The right start...

...to a property search is a must.The most convenient option these days is real estate portals. We scour the Net to tell you which ones to bet on.

Kamya Jaiswal        Print Edition: July 10, 2008

If the person who has posted the property does not update, refresh or log on to our website for three months, the listing does not show up on search lists.
—Naveen Luthra, VP and business head, magicbricks.com

With the Makaan rating system, users do not have to browse through hundreds of options but can choose the ones with the maximum stars from other users
—Aditya Verma, Business head, makaan.com

Properties in the same area or by the same builder may have same features so that what seems like repeated posts on the portal are actually not so
—Shrikanth, National head, sales & operations, indiaproperty.com
Click here to see graphic: What online property portals offer
In all likelihood, your dream house is on the Internet. And if you are looking to sell, so is the dream buyer of your property. Little wonder then that real estate portals are boasting as many as one million hits a month. If you want to conduct a property transaction— rent, buy or sell— these websites are the places to start.

Besides easy accessibility, there are many features that give property portals an edge over their older rivals—classified advertisements. You can narrow down your choice according to specifics—even the minimum number of bathrooms in a house—compare options or look at the property’s pictures sitting at home.

But before hunting for a house, you need to hunt for the right real estate website. Just Google ‘property portals’ and you know why it’s so difficult—there are too many sites and some having similar names. Sample this: indiaproperty.com, indiaproperties.com, mypropertyindia. com. Think you are spoilt for choice? Not really.

Browse through some portals and you could end up with a headache. One property listing is repeated umpteen number of times, the contact person turns out to be a broker instead of a seller as claimed, the same broker has five different contact numbers, a property listed on the site is already off the market and so on.

So we decided to find out which real estate websites are worth spending your time on and which ones are better ignored. First, we zeroed in on the portals to be evaluated and picked out the seven most popular ones. There is a chance that an unknown gem has been overlooked. But we have focused on portals that a majority of people are aware of. The list includes magicbricks.com, makaan.com, 99acres.com, indiaproperty. com, indiaproperties. com, jaaydaad.com and kothi.com.

In terms of interface, there isn’t much to distinguish one from the other. The home pages of all portals are cluttered with advertisements, project lists and search options; only 99acres deserves a mention for being cleaner than the rest.

Indiaproperty has the most structured format for listing out the features of a property. The website has taken the initiative to provide categories such as ‘furnishings’ and ‘property’s age’ instead of leaving it to the discretion of those who post the properties. This prevents annoyingly telegraphic house descriptions like, “Residential flat for sale, type of ownership—freehold, number of bedrooms—4”.

One also wishes that portals would encourage more users to post photographs of properties. It is specially beneficial for short-listing the ones that you want to inspect. It is extremely difficult to ascertain the city-wise coverage of these portals. With the exception of Jaaydaad, all have listed out major cities and towns of India. While every portal has property posts in the four metros and tier I cities, you have to individually find out whether there is a property in smaller cities.

The websites claim that even if you don’t find a property listing, there must have been one some time ago, which is why the city/town features in their search option. We did a random check. How many of the seven portals show up posts for any property in Aligarh and Kochi? All of them. But options are very limited as most websites have only two or three posts for such locations.

When scouting for a property, chances are you already have a list of must-haves like budget, specific localities and features such as parking facility. It is easier if you have to sift through only those options that meet this basic framework. Most of the seven portals we scoured allow users to choose a price range and select the property type at the very first stage of the search option. But for more, one has to use the ‘advanced search’ link.

Realty check

Do real estate portals live up to the promise of easy property search? We did a few checks
Coverage of small cities
What we checked- Do real estate portals have property posts for all the cities in their list?

What we found- Except Jaaydaad and Kothi, all websites threw up some property listing for smaller cities like Aligarh and Kochi. But the options are very few

Maximum criteria for property search

What we checked- Which portal allows you to screen properties with maximum categories?

What we found- Magicbricks—only problem, that the set-up doesn’t necessarily yield results

Least number of repeated property posts*

What we checked- Which portal has none or least repetition of posts for the same property?

What we found- Makaan

Most updated information about listed properties*

What we checked- Which portal has none or least number of property posts that are already off the market?

hat we found- Makaan

*Random test over small sample sizes. The results could be untrue to the extent that makaan.com has redundant or repeated posts that our sample missed out on. Also, it has fewer listings than magicbricks.com 
Magicbricks has the most elaborate filters for screening the list of properties that meet your requirements. You can sort by property type, budget, locality, size and other display options. The problem—it doesn’t necessarily yield results. We tried it out for a fairly common property profile: a two-bedroom apartment at Greater Kailash I in south Delhi, rent under Rs 20,000 a month, covered area of 500-1,000 sq ft, preferred floors between first and fifth, not older than five years and posted by either brokers or individuals.

The result: no posts. Ironically, a search through the properties in south Delhi through the quick search link of the same portal threw up options in the locality. But the narrowed down list of properties can include unnecessary repetitions, redundant posts and inaccurate information. Portals like 99acres and Magicbricks claim to update their lists on a daily basis.

So are they exempt from these problems? We skimmed the first 50 posts for a specific search across all seven portals. All except Makaan had more than one post for the same property. Magicbricks says that this is beneficial for users as they can negotiate the price of a property with different brokers. Others claim that since the content of their websites is generated by users, there is little they can do about repetitions.

Brokers have found ways to circumvent the limits set by individual portals on free property posts and list the same property more than once. To test whether properties that go off the market are regularly weeded out, we checked five posts on each website which were a month old. Again, only Makaan seemed to scrupulously clean out redundant posts.

Indiaproperty provides users the option of reporting that a property has been sold. The number of such posts is less but the portal isn’t free of them. Other portals like 99acres and Magicbricks have a system of renewal every three months. If the property post has not been renewed during that time, it does not show up on the search lists.

But this is ineffective as brokers are only too happy to receive calls from prospective clients and continue renewing a particular property post even though it has been sold. This way, they get an opportunity to interact with a property hunter and suggest other options. Posting your property on these websites is free for a specific number of listings and period of time.

In addition to property search, many portals are trying to evolve as a one-stop solution for issues relating to property transactions. Hence, Jaaydaad, Magicbricks and Indiaproperties also provide formats of several legal documents such as surrender deeds and registration forms for users.

Indiaproperties and Magicbricks take the lead in add-ons—there are advisory services, EMI and stamp duty calculators, comparison of loan rates of all major banks, etc. But if you are looking for research reports on real estate, Magicbricks gives better options.

Finally, our verdict. We cannot claim that any portal is the star of the lot. But if you plan to sit down for property or buyer hunting, ignore Jaaydaad, Kothi, Indiaproperties and 99acres in their current version. Makaan, Magicbricks and Indiaproperty should throw up adequate options for you—both in terms of quantity and quality.

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