Internet Property Portals are the easy quick way to search for properties for Sale. Property portals are search engines dedicated to finding properties only. You’ll know them as Zoopla.co.uk, Rightmove.co.uk or Primelocation.com. Most Estate Agents now have their own websites with plenty of detail on the properties they are selling. Property Portals collect most of the properties from different estate agents and let you view them in one place.
You simply enter your basic search details: Area name/ postcode, Price range, number of bedrooms. Then you receive all of the ‘results’ that fit your criteria. It’s like looking into an estate agents window and magically seeing only the types of property you are looking for.
If you receive too many search results, or too many of the results are not quite what you are looking for, you add extra requirements to slim down the number of properties (e.g. flat or house, outdoor space).
Of the many property search portals, we use three: Primelocation.com, Zoopla.co.uk and Rightmove.co.uk. We find that amongst these sites you will find the best search features and the widest array of properties, although be aware Primelocation and Zoopla are the same company, so there is plenty of overlap.
Estate agents pay to advertise on these websites. Most agents subscribe to all the portals, however smaller agents will save money by only advertising on one or two. That’s why we look across several sites when we search for properties. Small local agents and private sellers sometimes only appear on one site.
Although you will see 90% of properties are the same on each website (it can seem boring seeing the same ones again) the 10% of properties that are unique to a site could be what you are looking for and have the advantage of less buyers knowing about them as most people only search one Property Portal regularly.
Tip: Finding a property that is only advertised on one portal can literally cut the competition from other buyers in half. Even better, it means the agent has a small budget, so may not be marketing the property effectively in other ways. These homes can often prove good bargains, where the lack of competition allows you to submit a lower offer price.
Start with wide parameters. At first start with just a postcode or area (as many as you like), a price range and that’s it. This will return too many search results. Sift through each of the properties and you will get a better idea of what your money can buy.
Now add your specific requirements. Once you are aware of the properties in your area around your budget level, begin to add in your personal needs: number of bedrooms, flat or house, outside space – to narrow the search to properties you actually want.
Widen your price range. Now search for your desired area or postcode with a price range set slightly wider than your ideal range. So if you have a budget of £700,000 to £800,000 search for properties in the £650,000 to £850,000 range.
There are a few benefits of doing this. Firstly you see how much more you are getting for your money, versus properties a little cheaper – are you getting more space or just a nicer level of decoration which you could do yourself, more cheaply? The properties slightly above your price range might be reduced and fall into your budget, or you could always make a lower offer on those properties and may find an affordable deal.
You may notice that you are at the top end of your range with your budget and for an extra 5% or 10% you can get a property with an extra bathroom or bedroom… this might mean spending a little more upfront to get a home you can live in for longer.
Beware properties with short leases or in need of alot of refurbishment, appearing in a lower price bracket. On the one one hand impressive properties that require a big cash injection can appear in your results (once you add the extra costs they will be out of reach). If you look at cheaper properties, you may find something unattractive to other purchasers, which can make sense to buy for less, then spend the remaining money extending a lease or refurbishing.
Estate agents will generally show you the properties which are above your budget range, so having done the online research to know what is actually affordable will help you detect their lies when they tell you “what you want is only available at this higher price!
Add neighbouring areas. Each of the web portals we suggest here let you search a wider area than your ideal location. So if you are looking for a property in postcode ‘NW3’ or ‘Hampstead’ you can select to widen the search to include properties half a mile away, a mile away or more (look for the ‘This Area Only’ tab). Sometimes a property on the edge of your search area moves into a different postcode or neighbourhood, yet can have your ideal criteria. It makes sense to always look a little outside the box.
Search results. When you are creating a shortlist from your search results be aware of these tricks:
No internal pictures = property often needs complete redecoration. No floor plan = weird layout (perhaps the bathroom is on the ground floor of the house, the stairwell is in the kitchen, or access to bedrooms is unconventional). No external pictures = dilapidated property or neighbouring properties are in bad condition (can also be the case if the picture is taken at a sharp angle), use Streetview to check (remember its only updated each couple of years). Curtains drawn closed in pictures = those rooms have windows looking onto a wall or something unsightly. Internal pictures are often taken with the camera pushed up against a wall, or even in the doorway, with a wide-angle lens, so believe the floorplan not the image. If there is no picture of a Key room like the lounge, kitchen or main bedroom, it’s often due to them being small or an irregular shape that would put off viewers.
