In recent months many a Cassandra has predicted if not a crash, then at least a demise of the property market in the UK. It seems not a week goes by without a headline pointing out that affordable housing is beyond the reach of key workers, or that prices are rising inexorably – just this week Halifax said that average prices for homes have passed the £100,000 barrier in every UK town.
Despite the gloomy statistics, estate agents report that sales remain strong, and there is little doubt that online property sites have helped ease the search for homebuyers and renters alike and, as with the travel sector, revolutionised how consumers research and buy.
The fact that ‘home’ is the most-searched for property term, perhaps reflects how consumers see their abode – it’s a home not a house as the current Homebase ad campaign tells us. And while the online arena makes searching for a new home easier, it seems we just can’t do without that loathsome ‘estate agent’, a term which ranks second according to Yahoo!.
In terms of search by property type (Latitude), the fact that ‘flat’ ranks top with a 31% share, above ‘house’ (27%), perhaps reflects the fact that more people are living alone in the UK and thus need less living space and, being sole purchasers, have less funds with which to finance a purchase. Meanwhile, the terms ‘cottage’ and ‘villa’ illustrate that the holiday property market continues apace as consumers hunt for the perfect country idyll or sun-soaked getaway. The fact that ‘apartment’ sits well below ‘flat’ indicates that while many Americanisms have entered the English language, ‘apartment’ has yet to supplant its English counterpart.
When it comes to share of visits by website, there is no surprise that Rightmove.co.uk ranks first – it is after all the UK’s leading online property portal. What is perhaps surprising is that its share is 21.8% while the second-most popular site has just 5.7% share. With a high-profile television ad campaign, one might have expected third-placed Primelocation to beat Vebra.com to second spot – not least as it is a site few people have heard of.