overseen and executed multiple real estate marketplace buildout projects. Perhaps the most prominent was developing our own broker-faced web Listing Portal and real estate marketplace – MarketSpace.

The aim behind this solution was to provide the users (usually brokers) with a straightforward, efficient way to promote properties and communicate with customers from a single portal that would easily integrate with the existing brokerage system, whether it be based on Salesforce or Dynamics 365.

Although Marketspace is predominantly a broker-oriented web portal, we wanted to make sure that agents could upon customer’s (buyer/tenant’s) request share a predefined pool of listings that match home seekers’ criteria with a wider audience. This basically makes MarketSpace a two-faceted solution oriented at the broker and the client. With this in mind, we implemented the following sets of functionality:

  • Advanced map search
  • Secure and engaging deal rooms
  • Easy-to-use and safe collaboration rooms
  • Versatile report generation tool
  • Diverse search and filtering tools
  • Insightful dashboard with charts and graphs

By far, our custom real estate software development expertise and projects we’ve brought to life so far reflect our strong focus on delivering upscale solutions.

How can we assist you in building a real estate marketplace like Zillow, Redfin, or CREXi?

We collect your requirements, needs, and expectations. This process includes workshops, stakeholder interviews, and use cases to define the best solution for your business.

  • Skill Set Assessment & Proposal

We discuss and define the tech stack, project scope, timelines, budget, engagement models for your project, and design.

  • Resourcing & Recruitment

We assign team members responsible for the project delivery. If necessary, we can recruit new team members from our offshore office.

We start the software development phase and keep you updated on the project’s progress to ensure we are on the same page.

Due to our solid expertise in real estate software development, the Ascendix team knows exactly how to build a website like Zillow and we will be glad to assist you in creating your vision of a perfect real estate marketspace. Check our case studies and contact us to discuss your project.

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What’s the Cost to Build Real Estate Marketplace?

Cost to build real estate marketplace depends heavily on such factors:

  • The functionality you wish to have on your real estate marketplace website;
  • The development approach, tech stack, design you choose;
  • The rates of your software development vendor.

The final cost can vary, so the best way is to contact us and to get an accurate project estimation.

What Tech Stack Do I Need to Create a Website Like Zillow?

For cloud storage: Azure Cloud, Salesforce Experience Cloud

For hosting the back-end components as well as front-end single page applications: Azure AppService

For the hosting of background jobs, such as sending emails, etc: Azure Functions

For main data storage: Atlas Mongo DB

For the asynchronous communication between back-end components and services: Azure Service Bus

For a reliable and high-scalable storage of the files, photos, videos, etc: Azure Blob

For secure identity provider: Azure Active Directory B2C


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