Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Buying a property in London or UK - 4 must visit websites

photo by marimoon

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King has been trying to reassure the public that the Bank will be keeping the base rate at the historical low of 0.5% for at least the near future. But with the inflation hitting 4% and staying consistently above the Bank of England’s target rate of 2%, an increase in base rate may be just round the corner.

Should the base interest rate increase, mortgages will be getting more expensive. That coupled with the fact that mortgages for first time buyer are hard to come by means that there will be a whole lot more people renting instead of buying. Well, that’s not all bad news. For those with some cash at hand, this might be a good time to make an offer for the property that you have been eyeing.

But before you take that plunge, here are four useful websites that will help you in make that decision.

1. Whether to buy or rent

That’s always the nagging question isn’t it? While renting means that you’re probably slogging away helping your landlord pay his mortgage, buying would require a huge chunk upfront and you might not even make a profit at the end of the day.

All Agents came up with a pretty nifty calculator that will calculate whether it makes more sense to buy that dream property or continue renting your current place. Just fill in a couple of figures, which include the offer price, mortgage required, interest rate chargeable, and current rental. Take note though, this calculator doesn’t take into consideration interest rates fluctuations. Neither does it account for the increase in rental as time goes on. But it still beats going on your gut feel.

If you are game for a more detailed analysis, head to AOL Real Estate. While this is a US based website, its buy or rent calculator include property value appreciation over the years, maintenance charges, income tax rate etc. It also provides a comprehensive item by item breakdown. One item that it ignores is the stamp duty payable (currently at 3% for properties over £250,000).

2. Crime levels

This is a real concern. After you decide to buy, check out the crime level in the area where the property is located. A good site would be Police.uk, a site recently set up by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).

The great thing about this site is that it not only breaks downs crime reported into several categories ranging from antisocial behaviour to violent crimes but it is fully incorporated into Google Maps. That gives it the familiar zooming and panning capabilities.

One thing to keep in mind though: the statistics behind the map are from incidents that are reported only.

3. Value of property

Now that you have finally zoomed in on an area (or property for that matter), it's time to evaluate the property’s value before making the offer. While there are a number of sites that offer this service, Zoopla is arguably the largest and most informative of its kind.

Zoopla offers not only the current listings of properties in the market (see flats in London and houses for sale in London) but also more importantly the recent selling prices of the properties in the vicinity. If you are still in doubt, check out the home values estimation that Zoopla provides. That should give you a pretty good idea of how much you should be offering.

4. Mortgage deals

Some say that you have to go through a mortgage broker to get the really good deals. Absolutely, why not? A good mortgage broker will get you the deal, do all the legwork for the application (which can be a headache) and even liaise with your solicitor and property agent as well.

Just before you commit, why not check out the competition on Moneysupermarket? It’s mortgage section outlines some of the best deals currently available in the market. Don’t jump the gun the moment you see a better deal though. Let your mortgage broker know about that and see whether he can find out more for you. Else, you can always cut out the middleman, get in touch with the relevant lender (bank or building society) directly to work things out.

Here are the four websites that would help you in your search for your dream home. Have I missed out any?

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