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The best apps and websites for buying a home in the Boston area

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Given the region’s high prices and its diverse housing stock, even starting a homebuying search can be a headache—these sites ease you in

A city intersection with multistory buildings lining both streets. Shutterstock

The Boston area is one of the most expensive housing markets in the United States. Only San Francisco, New York, maybe L.A., and perhaps D.C. compare. Where else, after all, might a studio list for $400,000 and people not consider it comically expensive?

There are many reasons for these perennially high prices, not least a historic lack of new development and zoning regs that discourage just such development. What it all comes down to, though, is that searching for a home—even starting that search—can be more difficult in Greater Boston than in most metro reasons.

So, to help prospective buyers dive in during 2020 and beyond, we’ve provided a rundown of a quintet of applications and websites (and websites with applications) worth checking out to winkle that perfect—or at least habitable—place. One is deliberately local, and the other four are national in scope but with functions that quickly help buyers zero in on the Boston region. Have at it.


Zillow

Founded way back in 2011, Seattle-based Zillow is one of the oldest online home listings sites. It is quick and to the point—and can be overwhelming without its filters. There is a lot to choose from in a Zillow ZIP code or neighborhood search. Luckily, there are those filters. The site also provides several calculators for mortgages and other financials; and a search engine for finding local brokers. There are also Zillow apps for iPhones and Androids.

Trulia

A Zillow-owned property, Trulia is sort of a clone of its parent. But what makes it worth using is its filters that allow prospective buyers to quickly sift their searches to certain neighborhoods, housing types, price points, etc. And there’s a snazzy way to search only those homes on sale via owners and without brokers. Finally, there’s a Trulia app for iPhones and for Androids.

Estately

Almost Google-like in its simplicity—a single search box in the middle of the page greets users—Estately is also prized for its regular updating. The Seattle-based company refreshes its listings pretty much hourly; and brokers do not pay to list on the site, meaning it can be more comprehensive than its competitors. The usual filters are there too—location, neighborhood, desired amenities—and Estately can help schedule tours of properties (you’ll see that function on the right side of a listing). There are iPhone and Android apps as well.

Boston Pads

Also presenting a pretty simple interface right off, the locally based Boston Pads bills itself as possessing a real-time database of available homes in—well—the Boston region. The search box that pops up right away, too, allows for fast queries by Boston neighborhood or by municipality (Cambridge, Somerville, etc.). And there are resources catered to specific users, including buyers and investors; and ways to search for specifics such as parking spaces and relocation and furnishing services.

New England Moves

Finally, we wouldn’t normally recommend an individual brokerage’s search engine, but Coldwell Banker’s interface is particularly clear-cut and quick for searching via neighborhood and price point. And the brokerage regularly lists non-exclusives, so the selections go well beyond what Coldwell Banker brokers have.