A real estate portal is a website or app that allows a user to search homes for sale or rent. Typically, real estate portals refer to platforms that help consumers search home listings.
Home searches are increasingly starting online. Agents used to be the first call to start a home search. But the majority of buyers and sellers now start on a real estate portal. As a result, agents, owners, and buyers must know how to use portals effectively.
Many real estate agents rely on real estate portals for marketing. In turn, real estate portals often rely on agents for marketing revenue and listing data. This creates an interesting relationship. As portals get larger, they can charge agents more. But if agents stop using a portal, that portal may lose data or a key revenue source.
Real estate portals often influence valuations with their automated valuation models. The models real estate portals promote can have an influential impact on pricing.
Most real estate portals make money by charging real estate agents for marketing. Often these services enable buyer’s agents to purchase leads from prospective buyers. In other cases, portals help seller’s agents amplify the traffic of a listing they represent. Many portals also generate revenue from other business lines, including rentals and mortgages. Some portals also have their own brokerages or iBuyer services.
Most real estate portal data comes from MLS feeds. But real estate portals also allow owners and developers to post information directly. Real estate portals sometimes have direct fees with owners and developers. Real estate portals with brokerages or iBuyers likely post their own direct data as well.
The largest concern about real estate portals is that they both rely on and replace agents. This creates a delicate balance for both real estate portals and real estate agents. Real estate agents can build their business using popular real estate portals. But real estate agents also can't rely too much on real estate portals. Real estate portals can quickly change pricing or create a competing brokerage service.
The other criticism of real estate portals is their reliability. The agent-facing MLS only has agent-verified data. Real estate portals may post unverified data. This means that an owner can post a property directly on a real estate portal and never removes it after it sells. Or that a real estate agent could post a property they don’t represent. Real estate portals often try to create verification systems to prevent this. But they are not always effective.
Real estate portals are available to general consumers, while the MLS is not. Real estate portals do post listings from the MLS. But that listing data is less extensive than what is displayed to agents on the MLS. This means consumers do see some MLS data on real estate portals. But agents will often have a more in-depth view on the property through their access to the MLS.
The two most popular real estate portals are Zilow (including subsidiary Trulia) and Realtor.com. Redfin does have a popular consumer portal but is better categorized as a brokerage.