Recently added. Once you have researched properties online for a while, you will come across many of the same properties time and again. By using the ‘recently added’ filter or sorting search results by ‘date added’ you can save alot of time and just see fresh properties. Often agents will ‘refresh’ their property listing if the house or flat hasn’t found a buyer and they will have to do this if they drop the price, so you will be informed of any potential ‘bargains.’
Save searches. It is worth creating an account with each of the websites so you can save properties which look attractive and come back to them later, when you wish to contact the agent or to make it easy to see the list when you get home from work, or show your list to your partner or friends.
Sign up for email alerts. Most property portals allow you to receive emails with recently added properties that fit your criteria. It’s best to use your widened price range for this purpose as you’ll only receive a few new properties each day (if you are lucky!). This saves time and lets you know early when new properties become available. I’d also widen your area to include neighbouring postcodes as interesting properties might pop up right on the border of your chosen location. Websites will let you choose how frequently to receive updates. Serious about buying? – Sign up for the daily update – otherwise you’ll miss the good ones.
Call don’t Email. When you have created a shortlist of properties that you are interested in, Call the Estate Agent! Do not fill out the ‘contact form’ on the property portals website or email the agent. Phone calls are dealt with immediately and receive quick responses (even if you leave a message). Emails often don’t get picked up for over a day.
Agents will often provide alot of additional information on the phone and may let you know about a property they haven’t advertised yet. Calling also shows the Agent you are serious (they will give you more time and be more flexible on viewings). Hot properties will be gone by the time someone has looked at that email and returned it. Phone calls get you at the front of the queue.
Money Saving Tip: some property portals give you a phone number to call, to reach the estate agent, that isn’t actually the agents number! Instead it is a premium rate ‘0845’ type number which lets them make some money off your call. Most mobile networks don’t include these numbers in your permitted ‘minutes’ and can charge alot for using them.
It’s cheaper just to Google the estate agent and add the area (e.g. Knight Frank, Chelsea) to get the direct number. This can easily save you £50 over time!
Detailed Web Research. If don’t know an area or are deciding on which area could be right, use our Area Guides if you are in London. You won’t find better on the net – these are first class and really give you the sense of living in an area, not just a historical overview copied from Wikipedia like most websites do!
Use google maps to view the streets you like or the ones we highlight and use Google Streetview function to see if property looks like something that would interest you. Estate Agent pictures are cleverly taken and can exclude a horrible rundown property next door or make a road appear nicer than it is. Streetview is a great tool to get a quick idea and save your time.
Next, go on foot (access our London area guides from your mobile phone – we are mobile optimised), so once you get there you can use our guides to find the best streets, follow our area ‘walk throughs’ to get a quick idea of the main streets then use our Insiders Guide to visit the best shops, cafes and parks, to help make your mind up!
Use Zoopla to search ‘sold prices’ in streets in your area and see what properties have sold for within the last 2 years. This is useful to do while you are actually on a street and can see the house or flat in question. Be aware some sold prices look strange for a good reason – sales to relatives at below market prices, properties sold in a bad state of repair that have since been refurbished, short lease lengths. Also many properties bought by foreigners are not listed as they buy using companies (to avoid tax) and these sale prices won’t be listed.
Property Portal reviews
Here is what we think of each of the Property Portal search engines. We’d always advise you to use all of them if you can.
All sites have smartphone friendly versions and you can also find specific ‘Apps’ for your iPhone, iPad or Android smartphone if you search.
Fresh, clean look, easy navigation.
+ Easiest to sign upto email alerts, using criteria you are entering into the website for your searches.
+ Very good for London Properties and more expensive properties, can have less selection of cheaper properties and properties in the UK.
+ Useful map shows where properties returned in the search are located, in relation to one another.
= Mostly Clean look, Premium adverts to overwhelm the page a little.
+ Very wide range of properties.
+ ‘Draw a Search’ function allows a custom search area, more suited to large postcodes or searches across neighbouring postcodes.
– Gives premium rate phone numbers to contact Estate agents.
Zoopla has consumed Findaproperty and Globrix, aswell as house data sites like houseprices.co.uk and rolled everything up into one website
+ Comprehensive features including ‘Sold prices’
+ Wider range of properties / more estate agents subscribing.
– Pages cluttered with too much advertising.
– ‘Current values’ are estimates and rarely reflect real prices for properties