Top online resources for the smart property buyer
Once upon a time, the requirements for an extensive property search were a good map, and some seriously robust shoe leather,” says Rachel Johnston of Stacks. Today, most property searches start digitally, on the sofa, at a desk, or on the train.
“At Stacks, we have always warned against spending too much time online. Property simply isn’t a ‘virtual’ commodity. The impression you get from pictures and descriptions may vary dramatically from the real thing. So by all means start your search on the internet, but get on the phone, talk to the agents, and go and see as much property as you possibly can. Online is an aid, not a substitute for an exhaustive property search."
However, beyond the property portals, there are a vast array of websites and apps that can help you assess your shortlisted properties. Here we point you in the direction of some of the most useful online resources (many of which will point you to a corresponding app) to help you with everything from commuting times to flight paths and local schools.
While these are incredibly useful sites, when information really matters, don’t rely on website/desktop information alone - adopt a belt-and-braces approach, double checking vital information in a non-virtual manner.
Thanks to Stacks for these links - I wonder how many are new to you!
Can’t believe your eyes?
Has clever photography succeeded in cropping out busy roads and eyesores next to, or opposite, that beautiful property? Google Earth and Google Streetview is your friend. Have a good look around from the comfort of home to find out the things that the agent might prefer you not to know.
www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk is a wonderful online schools information resource, from an initial search telling you what’s where, through to the minutest detail on individual schools.
Make sure you also look up www.locrating.com to show you where the best schools are. Keep in mind that Ofsted reports are NOT the be all and end all. It pays to do more research, talking to people and asking people in the local area about the reputations. Remember school reputations can change...particularly if you're going back to 'your day'.
Ofsted reports are available free on www.reports.ofsted.gov.uk
If you are worried about planning applications in an area or want to know about a local council’s planning policy check out the district councils, most of whom now have a good online resource. You should be able to look at current and historical planning applications on the planning register (check more broadly than your immediate area), and check their status. And also view current planning policy.
The easiest calculator is www.moneysupermarket.com providing a straightforward way for putting in the property value, loan required, timescale. It does provide information about mortgage deals but we'd always recommend speaking to a broker directly.
Stamp duty calculator
Stamp duty has become more and more complicated. www.stampdutycalculator.org.uk has an easy device for finding out what duty is payable, whether it’s a first or additional property.
Well of course - we'd recommend ourselves! We have a huge range of forums, e-guides and articles aimed at property buyers leaving London and heading into the country - members sign up for free and have access to all our top tips as well as free half hour one to one sessions. www.lifeafterlondon.com.
If you're trying to calculate your commute from out of London, or within you should make use of www.commutefrom.co.uk
Type in a postcode to www.broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk and it will show you what speeds are available in the area from which providers. Very useful tool, but if broadband speed is vital to you, we would strongly suggest a proper road test.
A fascinating map showing flight data, www.flightradar24.com allows you to zoom in to the area you’re interested in, and watch the planes come and go in almost (slight delay) real time.
Speedy access to an overview of crime statistics in a specific postcode. www.ukcrimestats.com/
The land registry website www.landregistry.data.gov.uk is a useful resource, as is www.nethouseprices.com and www.zoopla.co.uk is very user-friendly. Sold prices (historical and recent) and current value estimates are easy to find. (Remember that the system doesn't know if there have been improvements / extensions between sales). A good way of looking at prices for the property you’re looking at, and others in the area.
Speak to at least three reputable removal companies but in the first instance get yourself some free quick quotes by using Compare My Move . Cheapest isn't always best when trusting someone with all your possessions so make sure you read up on the ways to choose a removal company.
For information on flood risks in a particular area or postcode is available at a click on www.environmentagency.gov.uk. Click on the map and find out whether the risk is very low, low, medium or high. (It’s worth noting that this site won’t give you information on flash floods).
Moving within London
Getting around London
The urban walking route planner. Walking directions via a journey planner, giving you ‘direct’, ‘less busy’ and ‘low pollution’ alternatives. (Also gives you calorie burn, step count and carbon saving).
Why is my house shaking?
This map shows you where the tubes run in relation to streets, so a handy resource for anyone worrying about subterranean rumblings. www.traintimes.org.uk/map/tube/
Warts and all…in London and when you're moving out of London.
Finally, www.propertydetective.com promises a ‘warts and all’ report of what a property, street, or neighbourhood can offer them and their lifestyle. Basic information is free, but a more in depth report comes at a price.
Thanks to Stacks Property Search and Aquisition for this useful article. If you'd like a free one to one session with Stacks to talk about your move book yourself in here. www.lifeafterlondon.com/book