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Updated: 7 Jan 2020

10 insider tips on using Rightmove and Zoopla to buy a house

Discover some of the best tools and features of the major property portals

Brits spend two-and-a-half hours a week browsing property portals, on average - even if they're not looking to move home.

That's according to a survey by the estate agency Yopa, which also found that one in 10 eager house-hunters spend as much as five hours a week on Rightmove and Zoopla.

But there's more to these two popular portals than just tapping in a postcode and hitting 'search'.

Below, you can find 10 insider tips on the various tools and functions that could help you find your ideal home more easily.

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Rightmove: five insider tips

1. Keyword sort

Rightmove's 'keyword sort' function allows users to prioritise certain features when they search for a home.

House-hunters can enter keywords such as 'garage', 'utility room', 'shed' or 'period features' to ensure that homes meeting their exact specifications rank the highest.

2. Draw a search

Rather than simply looking for homes within a mile of a certain location, users can focus their search on specific streets and areas by drawing their own map.

The 'draw a search' tool can be particularly useful if you're looking for a home near the train station, but don't want to stray to the wrong side of the tracks.

3. Where can I live?

The 'where can I live?' feature allows searchers to ensure they won't get stung by long train journeys or school runs.

House-hunters can set their key addresses - for example, their office or their child's school - and enter a maximum commuting time to ensure they won't lose valuable time waiting on the platform or at traffic lights.

4. School checker

Rightmove's 'school checker' function enables users to see whether properties are near the best local schools.

The tool is available on every property listing and provides easy access to data that includes admission criteria and Ofsted reports.

5. View notes

Rightmove has recently launched the 'view notes' tool.

This allows users to add notes against properties and keep these listed in their Rightmove account for easy recall later.

Zoopla: five insider tips

1. Smart maps and travel time

Zoopla also offers advanced search options for house-hunters.

Its interactive 'SmartMaps' tool allows buyers to isolate single streets and specific areas by using the 'draw from scratch' function.

And, like Rightmove, the 'travel time' search tool allows you to focus on areas within a suitable commuting distance of work.

2. Running costs calculator

You can ensure you won't struggle to make ends meet in a cold winter by using Zoopla's estimated running costs feature, which is built into every listing.

The panel shows the estimated monthly costs of your mortgage, energy, water and council tax bills.

3. Claim my home

There's a big difference between actively selling your home and being open to offers, and Zoopla gives homeowners both options.

You can 'claim' your property on the portal, allowing you to enhance and edit its details.

If you could be convinced to part with your home, you can use the 'TemptMe' feature to set a price that you'd consider accepting.

4. Price reductions

One of Zoopla's best features is that it allows you to filter search results by which homes have been reduced the most.

You can also find price reduction history on each individual listing.

5. New homes search

Finding a new-build home online can be frustrating, but Zoopla's recent focus on new developments could make this process easier.

The portal has a specific 'new homes' section that groups properties by development, making it easier than before to filter individual properties.

How to monitor house prices on portals

Portals can be a great place to monitor what's happened to house prices in your area.

Rightmove's house price tool allows you to type in a postcode and see which homes have been sold in the area and for how much.

Zoopla, meanwhile, includes the data within each listing under the 'market stats' tab.

How are portals policed?

Property portals have faced criticism for a lack of policing, which can allow agents to manipulate listings by removing and relisting properties as if they're new to the market.

Rightmove told us that it puts a couple of measures in place to prevent this.

It says properties can only be removed from the portal and relisted if they've been unavailable (sold subject to contract, under offer, let agreed etc) for at least 14 weeks.

In addition, it uses technology to automatically match properties with sales on the Land Registry database to ensure that out-of-date listings don't remain on the portal.

Zoopla told Which? it has 'tools in place' to safeguard against improper use of the portal. It said these tools are 'constantly evolving'.

Property portals: a source of inspiration?

Even if you're not looking to move home, browsing property portals can be a great way of getting inspiration for your own home or simply daydreaming about luxury properties.

Rightmove told us that some of its users take inspiration for extensions and interior design from looking at homes listed on its website.

Others, meanwhile, simply tap in a postcode and set the filter to 'highest price', allowing them to take a sneak peek at how the other half lives.

Buying a home: finding the best places to live

If you're in the market for a new property, we're here to help you find the right place to purchase your new home.

Our guide on finding the best places to live offers a range of tips on how to compare areas, and as a starting point you can use our area comparison tool.

This lets you compare two places on various attributes, including average property prices, the number of good and outstanding schools and happiness scores.

Simply type in a postcode below to get started.