Technology has revolutionised house-hunting. You can now find out an enormous amount about any property with online searches, and a great deal of that information is free.
Try these tips for more effective online property searches:
Check in regularly
The market leaders in the online listings game are Realestate.co.nz and TradeMe Property. Most of the nation’s real estate agencies list on one or both of these sites. Most major agencies load their listings up to a third-party site, where the listings are then passed on to the Realestate.co.nz or TradeMe.
Realestate.co.nz told REDnews it does two main daily updates of API listings, one at 4am and a second, smaller wave at 12noon. Listings from smaller agencies which manually upload will arrive on the site once they are processed, which could be any time.
If you’re setting up weekly alerts, it’s worth knowing that the most popular day for listings on both sites is Tuesday. Agents often list properties online on a Monday afternoon, and they are processed overnight to arrive on Tuesday morning. The next most popular day, according to TradeMe, is Thursday.
You may want to check in more regularly, though: Property investor Sunvi Ahsan has been purchasing houses regularly for the past few years, and says when he’s in buying mode he checks on listings at least five times daily. He starts before breakfast to see what’s arrived overnight, and then throughout the day on his phone.
Set up alerts
Both TradeMe and Realestate.co.nz have ways to save a search and send you properties which match your criteria. You can also set up text alerts or use the mobile app so you can view listings at all times.
(On TradeMe, use the ‘advanced search’ facility; at the bottom of that form is the option to set up an email alert. Set up TextMe for text alerts. For help on Realestate.co.nz, try here.)
A daily alert from Realestate.co.nz arrives at 8:30am; TradeMe says “it’s difficult to be certain,” but that the daily alert arrives during working hours.
Open home notifications from TradeMe arrive on Fridays.
Don’t stop there
Realestate.co.nz says it lists 95% of all houses for sale, but when you’re looking for the perfect property, you don’t want to miss out on seeing the other 5%.
He also recommends local agencies in the suburbs where you’re buying. He checks small local agency websites daily for listings – he has found there can be a lag of up to four days over the weekend between a listing arriving on the agency’s site and it turning up on Realestate.co.nz.
If Ahsan likes a house, he’s often put an offer in within four days.
Find out more for free
Once a house has caught your eye, there’s a lot more information you can discover online without paying a cent:
Google Maps, Earth, and Street View let you look at the location, the house and proximity of the neighbours, the street and the section; bear in mind that images may be up to three years old.
Some details about each property are available on most local council websites, including the council valuation, the section size, and the rates.
You can find out median rents for each suburb on the DBH website, sorted by the size of the house, or check out TradeMe’s rental listings to see comparable properties.
For Auckland apartments, you can find rents on specific buildings at Impression Real Estate (it’s free, but you need to enter your email address).
A little cash, a lot more data
If you’re prepared to fork out a bit of money, you can get access to a wealth of information.
For the dedicated house-hunter or investor, it may be well worth paying for a sales history, a basic online valuation from QV, or ongoing data from a site like PropertyGuru. Most of these sites are run using data from CoreLogic, so you only need to join one.
Remember that in a rapidly-changing market, there’s no way to get the most recent sales online – if a house sold yesterday, it won’t be in anyone’s data yet. You’ll need to call the listings agent for the property and get that person to send you all the comparable sales in the streets nearby for the previous month or two.
The more research you do, the faster you can move
By following market trends, Ahsan says he’s able to know where prices sit from week to week. This allows him to accurately price a property without even walking into it – in fact, he has been known to buy houses without ever viewing them, using a combination of online searches and information from agents.
Having a wealth of data at your fingertips may seem overwhelming, but it makes you a more informed buyer – so you know when you’ve spotted a bargain and you can make your move quickly.
Looking for a new home?
Westpac has info and tools to help you navigate the house hunting process: