As we are living in a fast-paced world it becomes more and more common, that people keep on moving around the country and nearly nobody keeps on living in the same address for 20,30,40,.. years as our grandparents or parents used to do.
Look at my grand-ma who lived in the same house for 45 years until she re-located to a nursing-home, were she spent the last two years of her life.
Compared to this, I have moved 11 times during the last 18 years.
Most of the time just because I wanted to live in a more favourable house, twice the moves were work-related as my work-place was just too far to commute, twice I moved abroad and the last time, because we wanted to live as far away from the city my husband works in (London) but still within a commutable distance.
The variety of re-location related programmes on the TV shows, that this is a subject that seems to interest a lot of people and who doesn't dream about a house in the country in exchange to the city life-style - or vice versa.
The number of people that can be helped out by Phil and Kirsty & Co is limited and most of us will have to do the legwork themselves.
Well, had to, as nethouseprices.com will do that for you.
The Website :
The website is held in a friendly white and orange colour-scheme, with white being the background colour.
The taskbar holds 9 different options to choose from, about which we will learn later.
The centre of the home-page is divided into three columns, the left one holds some information about why and when the site was founded and when it was last up-dated, the middle one gives you a chance to click through to sites where you can find properties for rent, to buy or arrange a mortgage.
The column on the right is reserved for advertisements. Well, the service is free, so let them try to make some money on the side....
It is very easy to navigate and I was quite impressed by the speed with which the pages load up.
So let's play this little scenario :
Imagine, you are in the same position as we were: You live in a dingy flat in the far from charming Tottenham and want to move out in the green countryside.
You are a family with two young children, so good schools around are a must.
There is only one car in the family and the husband needs it to go to work.
So all schools, shops and other amenities have to be in walking distance - otherwise I won't move there as I don't do public transport.
You want to buy a house, 3 bedrooms, fairly big garden, no renovation project and your budget is £170.000.
You have several ideas where you might like to move, but, as you are not that familiar with the area, you are not sure yet.
Where do we start ?
First we are looking for houses in the towns we think might be desirable.
To find them, you can either use the own search of nethouseprice.com or any other search-engine, like fish-4-homes,etc.
If you use theirs, you'll be provided with a very good description of the property, several pictures to look at and a map reference.
Once you've found some properties make a note of the street names and the research can start.
Do you trust an estate agent ?
I don't. Houses can be often vastly overpriced and to find out, if the agent is giving you an offer that is more or less reflecting the value of other properties, that have been sold in the area, you start to use the website now.
Sold prices :
After clicking this option on the taskbar, you'll have to click whether your property is in England / Wales or Scottland.
Our little game is happening in Essex, so it would be the first option to click on.
Now you can continue by typing in either the town & street (the later is not necessary if you only want an overlook over a wider area) or the postcode, for which the first 3 items again will be enough.
Our search has not only found us "our" street, but also the 19 other closest streets in the vicinity.
Apart from one street, of which I know that it is completely new, there is no unusual movement and it doesn't look as if it is that bad, that people are running away from it. We have 5 sales within the last 5 years (it isn't a very long street) and it seems, that people here tend to hold on to their property. In the other streets it is pretty much the same picture, according to length of street ( map is provided) and the price we are offered is very much in the range that houses have been sold for in the last 6 months.
Be careful if there are no sales at all recorded in the area, as this might mean, that for some reason nobody wants to move here.
It also tells you, if the houses that were sold have been freehold or leasehold, terraced, semi - or detached and newly built or not.
With the map facility we can see exactly which position in the street "our" house is taking and we can move around on the map to find out where are the nearest shopping facilities, schools, council,...
So far, so good, but it still isn't time to arrange the viewing yet.
Let's go back to the taskbar and find out about the town.
This leads us straight to the Ofsted website and we decide to look for arrangements for 5-11 year olds .
After typing in our postcode we will be presented with a list of the schools of our chosen towns and we will be able to read the Ofsted reports of each of them and check which place in the last years results the schools we are interested in have taken.
If you want to move anywhere close to water it is certainly worth to check this out. You will be connected straight to the website of the Environment Agency, where you can type in the postcode of the property you want to buy and so find out if there is any danger of flooding.
Our choice doesn't even have a pond in the garden and is far from any rivers or the seaside, so the result comes back as clear.
It is always good to find out, if the area you are planning to move in is fairly safe or a favourite meeting-point for crooks.
After clicking we are directed to the Home Office's site for Crime statistics.
Again we have to enter our postcode and can see now, how big the danger is, that our car will be stolen, we will be mugged, burgled or even murdered if we buy the house we have chosen.
Apart from seeing the single results there is a general overview and this tells us, that our chosen new home is in an area, where the crime level is much below the national average.
We don't want to move in the mountains, but it is still advisable to check the dangers as there are some hills around that might affect us.
This time we are taken to the website of the British Geological Society and this is a very busy website. I have to say that I am totally lost here and can't find the information we are looking for.
Nice of nethousprices.com to offer the link and to remind us that subsidence is something that needs to be checked before purchasing a new property, but this website is not a very useful tool and, after searching around for 15 minutes, I am willing to give up.
Noise Pollution :
As we want to move away from London we can probably be very sure, that our new dwelling will be in much calmer surroundings, but Stansted Airport is only 10 miles away and this might affect us.
We are taken to the Noise Mapping Website of DEFRA and find out, that this is a new project by them that will, at one point in the future, contain information about noise pollution for the whole of the nation.
At the moment it offers only information about London and is therefore useless for anyone, who wants to buy a property outside of the capital.
Well, no use for us doesn't mean it is useless in general as there are more than enough people buying or renting in London who might be informed before signing the contract how loud their new street will be. At least, it is usable and has again the easy "type in your postcode" function.
