It’s not the be all and end all
Rightmove is great. It’s the best website. It really is. The best. (That impression works better in real life than on paper, it’s supposed to be that Wotsit-coloured chap from America with the odd handshake).
Every agent puts their houses on Rightmove in perfect detail for all to see, it even emails you instantly when something new comes up that suits your criteria. I’ll regularly get a phone call from an excited house-hunter within minutes of sending a property over to Rightmove wanting to book a viewing. It doesn’t have a monopoly in the property searching stakes, but last time I saw stats it was over twice as busy as its nearest rival Zoopla, so it’s a massively important part of what we do as estate agents and we have to look at how Rightmove works when we choose how to market our properties.
For example, we used to put houses on the market at £499,950, because that looks cheaper than £500,000. We don’t do that now because if someone chooses £500,000 – £600,000 in the drop-down menus on Rightmove then a house at £499,950 doesn’t show up, whereas at £500,000 exactly it shows up in both searches up to £500,000 and searches £500,000 and over. I suspect we weren’t fooling anyone at £499,950, but you get the point.
A few years back Rightmove started adding a small, but critical bit of information to every property listing. Tucked-away in small type, it went unnoticed for a little while but once people started spotting it the way in which they judge properties changed forever:
Added on Rightmove.
It simply shows the date a property was first put on the site. That’s all. And never before has so much been read into such a small piece of information by so many.
Knowing that something has been on for a couple of months is enough to terrify the nervous buyer. “Everything in Cambridge sells fast, so what’s wrong with this one? It must be rubbish, I’m not even going to see it.” Is what I imagine they say to themselves. Even if they can’t see what’s wrong with it, they’re convinced there must be something, something obvious to other people that isn’t to them. The problem is that there is often a very genuine reason why something appears to have been for sale for a while. For example a property that shows as being added 3 months ago might have been initially sold quickly, but then the buyer got eaten by a crocodile whilst fishing in Thriplow and so it went back on the market. So initially it sold in 2 weeks and in reality has only been back on the market 1 weeks, but that blasted date says it’s been for sale for 3 months and that is powerful enough that many buyers won’t even ring to talk about it. Or maybe will ring, but won’t believe the whole crocodile story when I tell them it, after all estate agents mainly lie about most things as I’m sure you know.
Because of this mentality, agents quickly work out little side-steps to reset the date. Changing the price by £5 used to do the trick, but they closed that loophole so now you need to change it by at least 2.5%. We then started taking it off the market for a couple of days then putting it back on, which worked for a bit, but then Rightmove changed it so something had to be off for 14 days before it would show as new. A few weeks ago they changed it again so it has to be off for more like 3 months. As quickly as we come up with workarounds, they shut them down. The one I currently use probably won’t last much longer…
And what for? To give potential buyers an insight to how popular something is? So what? Why does it matter? How is that information actually useful? Why would someone want something more just because other people want it to? But that’s how our minds work, if other people want something it must be great, if they don’t it must be awful, even if you don’t know why. I’m sure Gola made perfectly good tracksuit trousers in the 90s, but you wouldn’t have caught me wearing them. I bet there’s a name for it in psychology.
Does it sound like I’m whinging a bit? I’m not actually, this is never a whingey column, it’s informational. I’m telling you all this to help you, because some of the best purchases are the ones that have been for sale for a while, ones that are the unfortunate victim of Added on Rightmove. If you can overlook that date and judge a property purely on its merits you might just get a better deal than if you get into a bidding war on the house everyone wants just because Rightmove says it was added two days ago. So get the Tippex out, cover up that bit of your screen where the date appears, have faith in your own judgement and you just might snag a bargain by avoiding the competition.
It’s my top tip for Spring 2017.
That and to not go fishing in Thriplow until you’ve at least exchanged contracts.