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Online House Hunter: Map out your new home

Alan Cleaver
google 300x201 Online House Hunter: Map out your new home

The internet is a great tool for house-hunting

THE arrival of the local crime and policing website, police.uk, led to a flurry of headlines – particularly those pointing out the unfairness or inaccuracy of some of the data.

The crime recorded in the streets around my home, for instance, portray it as high in anti social behaviour – until you bear in mind the number of pubs and clubs in this corner of the town centre and that the stats cover the hectic Christmas period (including so-called ‘black-eye Friday’ when the December pay-packet funds a drinking frenzy).

But the website did illustrate a growing tool in helping you decide where to buy your new home: maps. There was a time when maps were, well, just maps. A black and white aerial view of streets. Then Google’s Street View arrived to enable you to take a virtual drive to your new home. Suddenly web designers realised that maps could be used in a variety of imaginative ways to portray important information. And whether you’re looking for that new two-bedroom home in Tooting or three-bedroom in High Wycombe there are a number of factors to consider before signing the dotted line.

The Environment Agency provides flood maps for the England and Wales (for Scotland visit the Scottish Environment Protection Agency). Clicking on a specific street will reveal whether there is a low, moderate or significant risk of it being flooded in the future. The Environment Agency is required to provide this information to the financial services industry to ensure people in flood risk areas are able to access flood insurance for their home. However, it is emphasised it can only be a guide and cannot be accurate for individual properties. You are also able to order a more detailed flood risk indicator from the Land Registry for £6.50.

Sustrans - the website devoted to alternative transport – has a map that includes much more than just bus stops, train stations and cycle paths. It also highlights schools, shops, health clubs and even any sites of historical interest. It’s a real mine of information well worth looking at when considering a move to an area.

It’s likely you’ll know early on whether your house is built on an – extinct – volcano such as homes in Edinburgh. But the British Geological Survey website offers you the chance to find out about the geological history of your area. The radioactive gas, radon, is a more serious geological effect to consider. You’ll find a map courtesy of the Health Protection Agency a rough guide to the parts of the country most at risk and a more detailed map at www.ukradon.org with advice on how to test and limit the effects of radon.

The Independent’s Property Search also uses mapping to aid your hunt for a new home. Type in the town or postcode of the location where you want to buy (or rent) a home and a map appears alongside your results with all places available in that area. You can filter your search by price or number of bedrooms. And you can save your searches to build up a portfolio of potential new homes.

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