Tuesday 27 September 2016

In the know: 10 vital searches for Google home hunters

Before you ever step inside a property there are some essential checks to make online.

Donal Buckley

Published 11/07/2014 | 02:30

Your chosen house may look great on the website but perhaps three or four doors down, a neighbouring house has been burnt or there is waste ground which attracts teenage drinking.
Your chosen house may look great on the website but perhaps three or four doors down, a neighbouring house has been burnt or there is waste ground which attracts teenage drinking.
It's important to do your research on an area before you set foot in the property.
Check up on crime and criminals in the area.
One clever way of gauging whether an extension is permissible is to go on Google Earth and search the address.

There are some important guidelines for people looking for a new house on the internet.

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A prospective purchaser of what seemed to be an unusually cheap home in west Dublin recently took the trouble to make a simple online check on the street in which it was located. It revealed that almost every home on the street had one or more criminal records attached to it.

In fact the resident of the very house which he intended purchasing had the most convictions of all – more than 20.

While the internet has become an integral part of the home-hunting process in Ireland, there are basic checks beyond the obvious which many home hunters don't bother to make – but which can reveal myriad data which could be crucial to your decision-making.

Wouldn't you like to know if any of your future neighbours have criminal convictions? Or whether the area in which you intend buying is prone to flooding, or whether a factory is about to be built nearby?

Here are 10 basic online checks which would take an hour or less to run through, but could save you a whole lot of grief if you're home-hunting.

Check Criminals and Crime

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A very simple but finely honed Google search will usually show whether someone on any street has a criminal or arrest record.

Key in the full address alongside the words "court" and "charged". Up will pop online newspaper reports of court cases naming individuals on that street who have been charted in the last six or seven years.

Another option is to check the All-Island Research Observatory (AIRO) website through www.airo.ie, which provides maps showing various social trends. It also provides data on crime levels in different areas centred on local garda stations.

Check True Values

Sometimes asking prices are pitched way below the market value in order to entice house hunters into bidding battles. Sometimes they are pitched way too high in the hope that some under bidders on previous attempts will be so frustrated they will match the price.

Check out the property price register at www.propertypriceregister.ie and it will give you a list of all houses sold on that street or neighbourhood going back to 2010.

These are actual sale prices achieved, rather than asking prices.

Alternatively a comparison of asking prices at daft.ie and myhome.ie will show how owners of similar properties in the area are pitching theirs.

However, the property price register is that it takes up to six months for properties to be registered.

How much can I afford?

Both daft.ie and Myhome.ie also help home buyers to calculate what their monthly mortgage repayments may be.

Myhome.ie offers a mortgage calculator but it should be used only as a rough guide for monthly repayments for variable rate mortgages. It also offers an affordability calculator which will show how much of a mortgage you can afford after salaries and expenses have been taken into account.

Alternatively you can visit the various bank websites to get a wider range of mortgage options.

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Illegal Extensions

A search of the planning section on a local authority website can show if a large extension was built on to any house. Often keying in the address to a Google search with the addition of the words "planning permission" can be enough to throw up data.

One clever way of gauging whether an extension is permissible is to go on Google Earth and search the address. You end up with a bird's eye view of the property. If it's an estate home then examples of non-extended identical properties will be apparent nearby.

By comparing sizes and measuring the picture (using estate agent's brochure data) you can usually tell whether an extension seems bigger than permissible size.

As a new owner you could be asked by the local authority to demolish all or part of a development that breaches planning permission.

For key information on planning permissions check out www.citizensinformation.ie/en/housing/planning_permission.

Check the Neighbourhood

Your chosen house may look great on the website but perhaps three or four doors down, a neighbouring house has been burnt or there is waste ground which attracts teenage drinking.

An easy way to see the fronts of neighbouring properties is to visit Google's Street View at www.instantstreetview. com and simply type in the name of the road.

The risk of flood damage

Having a waterfront view from your property can add a premium to its value. However, if that river bursts its banks it may burst your bank account too. Properties built on flood plains may be refused insurance and can be very expensive to repair in the event of flooding. The Government department, OPW, has a web page devoted to alerting people to flooding areas around Ireland: http://www.floodmaps.ie.

It also shows flood information including reports, photographs, newspaper articles.

Detect Hidden charges

When buying an apartment it is vital to check out not only the current level of management service charges but also the financial health of the management company itself.

Lots of management companies suffer when flat owners don't pay sufficient service charges for both current maintenance as well as future upkeep of the blocks and some companies could be struck off.

Buying an apartment or a house in a managed scheme where the management company is in debt will entail shelling out higher charges than usual.

To check the financial health of the management company visit the Companies Office website www.cro.ie.

Impending changes to the neighbourhood

The future value of the property could be affected by Government or local authority plans for developments such as road widening, waste recycling, halting sites, high rise commercial development, schools, waste incinerators, power stations, wind farms.

While a local authority planning section may contain some of that information, it is advisable to look for longer-term plans at other sections of the website, such as the county development plan or Strategic Development Zones (SDZ).

Legal due diligence

Buyers can now download legal packs outlining the title to some properties, such as those which Allsop Space sells through its online auction website. These enable bidders to have their lawyers check out the legal title to the property within the three weeks from the start of the marketing campaign to the auction date.

What's "current" in the area

By searching the townland address and/or estate address alongside the term "boards.ie" you will filter out a stream of the entries placed on one of Ireland's largest local "bulletin board" resources. Boards.ie tells you all sorts of data from how good the bus service is to crime in the area to the quality of the local pubs and takeaways. It truly is the online grapevine.

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