Property Portals - A Brief History

Published on 30 March, 2017

In today’s digital age, everyone knows it’s vitally important to maximise your online exposure in the right places when you sell your home, but it’s a far cry from just a few years ago when we relied on the window displays and newspaper adverts to find a buyer. The proliferation of property portals such as Rightmove & Zoopla have changed the landscape of property marketing beyond recognition in the space of just 15 years and it’s been an incredible rise to property advertising dominance.

I started in estate agency a full 20 years ago – August 11th 1997 - and when I was a young lad starting out back then, we used to take photos with a camera that had a film in it! We had a little old man who would come in, pick up the film and then return the following day having developed the negatives and provided us with 4 copies of the front photo – one for the window display, one for the details (which we then photocopied 10 times for the drawer), one for the newspaper advert and one spare – I can’t believe how much has changed in that 20 years!

Can you identify these historical figures? Answers on a postcard, please.I didn’t realise it at the time, but back in 1997 I’d left school and got a job in estate agency, on the cusp of the technological revolution. I remember my old boss being a huge advocate of this thing called the internet. I hadn’t heard of it at school, but I quickly latched on to my boss’s excitement, and encouraged him to get the internet in our office. We were eventually the first estate agency in our town to get the internet (on dial-up) in 1999.

Fast forward 2 or 3 years and this website called ‘Rightmove’ was launched. At the time, it was dismissed amongst estate agents as something that would never gain traction, but the way I saw this was that it gave everyone a platform to market their properties to the widest audience possible.

If Rightmove could get buyers to search its platform for properties, rather than traipse around estate agents office, or flick through the local paper, then it put all property advertising on a level playing field. Agents could see both the potential, and the threat.

As Rightmove grew, other property portals sprung up, and one of those was called Zoopla. It’s rumoured that Zoopla initially entered the marketplace as an online estate agent, but soon realised that being a property portal was more lucrative and less stressful! Zoopla went around buying every other property portal that was out there – anyone remember PropertyFinder, Globrix, Findaproperty, HotProperty, ThinkProperty or Primelocation?? Zoopla bought them all, and only Primelocation still exists as a property portal today.

By 2010/11, we had just two major players advertising pretty much every single house that was For Sale – Rightmove & Zoopla.

No one really knows how many people find property online. A common stat is that 95% of people start their search online, but if someone is serious about buying a property, then I would argue that 100% of buyers will look at one, or both of these sites at some point in their search and they will more than likely find that house on one of these sites. Think about where you search for properties and I would bet anyone a fiver that they have searched on one of these sites in the past!

The importance of these sites when it comes to marketing your home has surpassed what even I thought was possible. It’s crazy to think that, according to our own internal stats, as an ‘online estate agent’, we sell a higher percentage of properties than a traditional bricks & mortar estate agent.

So how do we sell a higher percentage of houses than a ‘bricks & mortar’ agent? I think I know the answer…

Next time, I’ll take a look at why we sell more houses.

Written By Adam Day Founder, former Managing Director

Adam Day, Managing Director at

Adam started in estate agency in 1997 as a trainee estate agent and worked his way up to manager in the early 2000s. After 8 years in estate agency, Adam started to grow frustrated with the fees that were being charged to owners for what was really a relatively simple job with the growth of the internet and websites such as Rightmove. So, in 2005 Adam started to dream up a different way of doing things in estate agency, with Hatched being launched in 2006.

Adam tends to spend his days working on pushing the business forward so that one day, everyone will benefit from fairer fees when they sell their house, but he still loves 'doing a deal'. If you do speak to Adam, he is prone to waffling, so don't be afraid to ask him to stop talking or take a breath if he starts to go on too much! Adam has a fair bit on his plate at the moment - running one of the largest online estate agencies in the country, tweeting every day, along with looking after his 2 young children.

Follow Adam on Twitter: @Hatched.

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