Monday, 11 June 2012

Using the internet to buy a home: Websites and apps

The boom in smartphone use means apps are increasingly used to find information

Spring is upon us and so is the traditional start of the house-buying season.
Estate agents have come out of hibernation and are busy preparing for the busy Easter selling period.
Most people now start their search for a new home online.
So it is worth looking at the help you can get on the internet and, more frequently these days, via your mobile phone.
Looking for a new property is easier than ever as the big property portals like Rightmove, FindaProperty andGlobrix have a huge inventory of homes to buy and to let.
But technology does not stand still.
New entrants like Adzuna make it even easier by bringing the listings together from lots of different sites into one convenient place.
They could even help you find a new job once you have found the right house.
Having found some potential homes to see, you will want to check out if you could afford any of them.
The first handy "app" you can use is the mortgage calculator from London & Country mortgage brokers.
Like similar offerings from price comparison websites, this should only be used as a guide, but it is quite sophisticated.
If you want help finding the area you can commute from, then for Londoners the handy Commute website will show you.
Standing outside the house of your dreams armed with your smartphone, Londoners may want to know which way the nearest tube station is.
Checking for problems
You may tempted by a vast range of websites and apps from individual estate agents.
But you will want to check if the home of your dreams is in a flood plain, how good the local services are, what results local schools are getting or what risks there might be from pollution.
Sad to say, it may also be worth checking what local crime rates are.
The government publishes a range of little-known but incredibly helpful apps with maps that show you everything from the nearest chemist to the nearest post box.
One of the most helpful will summarise much of what you might want to know about an area before you move there.
When it comes to negotiating a deal, then if you are buying a home you might be interested to learn what similar homes have sold for.
You can search Land Registry data via a number of third-party web sites like Zoopla or download the cleverMouseprice app to your smartphone.
This show you details of sold prices around you while you are looking - if you use the built-in location option.
Monitoring the market
If you know where you want to live but want to wait for the right property to come available, then most of the property portals provide email alerts.
You can monitor individual properties for when the price is changed or monitor whole areas using the Mouseprice website.
Many people only start to consider what their own home is worth once they have found a new property.
Getting the views of two or three estate agents is very helpful and free.
However there are resources online including the Rightmove guide to what your home might be worth.
It can tell you how many people are looking in a particular postcode, how many properties are available, what has sold and, importantly, what is to let.
Remember that what rent you might get is a very helpful way to establish what a property might be worth, as the rental "yield" will allow you to compare it with other commodities.
Whilst you may be buying a house to live in, you will also want to be confident that you are not overpaying.
Calculate the cost
To deal with the conveyancing you could use one of the online businesses now popular with both buyers and sellers.
MyHomeMove is one of the biggest.
Removal companies provide helpful guides to the cost of moving, HMRC will show you how much stamp duty land tax you will have to pay.
Before you move you might want to order up the first delivery of groceries from Tesco Direct or Ocado, who will deliver the bare necessities for your first night.
Looking for and renting or buying a new home has never been easier.
Those who do not like dealing with estate agents now have a huge array of helpful websites and apps to use instead.
"Knowledge is power," as Sir Francis Bacon, the 17th Century English philosopher and one-time lord chancellor, is credited with saying.
And prospective buyers and tenants have never had so much knowledge at their fingertips.

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