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 to check how much you should sell your home for to how to find out if a property is a steal or a big no-no, this guide lists 30+ secret web weapons to do just that.
Check how much homes in any street sold for
Valuations between estate agents vary wildly, but a raft of websites now give you access to the kind of detailed 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 results are much of a muchness. It's still worth trying a few though, as some info gets missed and they update at different times. Newly-sold homes normally appear in searches a few months after the deal is done.
On Nethouseprices 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 age and style or look at a map. Zoopla meanwhile offers the same features, plus colour-coded Google maps highlighting the streets that fetch the most.
Did properties sell for the asking price?
Frustratingly, most 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 few tricks though which will help you find out if the buyer got a discount or overpaid. On Rightmove, you can search for a price comparison report to see sold prices, and the site often shows original full listings with photos, floorplans and more details. This is one of the most accurate ways to find a home's true value.
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 a property for historic listings. It's patchy, but even just a few archived records on your street are fascinating.
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.
The Land Registry collects official data on real sales, recording virtually every residence sold in England and Wales. Its 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.
North of the border, data from Registers of Scotland shows sale volumes and average house prices by district. There are graphs plotting monthly average prices. Again, there's usually a time lag of a month or so.
Stats geeks will enjoy Halifax's housing research, which features its official house price index, a regional house price map and average prices by postcode. 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 ballpark valuation
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 the results with a pinch of salt. Never rely on the figures given – treat it as a fun investigation, nothing more.
The first to try is Zoopla, for a rough indication of what your home's worth. Type in a postcode and it'll give you an approximate indication of sales prices for that area. Or select a home in that street and get a bespoke valuation based on previous sale prices and market climate.
You can also get predicted rental yields and compare it to the area's average. MoneySavers say Zoopla's worth looking at for a (very wide) ballpark figure but that it tends to undervalue properties, as it's based on last sale prices and doesn't take renovations into account.
Get a detailed second opinion
For a second opinion on how much you can hope for, try Property Price Advice. It's slightly quicker and easier to work through, though it's based on fewer questions and requires an email address.
You get an upper and lower value for the gaff, as well the option to download a PDF guide which includes local schools and doctors. But MoneySavers say it is more likely to overvalue properties.
Get an estimated price range
For another free basic valuation, try Mouseprice.com. It simply asks for your postcode 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 between £296,000 and £362,000.
You also need to give an email address, and there's an option to get a full, detailed valuation for £20. But the accuracy of online valuations is still highly questionable - so if you want one, stick with the freebies.
Find a home's value based on its sale price
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.
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's a plethora of property search sites, though remember their figures are often wildly optimistic, showing what the seller wants, not what they'll get.
If you're house-hunting, remember some homes are sold before they appear on the sites. Get pally with a local estate agent, so they call as soon as a place hits their books. For belt 'n' braces, monitor a few sites.
The Mac Daddy of home search sites, Rightmove is the best place to compare homes on the market. As well as a dizzying number of properties up for grabs, it plots listings on a Google map for ease.
For the best results, turbo-charge it with the ingenious Property-Bee Firefox add-on to see how sellers have altered listings and dropped prices. (As an aside, sellers should always ensure an agent will advertise their home on Rightmove – it's the only site many househunters check.)
While Rightmove's reach is hard to match, Zoopla's also worth a look. It's a good option if you're looking for a particular type of home, as it allows you to search by keywords, eg, "wooden floors" or "Victorian". It also gives an estimate of each property's value, though MoneySavers report these can be out by hundreds of thousands.
Some MoneySavers rate Home.co.uk as well. The site can be clunky, but it includes reams of data alongside the listings, including how the asking price compares with others in the town and postcode. Another useful function is that you can click on homes' price histories to see how the asking price has shifted.
Monitor house prices on the go
The free Rightmove iPhone and Android apps use GPS technology to pinpoint pads for sale near where you're standing. Just download the app, click ‘get my current location' and it shows a list of gaffs up for grabs.
Uncover Rightmove ads' secret histories
One MoneySaver describes Property-Bee as 'probably the most fun you'll have online'. A free add-on for web browser Firefox, it works with property listing site Rightmove to show you how sellers alter their listings - including, crucially, price cuts.
You can see when the seller put the property up for sale, each time they cut the price and by how much, and if it was taken off the market and put back on. These are all useful bargaining chips in purchase negotiations. Even if you're not buying, the results are fascinating.
The best way is to test it is just to try it. Installing's simple. If you don't already have Firefox (you'll need the latest version), head to mozilla.org and follow the prompts to install. Then go to Property-Bee and hit the ‘download' button on the left. Follow the prompts and restart Firefox. Go to Rightmove, do a search and sellers' alterations will magically appear.
Some users have reported problems getting this to work in recent months but we've tested it and it worked fine for us, and Property Bee says it's up and running again. Make sure you're using the right browser (it only works in the latest version of Firefox). You'll need to register with Property Bee too.
See property heat maps
For a colour-coded look at average sold prices, check out property heat maps from Mouseprice. Just enter a postcode to see if your street's red-hot or chilly.
You can view street-by-street, or zoom out to see whole towns’ or counties' hues. For a similar service, try Zoopla.
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.
Search 25 sites with just one click
Handy tool PropertyWizza auto-searches more than 25 info sites for any postcode, including Zoopla sold prices, Mouseprice valuations and crime stats.
PropertyWizza's website works in any web browser. For a more advanced version that works with Rightmove, download its extension for the Google Chrome browser. Then when the house icon in the Chrome toolbar flashes red, click it to see the info.
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 include 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?".
Check for flood risk and air pollution
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.
Check for flood and subsidence risks
A 10-second search on Homecheck could save you thousands. It's an amazing resource, collating data from bodies like the Environment Agency and the British Geological Survey.
Examine crime rates
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.
Find what's being built in your area
Will that sea view be replaced by a high rise in a couple of months? The Government's Planning Portal helps avoid nasty surprises by directing you to planning applications made in your area. You can search by postcode and area for England and Wales.
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.
Get the right mortgage
Remortgaging is the single biggest MoneySaving activity possible: the financial equivalent of liposuction. To see if you can slash your mortgage cost, read the Cheap Remortgages guide, and benchmark rates with our Mortgage Best Buys tool.
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.
Browse local schools
A must for any parent, see the Department for Education's School League Tables for England and Wales. Also check out inspection reports for schools in a particular postcode on the Ofsted website, which lets you read local primary and secondary school reports.
Get the lowdown on your neighbours
Especially useful if you're moving somewhere new, find out what kind of people live up your road using UK Local Area.
Just plug in 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.
Inspect neighbourhood statistics
For serious number-crunching on everything from poverty to access to services, look at the Government's Neighbourhood Statistics site.
While the Government-speak can be hard to penetrate, if you want to find out average life expectancies, how many people went bankrupt or how many fires there were, this is the right place.
Outside England and Wales, visit the Scottish Neighbourhood Stats and, for Northern Ireland, Neighbourhood Information.
Look for transport links
New transport links can mean an area is on the up. Use the Highways Agency'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.
Check for noise
For certain English cities only, noisemapping.org 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.
Check how close you are to amenities or work
Another useful tool, Gmaps Pedometer 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.
Look for repossessed properties
It's possible to pick up repossessed or distressed-sale properties below market price. For those willing to put work in on research and repairs, these can represent some of the best buys on the market.
For a full guide to how it works and how to find bargains, read Buying Repossessions.
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.
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.