Planned for the future are the following further functions :
- Local Amenities : supermarkets, gym's and restaurants. I can't wait to see
this one as it will be extremely useful to any private person who wants to
relocate further away, private investors and developers. For now, the map they provide us with will have to do.
- UK Council Tax Band : Always good to find out before which other cost are waiting for you, apart from mortgage and rent
- Planning applications : This is about the best of the three they are working on, as it can be a quite nasty shock to find out that the beautifull cottage with the view over a field that you want to buy will soon be overlooking a newly build car-dealer, petrol-station and cinema-complex....
Fine, I am happy with the result, so we can move on and, after viewing the property and deciding to make an offer (that's the part you still have to do yourself) it's time to go back to the website.
As we assume that our offer was accepted, we could now check out the mortgages they offer and get in contact with their brokers.
I haven't used this service, so can't comment on how good they are.
Type in your postcode and they can find you an estate agent, solicitor or surveyor in the area.
So here our game would be over and, in real life, we would be starting to pack.
We've managed to find a house for "our" family without moving away from the computer and, if we want, we can also arrange the viewing (for that everyone still has to go, unless the photos are enough for you to decide wether to make an offer or not), apply for a mortgage and find a solicitor/surveyor - and all on one website ! All that's left to do is packing as they don't have links for removal services - yet...
Is it useful for those who don't want to move ?
Sure, especially for property professionals, although for them the services of the website are not free and there is a button where they can sign up.
As I am not one of them, I have no idea, what is extra for them, but I could imagine that it is the marketing factor that is interesting for them, as the site has more then 1 Million hits per day.
If you neither want to buy nor you are in the business then you can have quite some fun with it.
Sure everyone has this stuck-up cousin/aunt/colleague... who always makes sure that you know how well they are doing and how expensive their house was.
Want to know if they are telling the truth ? You might be surprised !
Same goes for the neighbour who shows off by telling you what a great deal he made on his house and how wrong you were to pay that much ...
Or for anyone else you know , unfortunately also for you, so if you've made up some stories,....
And don't pretend you are not interested! We are all a bit nosy at times...
You can still say that you've only checked to find out how the property market is developping in your street.
As long as the house you want to check out has been bought after April 2000 (England and Wales) or May 2000 (Scottland) you will find the exact amount that it sold for, although it might not be so advisable to tell them straight away, that you know that they are lying - or you'll might end up as being seen as the snoop of the family/office.
If you are generally interested in the property market you might like to check the following facility:
All the news about the property market on one website and up-dated every 5 minutes. Might be generally interesting, but probably more for professionals who work in the property market.
For the more private person using the site there is some property related trivia such as :
- Sarah beats Kirsty as sexiest property presenter (poll result)
- Rose Cottage tops list of most favourite property names
Would I recommend it ?
Absolutely ! I wish I would have known about it when we were househunting as it could have saved me lots of time.
The new points they will add soon, like amenities, planning applications and council tax will make it even more usefull and I will definitely check it out and play around a bit when they have added it.
Thanks for reading this, Sandra
Nethouseprices.com was founded in 2005 by Steve Dunnett, when the Freedom of Information Act made house price data held by the Land Registry available from 1st January 2005. His insight was that people would prefer to access the information via the net rather than visit or write to a Land Registry office for the information, especially as the Land registry charge a fee for the information. Dunnett decided to pay the fee to access the information in bulk and distribute it free on his web-site which is funded by advertising, mainly from the financial sector. The site is now experiencing 500,000 hits a day.
What does the site do?
It allows you to type in an address or post-code and look up what price a house sold for and the date on which it sold. The first thing I did was type in my own postcode. It brought up the street name and said there had been seven sales registered. I then clicked on the street name, and it listed each house, with house number and post-code, the price it sold at, the date it sold on and whether it was a flat, terrace, semi-detached or detached. Unfortunately it doesn't list how many bedrooms a house has, but if you are familiar with a street, this is easy to work out. Beside each entry is a link to a map, showing the exact location.
As you can tell, this is snooper's heaven. You can find out what your neighbours paid for theirs, or look up your boss's house, or find out what Mr and Mrs Blair paid for their house (providing you know the address).
It's also helpful if you are buying a property, as you no longer need be vulnerable to estate agent's (usually false) patter on the lines of "the house next door went for xyz, therefore this house is an absolute bargain".
You need to be aware that a house is registered with the Land Registry only after a sale has been completed - i.e. only after contracts have been exchanged, completed and money and keys have changed hands, does your solicitor then register you as the owner with the Land Registry, together with the price paid and the date of completion. Nethouseprices get their data from the Land Registry a month in arrears. So there will be a lag between when an offer is made and when the price is registered on the site. In a rising market, the prices at the land registry will be below those being currently offered, in a falling market, they will be higher. Still, it's a useful tool to be able to bargain with. You should be able to gauge straight away whether the vendor is asking in excess of what the rest of the street has paid.
The data for England and Wales only goes back to April 2000, and for Scotland to May 2000
What else does the site do?
They keep expanding the site - as of this month, you can now also look up houses for sale, houses to rent and mortgages (i.e. on line estate agents services). There is a tab called "My Town" that allows you to search for schools, flood risk, crime statistics for the town, and noise pollution. They are intending to add council tax bands, planning applications and local ameneties (supermarkets, restaurants etc). They also have a tab called "News" which lists links to all news articles on the web to do with UK property.
The site is free for ordinary users - there is an advanced service for estate agents for £100 per year. To look up the price a house sold for, you do not need to register with the site and sign in. For everything else you do, but registration is free.
I recommend this site - if nothing else, it provides entertainment in the form of nosiness!