What are some great web sites for buying a house?

You have a whole slew of online options when it comes to house shopping. Some sites offer listings while others provide different resources you need when purchasing a home, like mortgage calculators and tax information. Google Maps is a great tool for house shopping, considering that it offers a real estate feature in its "More" menu. When you open the real estate option, Google will mark off on your map where houses are for sale. A different menu allows you to sort out the results by price range, type of sale (sale, rent or foreclosure) or size of house. The site can generally provide a photo of the house in question, as well.

A real estate site called Zillow offers free searches for buyers, sellers and renters; as of November 2010, it was ranked the most-used real estate Web site [source: Alexa]. On Zillow, you can sort by house size, asking price and whether a realtor is involved. You can also sign up for e-mails to alert you when new homes are added that match your needs. Zillow is available as a free app for all kinds of mobile devices. ZipRealty offers similar features, although you do have to register for a free account to use it. The major difference is the free app, which links to detailed pages with photos and Google Street View.

Meanwhile, Trulia tells you which homes have dropped in price and where open houses are being held nearby. The site also has useful real estate statistics related to each area. Plus, it has a community section with advice and blogs about real estate matters. The Redfin site offers a bunch of the same features as the other sites, but it focuses on matching buyers and agents. And Smarter Agent is a highly customizable site that aims specifically at mobile users; the app is free.

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