UK’s specialist property portals taking on the big three

Visitors from space probably think that the UK has just three property portals – and that those portals have taken the place of estate agents. Not true...

Zoopla Property Group imageEven the national press is confused, frequently reporting on “Rightmove, the estate agent.” The nationals also report on Zoopla, loving the rapid growth and regular acquisitions. Equally good copy comes through the third agency-led portal, OnTheMarket; which has great ideals, an excellent website and some top range agency members, but isn’t (yet) able to claim the market recognition of its well heeled and long established neighbours.

However, there are hundreds of property portals – in all shades, reflecting different doors to the home of your dreams.

DOING THE MATH has compiled what it calls, “The most comprehensive database of websites listing property for sale in the UK.” A wander through their listings is fascinating, two of the property websites/ portals are bigger (they say, in terms of properties listed) than OnTheMarket, but closer scrutiny reveals that the listing position is purely in terms of numbers of properties listed on the portal, rather than being paid-for listings by estate agencies.

Propertylisting- sites. com found 5892 sites listing property for sale, including 192 portals, 5382 estate agents and 290 newspapers. How many work?

Louisiana Hasek, Developer, property-listing-, says, “We found 5892 sites that listed property for sale, including: 192 portals, 5382 estate agents and 290 newspapers.”

Within the listings are the larger estate agency groups, who have many properties, but obviously do not take listings from competitors, so this list only includes portals.



Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket need no review; while some agents grumble about costs, there are few other gripes and they perform a great service. I wanted to understand why buyers and tenants would look at anything other than the big portals that regularly advertise on television and in the press. I also wanted to see if any of those outside the famous three offer any significant improvements in the search for a home. I took no prisoners in this research, reacting as if I was a ‘real’ homehunter, with limited time and patience, leaving the site if I didn’t find what I needed. If it is possible for a website to have a personality disorder, has one that would have every doctor in the world intrigued.

Mitula is massive, untidy, undecided and unwieldy. A simple property search for a three bedroom home to rent in Dorset brought me a very wide choice of properties – 974 – which was promising. I chose to list all, with the highest price first – but this was what came up:

From the top: six sponsored ads for homes in the price range, across the top. OK.

Then three Google ads for vacation rentals in Dorset; a holiday house and holiday flats in Wales.

Next, two houses for rent at £2400 and £2301 – not the top priced homes at all, but sponsored listings, followed by five homes in the right order of price, then three more sponsored listings in a horizontal panel, all at £2249pcm… then back to five listings in the right order and then two more Google ads.

Meanwhile, in the side panel, more sponsored ads and a random six-pic advert. This pattern continues throughout the search, distracting, irritating and timewasting. I finally see a house I like and click on it. There is a redirection and then, seven seconds later, we are on the right page – in Zoopla. Cue the arrival of another random advert beside the property pictures – not what I am interested in now.

The next one I fancy on Mitula clicks through to Property Pigeon, which presents the house surrounded by adverts for John Lewis, Pembrokeshire Holidays and McCarthy and Stone – which together take up more space than the property description. Back to the Mitula site, with the same ads appearing over and over again, I lose interest and go to bed. claims to be ‘The UK’s Most Comprehensive Property Search’ with links to 675,525 homes for sale and rent, 19,476 estate agents and 19,643 letting agents. The site is dated and dull, but does it deliver the goods to the property hunter?

Once again, this portal takes you to the agent’s own website when you choose a property, so, once again, distraction and time wasting clicking back and forth.

The next house I clicked on to see, took me to, so lost me again… announces on its front page that it is ‘Part of Mitula Group’. It’s smarter than Mitula, more up to date and crisp. Unusually, the first page of the search (same criteria as before) sorts the properties in ‘Nestoria Rank’ so random prices, bedrooms, etc and, once again, irritating panels of Google ads breaking up the property list.

Nestoria has a good list of filters at the side, so if the choice overwhelms you you can select multiple ‘wishes’ – a feature that I really liked.

However, Nestoria does have a good list of filters at the side, so if the choice overwhelms you, you can select multiple ‘wishes’ – this is a feature I really liked. Again, it clicked through to the ‘mothership’ portal, again, confusing the customer and taking you on a different search without even realising. First impression: rapid! Once I have ignored the ‘sign up here’ demand, I move into my search at high speed to land on a page with 931 Dorset properties. Oddly, before I get to the properties, I have to scroll down past ‘instant house valuation’ advert and three ‘featured properties’ that are for sale… not what I’m on here for. A ‘plus’ though, is that it is crisp, modern and tidy, so I press on. The next negative is that every property is emblazoned: “Check your Free Experian credit score.” I didn’t come here to do that. Again, when I pick a property I am whisked out of the site to land atOnTheMarket. This site is eccentric, honestly. It’s statement is that you can: “Find houses that tick all the boxes!” and maybe you can, once you have got over the distraction of a list of “estate agent misspellings” – which range, by the way, from ‘accommodation’ to ‘volted cielings.’ My favourites were ‘stainless steal’ and ‘sort after’ both of which I have seen many times. Two many times. Once past this, you can choose which properties to view by whether they have ‘hardstanding’ or a ‘Manege’ or a ‘Jack and Jill bathroom’ or other vital criteria such as ‘fountain’ or ‘helipad’ or a ‘turret.’ This aggregator site is a goldmine for journalists wanting to write about princess palaces with Corinthian columns and a turret, but it’s a distraction from the serious business of homehunting. And, with many properties ‘removed by the advertiser’ this site doesn’t, in my opinion, do a great job. It is though, a bit of fun. is, perhaps, better known for its sold prices and valuations. If my memory serves, they were listing sold prices way before Zoopla did. However, remains much less recognised by the public, even though it is simple to use and it doesn’t flash adverts at you every thirty seconds. The other plus is that this site keeps you there during your search – no whizzing off to Rightmove (and then not finding your way back). Simple and effective.

Relocation Agent Network is the next but it’s a group site, offering a search for a member of the network in the area of your choice – the member will help you to find a home. So, a great service but not a national search of properties for sale or to let, though the agents involved will do that for you.

Properties365 With properties for sale and to rent, a bright fresh look and a speedy ‘journey’, this should be a good site, but I couldn’t get on with it. It isn’t national, you have to keep putting in a place name to see where they do – or don’t – have homes. Four large adverts above, beside and below the property you choose to view are distracting, big arrows which are all too easy to click on to take you off to a hotel or a legal firm. Irritating! You do stay on the site though, so less leaping about over the internet. An aggregator site that has been around for a long time (as the design shows). Trovit is upfront about where its properties come from, with the name of the site (Zoopla, OTM, Country Life) under each property photo – when you click on a property, it goes through to that site. That’s OK, but it’s clumsy. I picked a property, clicked ‘view property’ and found myself on Country Life. But not quite Country Life. I was on OnTheMarket. All a bit tiring. A bright trendy site with nice landing page. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to work very well. My requirements brought up a list of properties, most had no photos, and a box kept popping up saying: ‘Couldn’t find the right property? Post your requirements’. There’s nothing wrong with my internet connection, so it’s not ‘me.’ Maybe I’ll go back and try again, but probably I won’t. Very similar to This one doesn’t work either – loads of listings – no working photos, a work-in-progress perhaps, but it shouldn’t be live if it isn’t kicking!

Next month we’ll be looking at global property websites – is this the future for agents’ advertising? Let me know your views: [email protected]  

What's your opinion?

Back to top button