Using the internet to find your next property: a guide

In the not too distant past, the most common way of finding a property to buy was to head down to the brick and mortar office of the local estate agent and either look in the window – or go inside and find out what was on offer. Local newspapers played a role too, with many agents paying to list their properties in a dedicated property section.

Now, that’s all changed. For many people, the go-to place is not a physical but an online estate agent. Heading to a site like Rightmove or Zoopla is the mode taken by almost every house-hunter at least once. This article will explore why this is the case and share some tips and tricks on how you can make the most of these handy tools – yet which double up as vast information repositories. 

Where to look

Perhaps the most popular UK-based site for those looking to buy or sell a property is Rightmove. It’s certainly occupies a particular place in modern British culture, and many wannabe homeowners or sellers can be found discussing it. The popularity of Rightmove is reflected in its statistics. According to one estimate, it has over a million properties listed on it. Working out why Rightmove in particular became popular is anyone’s guess, but it’s known for being a simple and easy to use platform – and it is free of the flashy features and graphics that can distract some users. It also offers lots of opportunities for filtering and customisation, and these are all easy to find. 

However, it’s not the only website which can help you if you’re in the business of buying or selling. Zoopla is another common site which offers this service. Its design is a bit bolder than Rightmove’s, although its homepage seems more information-packed than its rival’s. However, Zoopla is sometimes perceived as the worse version of Rightmove. The Homeowners’ Alliances claims that Zoopla has fewer properties on it, at under a million. With Rightmove receiving over 120m visits to its site per month, it’s unlikely that its dominance is going to waver any time soon. If you want to be sure your home gets eyeballs on it, these statistics are important.

Hidden tools

Sites like Rightmove can deliver so much more than just the standard images, floorplans and descriptions. They also offer other valuable tools too. One such tool is the information about the date on which the property was added to the market. If it has been on the market for a long time, it could indicate one of three situations. Firstly, it could suggest that the seller has not received any satisfactory offers. Secondly, though, it could also suggest that the seller is desperate – and that you may be able to negotiate down the price. 

Finally, it could also show that there is some kind of problem with the property – such as a structural one. That’s just one more reason to always get a comprehensive survey done as well as every other rigorous check available. Beware, however: this may not always be the first date on which it was added to the market, as the seller may have tried to sell it prior to that but then took it off the market shortly afterwards. 

The other useful tool for a buyer is the sale price data. When negotiating an offer, it’s always worth checking out what the last purchase price was. That way, you’ll be able to calculate how much profit (or, indeed, loss) your offer could deliver for the seller, and use that as part of your negotiating strategy. Some properties which were sold a very long time ago might not have their data published – but many do, even if they were bought and sold in the last decade or two. 

Don’t stop there

However, it’s also important to be sure that you don’t get too carried away when hunting down homes to buy or sell via Rightmove or similar websites. That’s because there are still some ways that you can buy or sell which don’t involve these sites. First off, while it’s definitely the case that most buyers are on Rightmove, cash buyers – who can purchase a property without a mortgage – are not. So, if your property is languishing on the web without anybody coming to look at it, it’s worth exploring whether a cash buyer could be right for your needs.

Secondly, some people in your local area may well be interested in doing what is known as a “house swap”. This allows for property ownership to be exchanged without the need for intermediaries in the form of estate agents, online sales and more. In some cases, these kinds of transactions are negotiated through word of mouth or local, printed flyers. In a rare number of cases, sellers who are otherwise following the conventional path to sale may choose for whatever reason not to look on Rightmove. The problem for buyers, however, is that they don’t necessarily know that these houses are available! For that reason, a sweep of local agents at the outset of the search process may still be a valuable activity. 

Just as it has changed everything else, the web has revolutionised the way in which people search for properties. Now, it’s possible to see so many homes for sale in your local area – putting you, as a buyer, in control. By applying a little care and attention and ensuring you use these powerful tools in the most effective way, it’s certainly possible to find your dream home through a website.

Before you can buy your next home, however, you need to ensure that you can sell your own. If you’re having trouble selling up, National Property Trade may well be able to help. Click here to find out more.