For most of us, the first place we look for property is a property website but which is the best for you? Zoopla and Rightmove are the two most popular options, but there are others. So, let’s take a look.
Which is the best property website when buying a house?
Are you preparing to buy a house and now ready to get searching for the right property?
It’s important to remember that online property portals aren’t the only place you should look. You should also check out local sales agents’ websites (not all of them are on the portals). The importance of building relationships with local estate agents should never be underestimated. After all, they’re the ones with their ear to the ground and in touch with the local market.
However, an online portal is very often the first port of call for many.
If you’re looking to buy, an important factor to look at is the number of ‘for sale’ property listings on a website. Filter out all ‘under offer’ or ‘sold’ listings and you’ll get a true picture of the volume of available properties for sale. While having a bigger pool to pick from doesn’t necessarily mean a site is better, it can help make sure your options aren’t limited.
Each property website site has their pros, cons and different features. Let’s explore.
Current number of homes for sale: over 800,000
Areas: All of the UK (including Scotland, Northern Ireland & overseas)
Property types: All – from flats to buy to let properties
- House price index
- Agent finder
- Schools/students resources
- Property listings for buyers and renters
- Sold prices search
- Inspiration tool to find your ideal home
- Allows you to browse maps (by specific postcode and surrounding areas)
- Connects you with a local estate agent and allows you to request a market valuation of your home (if you’re selling)
- A range of guides and calculators
Rightmove was the first property portal of its kind in the UK, and is the dominant one in the country. It’s often the first port of call for many would-be homebuyers. In fact, Rightmove reported 9 million people headed to their site on the day following the 2021 Spring Budget alone, after news of the stamp duty holiday extension.
- Has the biggest selection of properties for sale out of all UK property portals
- Typically the best for traffic – receiving millions of hits a month
- So, if you’re selling a property, having it listed here will mean its available to be seen by more website visitors
- Popular with those buying, selling and renting alike
- Broadest distribution of properties across the UK
- You can connect with estate agents through the portal to get your house valued
- Feels less customer-friendly than Zoopla
- Agents have to pay portals to advertise with them and Rightmove is reportedly expensive
- As a result, you might not find the smaller, local agents on Rightmove
Current number of homes for sale: 540,000
Areas: All of the UK (including Scotland & Northern Ireland)
Property types: All – from new builds to period properties
- Allows you to search for homes for sale using different filters
- ‘Advanced search’ features includes keyword features, e.g. ‘sea view’ or ‘waterside properties’
- Free online house valuation service
- Allows you to search for rentals, commercial properties, overseas properties and new builds specifically
- Bills estimators for the cost of running a home
Zoopla is the UKs second biggest giant in the world of property portals, and for good reason, showing thousands of properties for sale and rent. It also owns another smaller online property portal, Prime Location.
- All sold house prices are provided by Land Registry/Registers of Scotland
- Has latest property news and research
- More versatile than Rightmove (e.g. instant value estimates)
- Operates as both a search engine and comparison website
- Doesn’t have as many listings and properties on offer as Rightmove
- Receives less traffic than Rightmove
- Online valuation tool has come up against criticism for over and undervaluing properties, so use with caution
Launched in 2015, until recently, OnTheMarket was the only competitor to Rightmove and Zoopla. It’s popular with those buying a home and renting alike.
OnTheMarket is majority-owned by estate and lettings agents set up to take back control of their own marketing rather than relying on the two portal giants mentioned above.
Areas: England, Wales & Scotland
Property types: All – flats, houses, bungalows and farms
- Instant online valuation
- Agent valuations arrangement service
- Estate agent finder
- New homes, overseas and commercial properties finder
- Sold prices directory
- Price guide
- Majority-owned by estate agents – giving them more control over website presence
- Operates at a more modest cost for agents
- Might mean some agents offer more favourable sales fees
- Properties are listed for sale on a 24 hours exclusivity basis before listing on other portals
- Growing – but much smaller than other portals (in terms of listings and volume of traffic across the site)
- Less known and therefore may not be a first-port of call for would be homebuyers
Don’t rely on property portals alone
It’s important to always remember that whatever the portal you choose, they serve the person selling the property – not the buyer. While the tools are good, they’re there to generate leads for estate agents. So, even though they’re free for buyers, they advertise houses.
Portals are marketing platforms first and foremost, there to generate interest for those selling property.
There are many smaller challenger portals out there too, each offering alternative search facilities, such as neighbourhood filters, allowing you to prioritise factors like the commute, or local parks. But, how they take on the likes of Rightmove is yet to be seen.
Which is the most helpful?
This depends entirely on what you’re looking for, where you’re looking, and your particular circumstances. All have handy apps you can download, each with their own set of features.
For the widest audience only, Rightmove is the frontrunner. However, it doesn’t offer all the features found in some of the others.
The portals charge agents to list with them, some more expensive than others. As a result, some agents list with just one and not all. Rightmove has the broadest reach, but it’s also (probably) the most expensive for an agent – this might impact the sales fee they then charge vendors.
Which property portal is the most progressive?
Portals are constantly finding ways to attract new people, and keeping an eye on the updates can be a good way to choose which one suits you best.
The announcement that Boomin was inbound has since seen a rally of other portals now promoting new features.
For example, Rightmove and Zoopla have both entered the digital auction space, to offer a new way of buying and selling. Online property auctions promise to be quicker and more secure, providing an alternative to traditional methods.
But, ultimately, how many portals do we really need? Does it devalue the portal proposition the fact that there are now more of them to trawl through?
Zoopla is also now appealing to house builders, offering a new cost per lead option which they say allows developers to focus their spend where they need it most. This, in turn, opens new opportunities for consumers.
Of course, not every new feature will appeal to your circumstances, but it does demonstrate a portal’s focus and how they seek to serve user needs.
Do you need to use a property portal?
It’s important not to rely on portals alone, but look at local agent websites also. A good estate agent website should have quality imagery, be slick and well-developed and have a strong emphasis on property search. You’ll want to ensure you’re presented with the information that’s most relevant to you.
However, that’s not to say you should overlook property portals. Online and traditional estate agents will only list the properties they’re marketing themselves, while property portals feature properties listed by a variety of agents.
What to look for in an online listing
A portal with plenty of features is one thing – what of the actual listings? Don’t be distracted by fancy features, ensure the one you choose serves your needs.
An online listing is the first impression, and can be make or break, you want one that stands out from the crowd.
- Good quality imagery
- Plenty of images
- Key features listed in the description
If you have a house to sell also, remember a buyer will decide in seconds if a property piques their interest. You should ensure your listing is accurate, attention-grabbing, while providing all the fascinating details of your home.
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Last Updated: February 17th, 2023