Independent advice for home buyers and sellers

 

 

 

                 

 

 

What's it's worth ?

 

Valuations between estate agents can vary wildly, but a raft of high-tech websites now give you access to the kind of detailed house price data that was once the preserve of agents and mortgage lenders. It’s possible not only have a nose at what neighbours have got for their houses, but look at future predictions and even get a free online house price valuation.

  • Check how much houses in any street sold for

    While some websites try and charge for this information. But you can get it speedily and for free from Nethouseprices or Houseprices. Simply enter a postcode or street and they list which properties sold and for what, plus allow you to narrow the search by house age and style. The sites take their data from the Land Registry and the Registers of Scotland.

    To take it a step further, Houseprices also plots houses and prices on a Google map. Just click on one of the pins and it’ll show all the info and sale price for that particular house.

  • Get an instant online 'valuation'

    There are a couple of sites offering free online tools that will value your house. Yet it's important you take these with a pint pot, not a pinch, of salt. Any slight variation from the norm and they're way off, so only use these as a guide and a bit of fun rather than a fully reliable source.

    The first to try is Zoopla.co.uk. Type in a postcode and it will give you a rough indication of sales prices for that area. You can then select a home in that street and answer questions to get a bespoke online valuation based on previous sale prices and market climate; you will have to login to do this though. Alternatively, there's Propertypriceadvice: it's slightly quicker and easier to work through, though asks less questions. It also requires your e-mail address to get its full valuation.

    There are also paid for reports out there from Mouseprice and Hometrack for around twenty pounds. As the accuracy of online valuations is still highly questionable, if you want one, stick with the free ones.

  • Property Price Trends

    For some serious data on price trends, the Land Registry’s House Price Index gives average house prices by country and region, breaking them down into different property types. Stats geeks will enjoy HBOS's housing research, which features its official house price index, a regional house price map and average prices by postcode, closely followed by Nationwide's similar research.

  • Property Price Predictions

    No one can tell you what's going to happen to house prices, though many will try. I remember doing an ITV News debate with a senior estate agent, and a City economist. The first predicted strong house price growth, the other a 30% crash. I said "anyone who tells you what will happen to house prices is talking nonsense; no one knows". To which they both said "rubbish!"

    Property is an asset just like any other, and just as no one can always call the stock market right, the same's true of property. Yet if you're looking to see what the pundits predict, a useful place to do that is Housepricecrash. It's an website with a pro-property price crash agenda. Yet don’t be put off by this: it also collects statistics from places like the Land Registry, the Financial Times and Hometrack to track house price trends. Plus it tracks house price predictions from different experts to give an idea of what the future might hold.

  • Find properties that have dropped their asking prices A clever little website, Propertysnake, shows which properties in an area have recently dropped their asking prices, and by how much. Type in a postcode to see who’s having trouble offloading their house and what percentage they’ve trimmed the price by - a useful bargaining chip in purchase negotiations.

 

 

 

 

Is your house an insurance risk?

 

Though maybe not at the forefront of your mind, risks such as crime and flooding can have a significant impact on insurance premiums and a house’s value. It’s possible to quickly check how vulnerable a property is using a few clever sites – possibly saving years’ of stress.

  • Check for flood risk and air pollution

    The Environment Agency’s flood map at Environment-agency.gov.uk provides a more detailed report on whether and why your area is at risk. The likelihood is described as one of three categories, low, moderate or significant, as used by insurers. There’s also an air quality map showing nearby pollution dangers like sewage works.

  • Check for flood and subsidence risks

    A ten second search on Homecheck could save you years of hassle. It’s an amazing resource, collating data from bodies like the Environment Agency and the British Geological Survey; just type in a postcode and it swiftly analyses the risk of flooding, subsidence and other environmental problems. It lets you check for all sorts of nasties you’ve never contemplated, such as landfill waste and radon gas levels.

  • Examine crime rates

    Discover how much crime there is in your area compared to the national average, simply by plugging your postcode into Upmystreet.com. It’ll show you a breakdown of different crimes e.g. burglary, theft and robbery, which all affect insurance premiums, for your area and the average for Englan/Wales/Scotland depending on where you are based.

