idealista - the website (and app) that facilitated immensely my interest in Portuguese property. As the following will show, I love this site - intelligently designed with plenty of options and features. Would I go so far as to say that they employ powerful website technology? I would.
The idealista site offers aggregated property listings for Spain, Portugal and Italy, meaning that many different real estate agencies and agents can advertise the properties they represent on the site. Additionally, property owners can advertise their properties directly on idealista without the use of an agency. I should mention here that property rentals are also listed, although I haven't delved into that aspect too much. Each of the three countries have their own stand-alone site, though of course they are all under the same umbrella and are interconnected.
As a user, you have choices as to how listings are searched, both geographically as well as a broad set of characteristic filters, e.g, house, 2 bedroom, 2 bath, pool, terrace, garage, needs renovating, etc. Geographic filtering can be via location name (e.g., Lagos, Silves, Albufeira) or via an interactive map where it is possible to draw a search area. Of course, characteristic filters can also be applied to the search area. The map is zoomable, so you can make as large or fine-grained a search as you like. After your search, the area you defined populates with small yellow circles (markers), representing properties that meet your search criteria, or a number of properties if you are zoomed out too far. Zoom in a bit, and all the circles differentiate, so that each one is one property.
More choices follow. You can view the results two ways - as a list that can be sorted by dimensions like price and relevance to you search criteria, or by using the map to click on individual markers. Click on a marker and it turns pink, triggering a pop-up for the property in question. The pop-up has a photo and some basic information, like price, size, bedrooms, and contact info, also linking to the property's listing on idealista. This is a great way to look for a place when you have some necessary geographical conditions, such as no more than 10 minutes from the sea, near a school, walking distance to grocery, on a transit line, and so on.
Each property's listing page offers more or less information and media about the place, depending on how much the advertiser has provided. What's really great is that idealista supports a number of ways to view a property:
- Photos. Practically all listings feature photographs, with the number of them varying immensely from one or none (extremely rare) to around twenty or thirty (common) to over sixty (relatively rare).
- Video. Usually just an animation using the same photos on the listing - very disappointing - but occasionally original video with hand-held and/or drone footage - excellent.
- Virtual tour with 360 views. A very effective and intuitive way to view a property. These come in two types. The more common consists of a connected series of spots where a 360 shot has been taken, with the ability to transition from spot to spot, looking around the interior/exterior space at each. Here is a great example. The rarer form of walk-through is infinitely cooler, requiring total photographic mapping which is then turned into a 3D model that can be walked through.
- 3D model of the property's interior, with all surfaces mapped. This is referred to as a "Dollhouse" representation, and I can understand why. The model hangs in a black space, and can be spun around and zoomed into using your mouse. Zoom in enough and your view enters that room, giving you a first-person 360 view of that room. Once you're "standing" in a particular room, it's even possible to measure physical distances in that room. Wondering if your 80 gallon aquarium is going to fit through that door? Find out in a few seconds. I have never encountered this technology used in this way, and it is truly effective. I expect to see a lot more of it used in different creative/commercial contexts in the future. Ha! I just remembered something that helps explain the Dollhouse feature to a particular audience. It's very much like entering God Mode on a first-person dungeon video game like Doom or Quake (showing my age here). Finally, this feature allows floor plans to be generated that are mapped with photos of the floors and most furniture. This one of the first examples of this that I encountered.
- Location. idealista uses a specialized Google Map feed to allow you to see where the property is located. In the vast majority of cases, only the general neighbourhood is indicated, i.e., somewhere in that circle. At least in theory. In practice, this feature is often miscalibrated for the Portuguese listings.
Unfortunately, the Dollhouse/complete virtual tour option is rarely offered in Portugal for some reason I can't fathom. It's such a powerful tool (yes, powerful, I said it), that if I was advertising a property I would definitely include it. I imagine that it's a fairly labour-intensive procedure and thus somewhat costly, and this is reflected in the fact that usually only very expensive properties offer it (with exceptions). As to why a 2 million Euro villa in Spain opts for it while a comparable villa in Portugal doesn't, I don't know.
Here is a link to the first listing I encountered with the Dollhouse feature. I was immediately hooked.
Ok, I have things to do - a toilet to clean, dishes to do, shopping with Rowan. I will continue this later, because there is still more to describe and discuss here. Stay tuned!
And I should mention that I don't work for idealista and have never been in communication with them aside from registering on their site.