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 32 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, 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 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 with prices dating back to 1995, plus colour-coded Google maps highlighting the streets that fetch the most.
Find out what previous buyers actually got for their money
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 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.
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, rather than anything 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.
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 about £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.
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.
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 property search sites 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 is one of the best places to compare homes on the market. As well as boasting a dizzying number of properties up for grabs, it plots listings on a Google map for ease.
Number of properties: 800,000 for sale in the UK
Average monthly visits: 70 million
Mobile: There’s a free Apple, Android, Kindle and Windows Phone app, where you can save past searches, or the mobile version of the desktop site.
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.
OnTheMarket.com launched in Jan 2015 after six leading estate agents clubbed together to challenge the dominance of Rightmove and Zoopla. It's shaken up the online home selling market with rules for members restricting the number of portals they can list their home on. As with the others, you can see what properties are for sale in your area and how much they are being sold for.
Number of properties: 250,000
Average monthly visits: 3.5 million
Mobile: There's a free Apple and Android app and the mobile-version of the site is easy to navigate too.
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 (alongside others) 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 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.
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.
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?".
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.
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.
Find the best buy mortgages
If you're ready to get a mortgage, tell our Mortgage Best Buys tool what you want, and it'll speedily find the top deals for you.
Ready to remortgage?
If you want to change mortgage, this free guide has tips on when you should & shouldn’t remortgage and how to grab top deals.
Ready to get a mortgage?
Want to get on that first rung? Our free guide helps you find the cheapest mortgage and boost your chances of getting accepted.
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.
'Which school will my child get into?' checker
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 tool to discover the probability of getting into different schools, plus how they rank.
How it works
Just search Rightmove for a town or postcode and click a home’s listing. Scroll down to the 'School Checker' tab. It plots a heat map for nearby schools, showing whether it’s very likely, quite likely or less likely your child will get a spot at each. Ofsted rankings are displayed to the right.
This tool’s aimed at potential buyers and renters. If you’re not moving, you can search for your postcode on Schoolguide instead for similar results (it's where Rightmove pulls its data from).
The results are based on Department for Education data recording where current pupils live (released annually in July). For example, areas with a high concentration of pupils successfully admitted are mapped as red.
A word of warning... Even if Rightmove says "many" children got a place from a street, take this with a shovel-load of salt. The heat maps are useful as a guide, but they're very rough - and catchment areas can change drastically from year to year anyway.
To be sure, 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.
More tools to find schools near you
To quickly pinpoint Ofsted rated good and outstanding schools nearby, tap your postcode into Locrating. Plus, for those in London, this nifty Catchment Area Map shows how likely your kids are to get into a favoured school.
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 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.
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.
Also, Lastminute.com can provide you with a list of restaurants nearby, although you can only search by district and region.
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.
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.
Fitness fans can search for gyms near their postcode using GymsNearMe.
Once you've found an area with gyms that you're keen to try, don't forget to check our Cheap Gym Membership guide.
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.
For serious number-crunching on everything from poverty to access to services, look at the Government's Local 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 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.
Check for noise
For certain English cities 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.
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.
The Mortgage Schemes guide includes information on Help to Buy, NewBuy, 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?.