Over half of buyers find ‘old fashioned’ property search methods more effective than portals

Fewer than four in ten home movers end up buying a property they found on a portal.

Consumer organisation Which? said that in research among 2,000 recent home movers, just 37% had discovered their new home by searching a property portal.

However, a further 6% did so via an automated email from a portal and 2% found their new home via a smartphone app notification.

Even so, just 45% found their new home via a modern method, compared with 55% who used traditional methods such as looking in an estate agent’s window or local paper, or spotting a For Sale board.

First-time buyers, despite their younger age group, were even more unlikely to find a home on a portal, with 60% using traditional methods rather than portals or apps.

According to Which? this is how the figures break down:

Estate agent’s window 11%

Searching a property portal 37%

Phone call or email from estate agent 11%

Email from a property portal 6%

‘For Sale’ sign outside property 10%

Other electronic alert, eg app notification 2%

Word of mouth 9%

Local newspaper 6%

Other traditional method 4%

I approached the property owner directly (eg by leafleting) 3%

Property auction 1%

Which? is now advising property hunters to put their laptops away.

The organisation says: “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.”

The same Which? research also revealed the importance of getting a portal listing right.

Around seven in ten respondents said they 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%).

However, 9% of home buyers in London and the south-east discounted a property before viewing it because they did not want to deal with the agent it was marketed with. The figure was 7% nationally.

Around one in five (19%) said they did not view a property either because no photos were made available or there were not enough photos.

For first-time buyers, this figure rose to 22%.

One in six (16%) did not view a property because no floor plan was provided


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  1. NewsBoy

    A little surprising but certainly good news for real estate agents and bad news for call centre sales companies.

  2. agency negotiation limited

    The power of community over reach!

  3. PRman

    Remind me! Isn’t this the organisation that says with so much online through portals, traditional estate agents are no longer needed? Will Which? now do the honest thing and admit it is wrong? Probably not. Humble pie has never been part of its diet.

  4. Rivero

    I’d say this is pretty much as expected. It would be interesting if they conducted similar research in to the factors which determine sellers choosing their estate agent, to see what crossover there is. I wonder how many of us are spending the proportionate amount on newspaper advertising based on these figures (around 10% of marketing budget) – we have long since broadened our marketing mix to include many other channels and reduced our newspaper spend significantly, yet we still spend more than 10%…might have to cull some more pages!

  5. Trevor Mealham

    GREAT ARTICLE – My work over the last year has been looking and getting involved in the ways collectives of agents can pool their USP ***other than web*** outlets together to bring reach more prospective buyer contacts.

    The most recent property exchanged last week where £35k more than another agents valuation was achieved.  (ie £450k val other agent/exchanged at £485k)

    In the trial was a corporate and 6 independent sub agents

    The USP of individual agents can be AS powerful as the pull of the portals FACT

    Bad news for budget list agents

  6. Trevor Mealham

    ROS – FANTASTIC ARTICLE. More like it please. its great info for agents top show their punters to justify why a little more in fee, can achieve much much more for the seller.

    BUDGET AGENCY is a false economy

  7. htsnom79

    This is the thing, it’s a given that the most exercised threads here on a daily basis will be traditional vs online vs hybrid, call centre vs high street office, team vs LPE, upfront vs nsnf, passive intermediary vs proactive etc etc etc

    Maybe what we should be pushing is the simple truth of this job, buyers incorrectly assume that we publish everything to the portals so there’s no point in registering, sellers incorrectly assume that we publish everything to the portals so there’s no point in  paying anymore when a listing is part of the package across all models. The impression given then is that a portal listing is the be all and end all of success.  And it’s not.

    1. When valuing a property I am already mentally matching, if the instruction is gained I will be on the phone while admin is typing details, if I’m right it will hit the portals as sstc.

    2. We have an ongoing and evolving knowledge of whats coming down the track, ” yes htsnom79 we will be putting the house on the market, as soon as we are back from holiday in 2 weeks, Hi Mr buyer it’s htsnom79, guess what we’ve got coming on ”

    3. We have an ongoing and evolving knowledge of whats been down the track ” Hi Mrs vendor it’s htsnom79, I know we tried to sell your house last year and it didn’t quite work out but I just happen to have what I consider to be the perfect buyer now, would you like to try again? ”

    4. We are creative ” Hi Mr downsizing owner of 4 bed house its htsnom79, we have a client looking to trade up and they have a house to sell which I’m pretty sure would suit you, it would be a solid sale and purchase if we could swap! ”




    1. Trevor Mealham

      Thats worth a ‘like’ htsnom79

      Also, don’t under estimate the value of main agents subbing to fellow agents.

      Other buddy agents can magnify efforts that a main agent isn’t doing, or have different/additional of what the main agent is doing.

      Other agents on-board is a great way of offering clients ‘premium’ and typically increasing sole rates by 50/100% as a main agency.

      Sell direct and youve increased your fee. Sell via your sub agent/s and you simply give away the upsell.

