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

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:

  • Searching a property portal 37%
  • Estate agent’s window 11%
  • Phone call or email from estate agent 11%
  • ‘For Sale’ sign outside property 10%
  • Word of mouth 9%
  • Local newspaper 6%
  • Other traditional method 4%
  • Email from a property portal 6%
  • I approached the property owner directly (eg by leafleting) 3%
  • Other electronic alert, eg app notification 2%


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%).

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

David Gibson, partner at Whitton & Laing adds "this research confirms what we still feel, that despite the awesome power and reach of the internet, it's still vital to register with a local agent, whose on-the-ground knowledge still counts for a lot".