Rental properties are advertised on the internet by both private landlords and letting or estate agents. Whereas almost 90% of properties for sale are marketed through agents, with lettings this figure drops to around 65% (especially when you factor in rooms to rent in addition to complete flats and houses).
Letting and Estate agents advertise properties on their own websites and internet property portals. Private landlords mostly advertise on local internet listings sites and in local papers. Large landlords owning multiple properties (very common in London) advertise their properties through agents – so they will appear on the property portals.
Internet Property Portals are the easy quick way to search for properties for Rent. Property portals are search engines dedicated to finding properties only. You’ll know them as Findaproperty.com, Rightmove.co.uk or Primelocation.com. Most Estate Agents with a rentals department and the majority of Lettings agents have their own websites with full detail of the properties they are renting. Property Portals collect most of the properties from different letting and estate agents and let you view them in one place.
Enter your basic search details on the website homepage: Area name/postcode, Price range (weekly or monthly), number of bedrooms. The portal then gives you all the ‘results’ that fit your criteria. It’s like looking into a letting 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 four: Primelocation.com, Findaproperty.com, Rightmove.co.uk and Globrix.com. We find that amongst these sites you will find the best search features and the widest array of properties.
Estate and Letting agents pay to advertise on these websites. Most will subscribe to all of them, however smaller agents will save money by only advertising on one or two – this is more common with letting agents than estate agents. That’s why we look across all four sites when we search for properties. Small local agents and private landlords will often 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.
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. Remember to select the ‘weekly’ or ‘monthly’ option next to your price range. 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 rent.
Now add your specific requirements. Once you are aware of generally what you can get in your chosen area for your budget, add criteria you must have to see the properties that are actually a good fit: e.g. number of bedrooms, flat or house, outside space.
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 £480 – £500 a week search for properties in the £430 to £550 a week range (widen the price by around 10% each way).
There are a few benefits of doing this. Firstly you see how much more you are getting for your money, versus properties that are a little cheaper to rent (are you getting better decoration or location for that extra money, or just a slightly bigger property or spare bedroom which you may not value?). You may be able to negotiate the rent lower on properties slightly above your price range, so they are worth viewing if they offer something you truly value, above the properties in your own price range.
Add neighbouring areas. Each of the web portals we suggest here allow you to search a wider area than the area or postcode you type in. So if you are looking for a property in postcode ‘NW3’ or ‘Hampstead’ you can select to widen the search to include properties upto half a mile away, for example (look for the ‘This Area Only’ tab). You may find a rental property just outside your ideal area is actually closer to another tube station, can offer alot more space, or a higher quality fit-out.
Search results. Rental listings have far fewer pictures that sales listings and rarely have floorplans (although more agents are including them, especially for more expensive properties). Properties showing no internal pictures probably indicate a poor state of decoration, unless there are no pictures at all, as agents are keen to list the property with just a description before receiving pictures. Whether there are pictures or no,t use Streetview to discover how the road looks before making a viewing appointment. Alot of rentals are in poor locations, so this saves time and travel cost. Internal pictures are often taken with the camera pushed up against a wall, so given many properties won’t have floorplans it’s best to ask the agent if any rooms feel small (they will rarely be able to guess at room sizes if there is no floorplan).
Recently added. Once you have been researching properties online, 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 rented. They also refresh the listing if they drop the asking rental price, so you will be informed of anything new coming into your budget.
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 send an email each day with new properties.
Call don’t Email. When you have created a shortlist of properties that you are interested in, Call the Lettings Agent! Do not fill out the ‘contact form’ on the property portals website or email the agent. Phone calls are dealt with quickly and receive quick responses (even if you leave a message).
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). Finally, hot rental properties will be gone by the time someone has looked at that email and returned it. Phone calls get you to the front of the queue.
Money Saving Tip: many 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 lettings, Mayfair) to get the direct number. This can save you a little fortune over time.
Detailed Web Research. If don’t know an area, or are deciding on which area could be right, use our Area Guides. These are the best guides on the internet – they are full of first class information 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 area guides from your mobile phone – we are mobile phone friendly, so once you get to the area (see our Transport section below each guide for public transport options) 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 the ‘let agreed’ option (usually a check box in the search requirements) while searching for your rental. This will let you see what has been let in a similar price range, so you can judge if the properties available now represent good value.
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.
– Good postcard style property summaries, although cluttered by too much advertising.
+ Wider range of properties / more letting & estate agents subscribing.
– Chaotic individual pages when you click into property details.
+ Widest range of properties of any portal – brings together more results every time.
– Very small pictures and minimal details on summary pages, makes it harder to ‘compare at-a-glance.’
– Poorly designed details pages for each property
+ Very easy to click through to the Estate or Letting Agents website and immediately see the page displaying that specific property
Private Listing sites
Landlords who rent out one or two properties often advertise these rentals on smaller listings sites. This way they save the commission an agent charges. It is generally too expensive for private landlords to use the big property portals (although some of them sign upto services which do place ads on the portal websites).
Listing site search tips:
Details. Most sites give a list of single line descriptions which you can click on to see full detail. Some landlords provide full details, others just a sentence or two. Place more trust in those providing more detailed descriptions. If a description uses words such as ‘perfect location, great aspect, designer kitchen’ and the like, it’s probably a letting agent posing as a private landlord.
Pictures. Professional landlords will take the time to post pictures. They will look alot more amateur than letting agent pictures – don’t let that put you off, these pictures are like the ‘candid traveller pics’ on TripAdvisor – they tell the truth! Landlords advertising a single room probably won’t post a picture, so just ask more questions if you enquire on the phone.
Avoid Posting a ‘Property Wanted’ Ad. You will see some people posting adverts saying they are looking for ‘a 2-bed flat for £300 per week in zone 2’ or ‘a room in a house in Kennington.’ Generally they are being lazy and will receive alot of ‘spam’ calls from landlords with poor properties they can’t rent, lettings agents looking to sign them up, fake ‘search agents’ wanting to take a fee without doing any work or someone trying to scam money out of you. Don’t be lazy, instead follow our search tips!
Mostly you will find private landlords who want to advertise on the internet using one of these two sites:
An advantage of finding a rental property through a private listing site is the Landlord is saving on agent fees, so you may benefit from a lower rent. The disadvantage is that there is no agent to vet the landlord and ensure they are genuine and will hold up their side of the deal (not just to rent you a property, but to maintain it and keep it safe).
Private listing sites do expose renters to many individuals or rogue agencies running some sort of scam or trick. Click here to goto our tips / tricks / scams page and learn how to protect yourself.
In addition Landlords advertise in local media, such as newspapers, estate agent windows or student noticeboards, so check these sources.