      Equally. If collaborating do all agents need be on all portals. No.

      So you save too, and can access more listings via subs in.

      Budgets dont have enough in the pot.

      Roll on premium higher fees, and lets the budgets fight the race to ground zero.

    2. Naysayer

      In my view, selling a property before it goes on the portals and to a wider audience is not working in your client’s best interest.

      1. Naysayer

        Loving all the dislikes. Just goes to show how deluded and in denial so many in this industry are.

        It is a fact that exposing a property to a wider audience will likely achieve a higher price and a larger selection of buyers for your client to choose from which is, inarguably in their best interest.

        It would be laughable to suggest otherwise.

        1. Woodentop

          I haven’t given you a dislike but ……. a wider audience? So the more people who see the property, the higher the price they will get ….. err not necessarily, to the point of no they won’t. Your statement seems to suggest the shorter the time on the market, the lower the price achieved. Often the few will pay more without having looked around to find they are paying over the odds! Remember it is what the vendor agrees with the agent and is happy with and if you are the agent you should have valued it correctly.

      2. Trevor Mealham

        With the trial I mentioned the main agent got 7 portal leads whilst 2 weeks on sub agents from traditional methods, in different locations achieved 9 additional viewers.

        3 offers came in from 3 different offices for which two drove the end offer up.

        1. Woodentop

          or could have been lower and the vendor then would have wished they had gone for the first offer which was higher, but sadly that buyer wasn’t prepared to be messed around to be gazumped and move on!

      3. gk1uk2001

        Unfortunately this highlights everything that is wrong with most estate agents today. You must be one of those that just puts it up on rightmove etc then sits back and waits for the emails to come piling in and the phone to ring, rather than actually being proactive and doing it the ‘old fashioned’ way of actually picking the phone up and speaking to people about properties like we did in the days before online portals etc. I can only speak from my own experience, but only a very small percentage of the sales we agree actually come from rightmove/online leads, the majority are from good, old fashioned estate agency.

        1. Woodentop

          Here, here. You get the return from the effort put in, everyone now and again falls over a buyer but as history has shown those that hope the sale begins, often see it flounder later and have a conversion rate to paid commission under 40% (often the corporates).

      4. TheHybridAgent

        This is absolutely correct!

        It’s not working in your clients best interest at all. Not all potential buyers have walked into a high street to be on their special “Hot Buyers” list.

        The portals would have helped maximise exposure to a wider audience much quicker than making a few calls to the special database all high streets claim to have.

  8. Robert May

    Let’s  Jury/Welch spin this up a bit.   According to Which  (2016 report) online agents with no physical  local presence will only receive  a little over 1/3rd  (37%) of the enquiries of a traditional estate agent and are effectively invisible to any vendor or applicant who is not familiar with or has no access to the internet. .

    You pay an Estate agent to sell your property,  you pay a passive intermediary to list it!

    Restricted advertising, it’s cheap for a reason!



  9. Woodentop

    Estate Agency in the High Street marketing is pro-active while internet only is re-active marketing, awaiting the buyer to find them and not forgetting that not everyone is on the internet. The evolution of smartphone apps has made the latter easier but they still want someone to talk to and that in the main is back into the High Street shop and that is where the web can never compete with the high street staff that are switched on.

  10. LocalAgent201625

    Interesting article, I’d like to know where this information was gathered from?


    In towns where the general public are of the elder generation I can see this being totally true, whilst in mixed towns where the age group is mixed both sets of agency will also work.


    Something that will never change, is that agents will often sell properties way before they’ve even done the property details, I’ve done it today! Listed something and already had a buyer in place done the 1 viewing and agreed the sale – oldskool agency. People will still want this service and be the first to view any new instructions so will continue to visit agents offices on the high street.

  11. htsnom79

    And lets not forget, the brothers who started PB were the founders of Burchill Edwards, not a firm that I’ve ever been up against directly but one that I believe was respected as ‘old school’ during their pomp, they would have an absolute understanding of the PIE threads as poachers turned gamekeepers.

    Respect to them, Burchill Edwards probably made them wealthy, PurpleBricks has made them rich.

    1. PeeBee

      ‘And lets not forget, the brothers who started PB were the founders of Burchill Edwards…’

      Actually, they weren’t.  According to previous stories revolving around the Bruce Brothers (and there are many…. none of them complimentary…) the founder was a guy by the name of Tim Burchell, who sold out to Bruce in 2006.  BE went into voluntary administration in 2008 (didn’t take them long…) at which point the Bruces bought it out of admin, then selling it to Connells three years later.

      And neither of them, I believe, is… was… or probably never wants to be – an Estate Agent.

      1. htsnom79

        Ok, I’ve learnt something today, as I recall the brand was respected, shame it seemed more romantic when put in the way that I understood it, hey ho just makes me want to bury them that little bit more 😉

        1. PeeBee

          Sounds like a plan to me! ;o)


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