Only four in 10 find new homes on property portalsMost discover the property they buy through 'traditional' means

01 September 2016

02 first home-05

While online portals are a great starting point for researching the market, just 43% find the property they end up buying by searching or receiving an email from a site like Rightmove or Zoopla.

In the 2016 Which? national home-moving survey we asked 2,000 recent home buyers how they first discovered the property they ended up buying. Over half (55%) used traditional methods such as looking in an estate agent's window or the local newspaper, while 45% used more modern methods.

Some 37% discovered their new home by searching a property portal. A further 6% found their home via an automated email from a portal, while 2% did so via a smartphone app notification.

First-time buyers were even more likely to find their home using traditional methods (60%) rather than property portals or apps (40%), despite usually being younger. 

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How are home buyers discovering the properties they purchase?

The table below breaks down exactly how our survey's respondents discovered the home they went on to purchase.    

Traditional vs. modern methods
Traditional methods%Modern methods%
Estate agent's window11%Searching a property portal37%
Phone call or email from estate agent11%Email from a property portal6%
'For sale' sign outside property10%Other electronic alert, eg app notification2%
Word of mouth9%  
Local newspaper6%  
Other traditional method4%  
I approached the property owner directly (eg by leafleting)3%  
Property auction1%  

Table notes
In February 2016, we asked 2,000 members of the general public who had bought their home in the last two years how they first saw or heard about the property they ended up buying.

How to find a property

When beginning your property search, it's useful to take a look at the portals to get a feel for the types and prices of properties available in the area you're interested in. But in parts of the UK where markets are fast-moving, with demand outstripping supply, the best properties are often snapped up before the agent has had the chance to list them online.

That's why it's advisable to put your laptop away and get out and about. Take a walk down the high street and register with all the estate agents selling the types of properties you're after. Spend time talking to them, explaining your situation and what you're looking for - that way you're more likely to be front of mind the next time something exciting hits the market.  

Lack of photos and floorplans deter online house-hunters

Around seven in 10 respondents told us they'd decided not to view a property after browsing its online listing, with the main reasons being that the location wasn’t right (35%), and/or that it was too expensive (35%).  

9% of home buyers in London and the South East discounted a property before viewing it because they didn't want to deal with the agent it was marketed with

However, around one in five (19%) told us they did not view a property either because no photos were made available or there weren't enough photos in their opinion. For first-time buyers, this figure rose to 22%. 

One in six (16%) didn't view a property because no floorplan was provided, while 7% of respondents said they didn't want to deal with the estate agent that had posted the listing. This rose to almost one in 10 (9%) of respondents based in London and the South East.

This shows how important a seller's choice of estate agent can be.

Strangest things seen at a property viewing

We also asked our survey respondents to tell us the strangest thing they’d seen at a property viewing - and their answers ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous.

A number of people were taken by surprise by the lack of privacy when it came to toileting arrangements in properties they viewed: one was in a bedroom, one in a hallway, one in a sitting room and another may have been in the bathroom - but the room had transparent glass walls.

Other weird and wonderful things reportedly spotted included:

  • A donkey in the bedroom
  • A pole (for dancing around) in the sitting room
  • A tombstone
  • An entirely Simpsons-themed house with Bart Simpson wallpaper in every room
  • A model railway running through multiple rooms with a train passing by every few minutes
  • A tree growing through the ceiling
  • A 'medical hernia belt' in an otherwise empty house

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