Free house price valuations
Tons of tools to investigate a property
Whether you're a buyer, seller or voyeur, the web's a goldmine of info to find out anything you want about any property. From how much next door sold for to property heat maps, this guide lists 28 secret web weapons to do just that.
Find what properties near you sold for
Valuations between estate agents vary wildly, but several websites now give you access to the kind of detailed, specific data that was once the preserve of agents and mortgage lenders.
The big names all take their data from the Land Registry and the Registers of Scotland, so the figures are much of a muchness. Newly-sold homes normally appear in searches three months after the deal is done.
Many sold-house sites just list a price and if it was a flat or house. The entry could refer to a derelict bedsit or an immaculate three-bedder with an Aga, walnut floors and landscaped garden - and there's no mention of how the sale price compares to the asking price either.
There are a couple of sites that go into much more detail though.
On Rightmove you can simply enter a postcode or street to see which properties have been sold and for what. You can narrow the search by property type.
If a property has been listed on the site, it often shows photos with floor plans. You'll sometimes see a description with more details, such as if the bathroom's been refitted. Plus you can see Google Street View images.
Zoopla also lets you match up sold prices with old property ads, including pics, asking prices, descriptions and floor plans. Go to its sold prices section, search for an area and click on 'property history' next to a listing. The ads can be patchy, but even just a few archived records on your street are fascinating.
Zoopla will also give an estimate of the property's current value - see more on its valuations below.
Track house price trends by area or nationally
Now it's time to get an overview of the market. These figures help to show how many properties are changing hands in your area, and how much for, which might give you an idea of how much your house is worth.
The Land Registry collects official data on real sales, recording virtually every residence sold in England and Wales. Its UK House Price Index gives average house prices by country and region, breaking them down into different property types. But they're a little out of date, usually by about a month or so.
Stats geeks will enjoy Halifax's housing research, which features its official house price index and average prices including monthly and quarterly changes. This updates faster than the Land Registry, though it's based on mortgage approvals, not all of which result in completed deals.
And for another take, see Nationwide's House Price Index. You can download national and regional house price data, as well as more detailed analysis.
Get a free 'valuation', but only use it as a rough estimate
Several sites have free online tools to help get a valuation. MoneySavers report that these can be a long way off. For more realistic valuations, use Land Registry sold prices combined with a survey. Remember...
Take instant valuations with a pinch of salt. Never rely on the figures given – treat it as a fun investigation, rather than anything more.
Here are the options:
The first to try is Zoopla, for a rough indication of what your home's worth (click 'get a Zoopla estimate'). Type in a postcode and select a home to get a bespoke valuation based on data such as previous sale prices, asking prices, property characteristics and market climate.
You can also get predicted rental values and compare it to the area's average. MoneySavers say Zoopla's worth looking at for a (very wide) ballpark figure, but it's automated and can't always take factors such as renovations into account.
Property Price Advice
For a second opinion on how much you can hope for, try Property Price Advice. You need to work through a few questions and it requires an email address.
You get an estimated value for the gaff, based on factors such as changes in local sold prices. But MoneySavers say it is more likely to overvalue properties.
For another free basic valuation, try Mouseprice.com. It simply asks for your postcode, property type and the number of bedrooms though, so it's hardly a conclusive study.
The price range is broad. We tapped in the postcode for a two-bed London flat and it was valued at between £500,000 and £719,000.
You also need to give an email address, and there's an option to get a full, detailed valuation for about £20. But the accuracy of online valuations is still highly questionable – so if you want one, stick with the freebies.
Find out how your home's value might have changed
The Nationwide House Price Calculator is designed for people to put in their gaff's price and when they bought it, to work out what it's worth now.
If you don't know the last sale price, find the most recent price for a similar property on the street and enter this. The tool is crude: it doesn't take into account home improvements or even pinpoint exact areas, but it can give you an idea of how price fluctuations affect value.
See housing market forecasts
If you want to see what the pundits predict, a useful place to do that is HousePriceCrash.co.uk. It's a website that, as the name suggests, actively wants a property price crash to happen - but don't be put off by this. It collects statistics from places such as the Land Registry, the Financial Times and Hometrack to number-crunch price trends. If you're really geeky then its blog is also worth a read.
