Using a mouse to buy a house
The internet has transformed the home-buying process, especially for would-be immigrants wanting to find out how far their British pounds or South African rand will take them in the New Zealand housing market.
Whether you’re in Dunstable or Durban you can click on any of the major New Zealand real estate sites. From there you just tap in your requirements – neighbourhoods, house types, number of bedrooms, price range, etc – and in seconds you can be viewing homes for sale that match your criteria.
Besides the individual agency sites, the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand has its own composite website, realestate.co.nz with more than 73,000 listings.
Other sites with listings and search functions include trademe.co.nz and the ever so clever open2view.com, which includes floor plans and virtual tours for selected homes, although you can end up feeling queasy if you look at too many of those spinning rooms.
Barfoot & Thompson’s website, barfoot.co.nz, is updated hourly, and offers the facility to create a favourites folder and to register a buyer’s search specifications (eg, 3+ bedroom house in Mount Roskill for between $300,000-$350,000) so that you automatically receive email alerts when a home matching your specifications is listed.
B & T reports an astonishing nine million detailed page visits per year, translating to a house listing being viewed by a potential buyer every three seconds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Another benefit agents’ online search sites offer the buyer is the ability to identify the approximate price expectations of the seller.
Many houses are marketed as “By Negotiation” but without an asking price. This frustrating Kiwi sales practice can be undermined by online buyers searching by price range, eg, $400,000-450,000.
The search results might still show individual homes without an associated price but at least you know the agent has tagged the property in this price range.
If you think you’ve found your dream home, you can, for a fee, order a CD of its property file online, or a LIM report from the local council (eg, aucklandcityproperty.com) to identify any issues or development restrictions.
It’s important to have an idea of a house’s value before making an offer. For $69.95 Quotable Value (qv.co.nz) provides a property guide package online, including reports on a property’s details, local sales, rating valuation, sales history, school zones, property trends and, most importantly, an estimate of its market value.
The websites of the major banks are becoming a resource for homebuyers. Most of them have calculators to show how much you can borrow and what your repayments will be.
The National Bank has launched homebuyerscentre.nationalbank.co.nz which is billed as a one-stop-shop for homebuyers, with case studies, online pre-approved loan applications and expert advice.
So, can the internet develop further to help NZ homebuyers? Check out what our friends in America are up to. Zillow.com claims to have reliable valuation data for 67 million homes in the USA; Cyberhomes.com boasts 100 million. Type in an address or ZIP code and you can zoom down using satellite images to take a bird’s eye peek at any of these homes.
You can view the sales history and value change for the home, and compare it to properties in the same ZIP code or state over the last one, five or 10 years.