A buying agent has revealed how she advises potential clients to use portals when looking for a property to buy - and she insists that such websites are an aid, not a substitute for an exhaustive search.
Rachel Johnston of Stacks Property Search says buyers should set up carefully-organised searches on three or four main portals.
This will involve drawing a customised map of the area the buyer is interested in, and setting generous price bands - one tier above and one below their budget, in order to see properties that are outside of their range but which could be negotiable.
“Don’t set a lower limit if you have any interest in serious renovation projects, extending, or building your own” she says, adding: “By the same token, don’t set any bedroom limits – good property buying is all about space, layout and ergonomics, not number of rooms; the floorplan should be one of the first things you look at.”
Johnston advises buyers to sign up for alerts, not only to find out when new properties come on but also when a price is dropped.
She also advises using a secondary e-mail address to stop the regular inbox being overwhelmed by duplicate alerts from different portals.
She then suggests customising keywords - for instance, ‘garden’, ‘parking’, ‘garage’ - and advises against buyers relying on portals’ information relating to sold prices and running costs. ”These can be inaccurate, especially for one-off rural properties” she adds.
But Johnston concludes that all this portal activity should be complementary to estate agents, not a replacement.
“A good estate agent will start to build up a picture of what you do and don’t like; going to see properties and reporting back to them on what suited you and what didn’t will be much more effective than trying to get a search engine to understand the way your mind works” she says.
“One of the greatest dangers of the property portals 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.”