 


 

 

Cut mortgage, council tax & home insurance costs

It isn't just a question of location, location, location: saving on property involves the cost of the debt, council tax and home insurance. Yet there are easy ways to slash the cost on all of these.

  • Check & challenge your council tax band

    Council tax bands in England and Scotland were decided in 1991, but often it was done by an estate agent just driving past. It’s possible to quickly check your band and if it’s wrong challenge and possibly get a rebate of £1000s. Read the full Council Tax Reclaiming article.

  • Get the right mortgage

    Remortgaging is the single, biggest MoneySaving activity possible: the financial equivalent of liposuction. For every 1% you cut on a £100,000 outstanding mortgage you save £80 a month. To see if you can sever the cost of your mortgage, read either the Cheap Mortgages or Cheap Remortgages Guide.

  • Cut the cost of home insurance

    It’s easy to slice down your home insurance costs by £100s, simply by using websites that do the comparisons for you, then possibly grabbing hidden cashback. In fact by following the system many people have ended up being paid to take out home insurance as the cashback found is more than the insurance costs. For the full system read the Cheap Home Insurance guide.

 

 

 

Is it a nice place to be?

Now it’s time for a spot of detective work. Professional search agents leave no stone unturned when investigating a potential neighbourhood: they analyse schools, planning applications, demographics, and charge a fortune for their services. Now the web can do the same for free at the click of a mouse.

  • Browse local schools

    A must for any mums and dads, see the Department for Children, Schools and Families' School League Tables. Also check out inspection reports for schools in a particular postcode on the Ofsted website, which lets you read local primary and secondary school reports.

  • Check out new neighbours

    Find out what kind of people live up your road at Upmystreet.com. Just plug in a postcode and it generates a ‘neighbourhood profile’, listing everything from average incomes to whether they are more likely to read the Sun or the Guardian.

    At the more gloomy end of the spectrum (depending on where you live), Uklocalarea.com generates area profiles detailing quality of life, crime rates and unemployment statistics. Or for serious number-crunching on everything from poverty to access to services, look at the government’s Neighbourhood Statistics site.

  • Where's the pub?

    If you want to know how far away your local will be or how close the shops are, then property search engine Zoomf is a useful tool. Simply plug the details of your chosen area into the search engine and it'll show you what's currently for sale in that area, give you a map of where it is and by using the filters can tell you where the shops, schools, restaurants and pubs etc are.

    Check whether you’ll be stuck in the middle of nowhere with Hacienda.co.uk, which does a similar thing. Enter a postcode and it plots local amenities on a map, including nearest petrol stations, supermarkets, schools and transport links.

  • Look for transport links

    New transport links can mean an area is on the up. Use the Highways Agency’s road project search to look for new roads at highways.gov.uk.

  • Check for noise

    For certain cities in England only as yet, noisemapping.org is part of a government project to track road traffic noise. Input your postcode and house number and it’ll come up with a colour coded “noise viewer map”, showing how many decibels of noise there are at that spot.

  • Zoom in on a map of your house

    Get a dizzyingly good view of your whole area using Google Earth, a free service that uses mapping technology to give aerial views from space. To see everything down to whether your next door neighbour likes to sunbathe naked, simply go to the homepage and download its special software, type an area into the "Fly To" box and hit Search.

    Find out how close you’ll be to work or shops using Google Maps. Type in a postcode or even a complex search such as “dry cleaners in Leeds” and a special map will pop up with all the relevant info highlighted.

    Map site Ononemap is a regular map but marks out supermarkets and mobile phone masts. Also check out Geograph, where users submit photos with the aim of capturing every square grid in the UK.

  • Find out what’s being built in your area

    Will that sea view be replaced by a high rise in a couple of months? The government’s Planning Portal helps avoid nasty surprises by displaying planning applications made in your area. You can search by postcode and area for England and Wales. Also use Homecheck, which does the same thing.

  • How far is a house from local amenities or work? There's also a very useful tool called Gmaps Pedometer, which automatically works out how far you're walking and the calories you'll burn. It's a little tricky to work out how to use at first, but once done it's great for measuring the walking distance between places.

 

 

 

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