Firstly, remember not all portals are the same. To ensure you don’t miss anything you will have to sign up to all the main portals – OnTheMarket, Rightmove, Zoopla and Primelocation, plus any local or specialist engines, for example for land or commercial purchases.
Our advice would be to set up exactly the same search criteria on each site. Go to the trouble of ‘drawing’ a customised map, and setting the same price bands – one tier above and below your budget. This will ensure you see property that’s out of your budget but that might be reduced or negotiable; and property that’s below your budget that could be improved / extended to meet your needs.
Don’t set up any other filters – the time to rule things out is when you can see how they won’t work for you, not before. Your critical faculties will always be more sensitive and accurate than a search engine’s! The speed at which agents upload properties is also an issue – mistakes can be made in the categorisation process, so a broad search override any errors. For more on the potential errors in property search portals see here [Link to DRawbacks]
Setting e-mail alerts for all the portals will mean that a lot of duplication arrives in your inbox!
So, that’s how to make sure you don’t miss anything that’s uploaded to the portals. But despite the e-mail overload, not to mention the time you’ve spent on this exercise, it doesn’t mean you won’t miss anything at all.
The portals are way behind the market. Before you get an e-mail alert, you’re behind the field. Buying agents will have seen the property, as will the proactive buyers who haven’t relied on the portals for their intelligence. And some properties won’t ever find their way onto the portals at all, their buyers preferring to keep a low profile and only show their properties to selected buyers.
There are many advantages to the portals. Some will tell you how long the property’s been on the market, some will tell you whether the price has been reduced, and there’s plenty of historical information and comparisons that you can delve into that will help you build up a picture of the local market. You can also establish which estate agents operate in a particular area.
However, the information line is not infallible – see here for more on what to look out for, but also remember, portal research is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to property search. It doesn’t replace traditional methods, and if you’re serious about buying, you will need to have good relationships with all the agents in the area. Or by using a search agent you can be sure you won’t miss anything, and you’ll also get to hear about property before it comes onto the market, or property that is never advertised in the press or on the portals.
One of the greatest dangers of portal-perving is that buyers tend to spend too long on the computer, and not enough time on the road. Property simply isn’t a ‘virtual’ commodity. The impression you get from pictures and descriptions may vary dramatically from the real thing. So by all means start your search on the internet, but get on the phone, talk to the agents, and go and see as much property as you possibly can. That’s if you really want to buy. If you just like fantasising, then the portals are a wonderful invention!
For more on the drawbacks of househunting online, see here and more on online tools to aid you in your search here [link to isearch]
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