On top of this, the site tracks house price predictions from different experts to give an idea of what the future may hold.
No one can tell you what's going to happen to house prices, though many will try.
Martin's warning: House prices are markets, just like shares
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 they know 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 guarantee to call the stock market right, the same's true of property.
Find local asking prices
Gone are the days when peering into estate agents' windows was the only way to see asking prices for local places.
There are a plethora of reputable property websites out there. Remember asking prices are often wildly optimistic, showing what the seller wants for the property, not what they'll get. For belt 'n' braces, monitor a few sites.
Some homes are sold before they appear on the sites, so it's a good idea to also get pally with local estate agents to hear as soon as a place hits their books.
The biggest of the home search websites, Rightmove boasts a dizzying number of properties, it plots listings on a Google map for ease.
Zoopla's winning feature is its 'listing history', which allows you to see when the property was first listed for sale and for how much. Go to Zoopla's sold prices section, search for an area and click on a property for historic listings.
NEW. Clever tool to find properties where sellers have dropped the price
An ingenious free web browser add-on, Property Log, shows which sellers have altered the price on their listings. A hobbyist tool founded by someone unhappy with other ways to track property listing site Rightmove, it works with Chrome and Rightmove to show listings with tweaked asking prices, including, crucially, cuts. (It's for desktop computers or laptops only.)
You can see when the property listing was initially put online, and each time they cut the price and by how much. These are useful bargaining chips in purchase negotiations. Even if you're not buying, the results are fascinating.
The best way to test it is just to try it. Installing's simple. If you don't already have Chrome, head over and follow the prompts to install. Then go to Property Log and hit the 'Add to Chrome' button. Once installed, go to Rightmove, do a search and sellers' price alterations will magically appear on a home's listing.
Get free house price alerts
Get free monthly email alerts from Mouseprice on your chosen area, including house sale price info and homes where sellers have dropped prices.
You can even monitor individual properties. Sign up and click the 'track a property' tab to get an email when it's bought, sold or the seller cuts the price.
50+ home buying tricks
Considering buying? You need a battleplan. Armed with forumites' "what I wish I'd known" tales, we've drawn one up.
Our 50+ House Buying Tricks includes how to squeeze sellers for info, hidden costs, a deal-breakers' checklist and tips on solicitors and surveyors. There's also a 10 'last-ditch questions to ask sellers' checklist, including "How do you turn the water off?"
Analyse flood risk
Though probably not at the forefront of your mind, flooding has a significant impact on insurance premiums and a property's value. Clever free sites quickly reveal how vulnerable a property is – possibly saving years of stress.
If you are considering buying a home, use these before getting a survey. If they show it's at risk of regularly ending up underwater, you'll save wasted survey fees.
Check for pollution
Check if your area is a pollution hotspot by plugging your postcode into this BBC tool. The data comes from a project to map concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) across the UK. (While the data focuses on NO2 pollution, high amounts of NO2 usually indicate other pollutant types are present.)
For even more detail, see where the cleanest and dirtiest air in the UK using this interactive map from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.
Just zoom in on your area and it directs you to info, from weekly graphs to pollutants detected in the last hour. You can also filter by nasty such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.
Use a police crime mapping site
Steel yourself and take a look at the Police.uk crime mapping website for England and Wales. It breaks down recorded crimes by street, including burglary, robbery and anti-social behaviour (gulp!), all of which mean dearer insurance premiums.
Check AND challenge your council tax band
It isn't just a question of location, location, location. Making savings on property involves the cost of the debt, council tax and home insurance. Yet there are easy ways to slash these costs.
Council tax bands in England and Scotland were decided in 1991, but often it was done by an estate agent just driving past. You can quickly check your band and if it's wrong, challenge and possibly get a rebate of thousands. Read our Council Tax Reclaiming guide.
Get the right mortgage
Getting a mortgage is the biggest financial decision you will ever make. Benchmark rates with our Mortgage Best Buys tool or use the guides below to help you choose the right mortgage for you.
Cut the cost of home insurance
It's easy to slice £100s off the cost of home insurance, by using websites that compare for you, then grabbing hidden cashback. Many people have actually been paid to take out home insurance, because the cashback is more than the insurance costs. For how to do it, read the Cheap Home Insurance guide.
