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Analytical tools that were first used by investment bankers to research hot shares are now being used to help people find properties to rent or buy that fit their bespoke requirements. A South African pioneer in this area offers an overview

Analytical tools that were first used by investment bankers to research hot shares are now being used to help people find properties to rent or buy that fit their bespoke requirements.

Johan Strydom, general manager of PropertyGenie.co.za (www.propertygenie.co.za), says a series of recent Wall Street Journal articles focused on some of the more far-reaching developments taking place on property search websites which include heat mapping, detailed neighbourhood matching, rental comparisons and even sites that target and identify the most active real estate agents.

‚Heat mapping websites essentially offer a visual view of home-price trends by using coloured overlays that are projected onto a map, an image similar to a Google Earth image.

‚Three different data sets are typically indicated: average listing prices, median sales and the popularity by search of the different areas. In an instant web users can identify those neighbourhoods that are hot, and those that definitely are not,‚ Strydom says. Users can then zoom in on the areas of the maps most attractive to them for more detailed information on the properties available.

He suggests visiting Trulia.com Heat Maps, a US-based residential property search engine to see the heat maps in action.

‚Heat maps are especially useful to people relocating from one part of the country to another. They are also useful for those who live by the mantra ‚best price, best neighbourhood’ as you can get prices instantly and in visual form.

Strydom says the detailed neighbourhood analyses on sites like Neighboroo.com are phenomenal.

‚You can get just about any kind of neighbourhood information you want ‚ be it property related in terms of prices, sales and property taxes, or people related where you can find out neighbourhood income levels, age, sex, political affiliation and religious preferences if you like.

‚And if you are worried about the impact of global warming you can get information on the likelihood of natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes,‚ Strydom says.

For those considering renting or putting their property up for rent, Rentometer.com allows for instant rental comparisons against similar properties or properties nearby.

Strydom says this site allows users to enter their rental address and property details and see all other rental listings that compare to their own, ensuring they are priced competitively.

But in case this explosion in web activity makes it appear as if the real estate agent is doomed, Strydom says the opposite is in fact the case.

‚Property search portals are about information. They allow buyers and sellers to make informed decisions, but the agents still have a critical role to play in facilitating many other aspects of a property transaction,‚ says Strydom.

With this in mind, he points to Homethinking.com a site designed specifically to help home buyers and sellers select a real-estate agent.

‚While no-one’s disputing the need for an agent, this site enables you to find the best ones. It allows you to target the most active, and those most recommended,‚ he says.

Strydom says it looks like agents who do the most work usually get the best price for their clients.

Strydom points out that the Wall Street Journal quotes Niki Scevak, founder of Homethinking LLC, as saying ‚an agent who is actively buying and selling homes in a particular area may be able to get a seller a sales price that is 10% higher than someone who has sold only a few homes.‚

While many of these features have yet to find their way to South African property portals, Strydom says his company is actively working on enhancements to its current platform.

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