First home buyer research: where to start.

Written by Meighan Hetherington.

Online tools for first home buyer research.

One of the really cool things about the era of internet 2.0 is it’s never been easier to become an amateur sleuth.

There are all sorts of things you can do – check out restaurant reviews, seek awesome holiday destinations or research companies you’re doing business with.

And in the world of property, it’s a fertile time in terms of online information that can make you a star first home buyer researcher.

It’s time to crank up your favourite PC/smartphone/tablet and enter a world of discovery about your new home.

To help you along, here are some great sources to make you a site-specific expert on your potential Brisbane holding.

Property portals.

Many property pundits only rely on one or two property portals.

While realestate.com.au and domain.com.au are the largest, third on the ladder is view.com.au and it puts some powerful tools at your disposal.

View.com.au provides information on the recent sales, demographic data on neighbouring households, whether the area is dominated by rentals or owner occupiers, as well as what schools are nearby. School catchment maps are there too. It’s very helpful, and it’s free.

If you do use realestate.com.au and domain, try digging a little deeper than the ‘For Sale’ and ‘Sold’ tabs.

For example, if the property has been recently sold and is back on the market, you may be able to see how it’s changed by comparing photos, floor plans and property descriptions.

Brisbane City Council.

There’s so much brilliant information available on Council’s website, we could have devoted an entire blog to it. Here are the sections to look out for when researching a specific property:

City Plan 2014: Found within the Building & Planning tab on the website, this free tool is a huge source of information and allows you to enter an address to find a series of maps and overlays. City Plan highlights zoning information, character areas, flood, overland flow, transport noise corridors and more. It also provides for aerial map from 1946 – a useful addition for those wanting to sight if a property’s demolition is controlled by character limitations.

PDOnline: Often used in conjunction with City Plan 2014, PDOnline is a fantastic tool you can use to check if there are any development applications, any assessable applications against the property. This tool will also tell you how the property is zoned. You can search for developments in your area, too, which will help you forecast property values down the track.

Floodwise: A great BCC product that allows you to search the flood potential of a holding. It gives a clear indication of how high floodwaters came relative to a property as well as floor level limits and the topographic heights of an allotment.

Suburb reports:  The BCC website is also pretty impressive when it comes to free suburb information. Looking to find out what bike paths and parks are in the suburb? It’s all included in their suburb report and neighbourhood plans. 

Heritage Register: Thinking of buying a home with historic features? Better check what’s protected on the Register before you buy, especially if you’re a bit keen to renovate.

Of course, I'm based in Brisbane, so I use this site all the time. If you're not buying in Brisbane, you'll find similar information on your local council's website.

Microburbs.com.au

A very recent entrant, this online helper allows you to enter an address and check out a series of compelling reports on demographics, listings, sales, crime rates and just about anything else you care to find out. It’s a terrific source for getting up to speed quick on a potential purchase and will no-doubt progressively develop its already comprehensive offering. Best of all, it’s free.

Google Maps

The clever folks at Google have really done us in the real estate game a great service.

Some may have questioned their genius a few years back when they began the Google Maps/Earth project, but we are now thanking them for their foresight.

By locating your prospective purchase on Google Maps, you’ll learn it’s orientation, position in relation to main roads and other surrounding uses, nearest public transport options and proximity to facilities like schools, parks, churches etc.

It makes you wonder how we survived before it came along.   But do not rely on this alone.  Some of the images are old and you may find an unpleasant surprise like a new block of units next door when you actually drive down the street!

 Walkscore

This one was doing the rounds a couple of years back, but it’s still a useful reference. You can search your suburb and see exactly how handy it is in terms of lifestyle facilities and general accessibility. You can also compare Walkscores between suburbs to help ‘paint the picture’ on where to invest.

Develo

Develo brings all of a property’s information together in one spot.

Be aware though, most of the information is freely available but if you don’t want to do the legwork yourself, this could be a handy help.

There are two reports, the Property Fact Pack for $9.90 and the Property Search Report $49.00.

The Property Fact Pack includes easement locations, underground services including gas, sewerage, storm water drains, water pipes, NBN and electricity wires. It also provides a noise impact report, (handy if you don’t know about nearby noise pollution corridors), plus all the Brisbane City Council information in one neat package, such as Lot Details, overlays, zoning, bushfire risk, landslide risk and more.

The Property Search Report is the same as the Fact Pack but includes Title search results.

CoreLogic

This massive research company creates reports on all elements of the market. If you’re a serious investor looking to understand and monitor the market closely, these reports could be well worth your time and money. They aren’t cheap, but they are comprehensive.

CoreLogic is also an absolute must for data nerds who devour real estate statistics. Their subscription service allows you access to a wide range of specific property ownership data, as well as sales data and even analysis across wider geographic areas. It’s the go to source for most property professional.

REIQ Queensland Market Monitor report: If you’re looking for analysis on the market, including data on median house price and median unit price movements over the past quarter, year, and five years, then the Queensland Market Monitor has you covered. At just $22 per quarter, it’s affordable and comprehensive and includes information about major developments that are coming up that are likely to impact property prices.

Nearmap

When you can’t get onsite, subscription based service Nearmap allow you to virtually inspect your potential holding by use of high resolution aerial photography. It’s an effective way to get a handle on site coverage and dimensions, among a suite of additional information. Nearmap also carry market data overlays so you can see what’s been traded in your area of interest too. 

The world of online research is evolving constantly, so vigilance is your friend in staying ahead of the trends.

These research tools will help you be as informed as possible but they are, of course, just one part of the process.

While kicking off your property research from the desk is easier than ever, there is no substitute for physically inspecting a property and it’s surrounds. 

How ready are you to buy your first home?
  Co-Founders

Veronica Morgan & Meighan Hetherington 

Veronica & Meighan are both licensed real estate agents who exclusively help buyers. 

Veronica is principal of Sydney based Good Deeds Property Buyers and is also co-host of The Elephant in the Room property podcast as well as Location Location Location Australia on Foxtel.

Meighan is the multi award winning principal of Brisbane based Property Pursuit, chairperson of the REIQ Buyers Agent Chapter & a regular media commentator.

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First home buyer research: where to start?

21 Jun 2019
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