Map nearby schools
As many parents have found to their frustration, just moving to a town with a great state school doesn’t mean your child will bag a spot. To help, use Rightmove's School Checker option to discover the which schools are nearby, plus their Ofsted rating.
Just search Rightmove for a town or postcode and click a home’s listing. Scroll down to the 'School Checker' tab for your nearest schools.
To discover your chances of getting in (nothing's ever guaranteed), you're going to need to do your homework. Pore over your local authority's admissions criteria, usually found in its primary and secondary school brochures. For example, some schools prioritise children in defined catchment areas, others on distance, religion or ability. Many ask you to prove residency over a certain period too.
Scour the Department for Education's School League Tables for England and Wales and check reports on Ofsted. Search Education Scotland for Scottish reports and, for Northern Ireland, the Department of Education.
Rankings and tables are only part of the picture of course – to find the right school for your child, nothing beats visiting in person. Listen to your gut and don't be afraid to ask questions about discipline, ethos, staff turnover and extra-curricular activities.
Finally, remember schools' fortunes change. If little Finn's just learning to crawl, that highly-regarded secondary school mightn't be so great in 2030.
Get the lowdown on your neighbours
Especially useful if you're moving somewhere new, find out what kind of people live near you by searching for local Facebook groups. To find them, just plug in your town's name, then click the 'groups' tab.
Another useful resource is UK Local Area. Enter a postcode and it generates a neighbourhood profile, listing everything from age to employment rates to education. Click on 'stations' to see the distance to the nearest rail station or hit 'schools' to see local school performance.
You could also find out what the nightlife is like. Beer in the evening lists and reviews thousands of pubs and bars. Search using a postcode to find out how close they are and what the locals think of them.
Remember, if you're selling your current property and hosting the viewings yourself, make sure you know the answers to questions about the local area too as it could help you sell quicker. See our full guide on selling your property for more tips.
Think about your health
For the health-conscious, NHS Choices can tell you how far away the nearest GP, dentist or hospital is. It also provides information about what facilities are available, as well as patient ratings for health-care and service.
Check your broadband coverage
If having a good internet connection is important to you, then it's important to check out the speed and coverage of the local area.
Use a Free Broadband Speed Tester to check how fast your current internet is and compare it against the area. The guide also suggests ways you can improve your internet speed.
Look for transport links
New transport links can mean an area is on the up. Use the Highways England's road project search to find new roads in England. Transport Scotland has a similar service and the Welsh Assembly is responsible for projects in Wales.
For London commuters, CommuteFrom shows which towns are the quickest hop from the office. Select a central London rail or Tube station, pick a max journey length, eg, no more than 45 minutes, and it throws up the best commuter routes.
Check for road traffic noise
For certain English areas only, noisemapping is part of a Government project to track road traffic noise.
Plug in your postcode and it'll come up with a colour-coded 'noise viewer map', showing how many decibels of noise there are at that spot.
Find yourself on Google Earth
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 find out whether your next-door neighbour likes to sunbathe naked, go to the homepage and download its software, type an area into the 'fly to' box and hit 'search'.
Check how close you are to amenities or work
Another useful tool, MilerMeter 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.
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 map pops up with all the relevant info highlighted.
Check out the different mortgage schemes
Whether you're a struggling first-time buyer or just trying to move up the housing ladder, there are various Government-sponsored mortgages schemes that may be able to help.
The Mortgage Schemes guide includes information on Help to Buy, shared ownership, 95% mortgages and more. This isn't like buying a property down the normal route though, as there are certain rules and restrictions, so remember buying normally may still be the best option for you.
Remember property isn’t as safe as houses
We're a nation hypnotised by TV property porn. While it's wonderful to plan, budget and buy a home you can afford, too many have an unhealthy "must own, must own" mentality.
Too often, non-home owners are depicted as an underclass. Owning is a nice goal but you're certainly no loser if you don't immediately clamber onto the housing ladder. In the long run, bigger picture financial security is more important. For more, see Martin's blog: A Nation Hypnotised By TV Property Porn?.
Clever ways to calculate your finances