When you think of a website on which you might look for your next home, you probably have something specific in mind. That image may be vastly different depending on where you live though. There are no standards for property websites around the world and there is no common consensus on whether they should include things like a map or a pet-friendly filter.
At Online Marketplaces we have compiled the most comprehensive directory of online real estate marketplace websites from around the world. In doing so we spent countless hours looking through these websites and trying them out.
The big thing that struck us as we built the database and played around on these websites was how features that might be taken for granted in one country might be avant-garde in another and that just because one website had a particular feature, that wouldn't necessarily mean its rivals would have that feature as well.
This all piqued our curiosity. Just how many property portals have a map? We've read countless articles about virtual tours, but what percentage of these websites let their users filter out property listings that don't have them? Is there a certain type of real estate website that is more likely to have more functionality than others?
We analysed 650 real estate marketplace websites around the world to find out...
The following are some of the general points from our investigation, we highly recommend viewing the full report which includes a breakdown by geography, business model and speciality here
We'll start with the feature that we thought would be almost ubiquitous among real estate marketplace websites.
It turns out that being able to see where a portal's listings are on the map is not as common as we expected it would be. Even in developed countries where data is readily available there are plenty of sites out there that don't show location data on a map.
We might have expected that there would be a direct relationship between the level of maturity of the market and the ubiquity of a map feature on portals. What the geographical data (available on the full report linked to above) shows however is that this is not necessarily the case.
There are still some big-name portals with an advanced tech stack that do not let users see listings on a map. We'll be digging into the reasons why in future articles.
Perhaps the most advanced feature we looked at for the report. Given there has been so much talk about virtual tours we were expecting many more sites to include a feature that lets users filter out listings that do not include a virtual tour.
We know that users want virtual tours - a recent Realtor.com survey found that they were the most useful feature for house hunters - but it seems that a lot of portals around the world are perhaps being a little slow to catch on.
It has been well documented that the global interest in moving home peaked during the worst of the pandemic and a peer-reviewed study from May this year also found that worldwide interest in pet ownership has soared as well.
It might come as a bit of a surprise then to see that only 17% of real estate marketplace sites around the world let prospective tenants filter for pet-friendly listings.
Culturally there are some obvious reasons why many regions of the world might not have this feature but it was still surprising to see that a lot of big-name portals in mature markets didn't have this filter either.
Is it the landlord, the agent or the portal that should be responsible here?
Around 2018 this feature was all the rage. Engineering teams at property portals around the world were writing blog posts that proudly detailed how they'd cracked it.
It still seems that it's only the most sophisticated portals that have this feature as only 17% of the 650 sites we analysed let their users draw a search area.
Looking at the Geographical data there were a few countries where we were surprised to see that this user-friendly feature seems to be the norm.
This one might be for advanced users or niche cases but the free-text keyword search feature was the second most common of the 6 features we looked at for the report.
38% of all the portals, marketplace sites and horizontals that we looked at had some form of keyword search available. As we looked at in a previous article, however, they do tend to be quite well hidden and perhaps underutilized by portal companies.
Is the keyword search tool expected as standard by the property hunting public in a lot of markets or is it just a catch-all feature that's easy to build?
Finally, we come to a feature that helped spark the idea for this report. In the middle of an aborted pandemic house hunt last year I realised why I was starting to use one portal over its rival - it let me see multiple photos without clicking on the listing! I wondered if this was standard, and here we are.
We can see that nearly two-thirds of real estate marketplace sites around the world do not let their users scroll through a listing's photo from a results page. A lot of very technically advanced companies still don't have this user-friendly feature which is still a long way off being considered an industry standard.
The reasons here may not be technical but rather commercial. Telling your client that their listings pages got 10,000 visits is always going to be better than telling them that their listings pages got 2,000 visits because users scrolled the photos from the results pages and mentally discarded them.
After some discussion and testing, we settled on 6 features that we wanted to investigate. Essentially what we set out to do was to analyse how prevalent these six features are on real estate marketplace websites around the world and define which functionalities are industry standard, which are conventional and which are still breaking through into the industry.
For the study, we analysed by hand 650 real estate marketplace websites from all around the world from our database of real estate marketplace sites around the world (we're developing a public version of this by the way and it should be coming very soon).
Anywhere that people go online to find a new home or commercial property was considered, from flashy property vertical sites in advanced markets like Zillow and Rightmove to horizontal classifieds sites from emerging markets written in indecipherable languages - we spent the time to go through them all.