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A property search, house prices and mortgage rates all in one place – is this the ultimate homebuying/snooping app?
App: Halifax Home Finder
Available on: iOS 4.0 or later, and Android
What is it?
An app to find property for sale and compare recent sale prices in a given area. It also has mortgage calculator tools.
Is it easy to use?
The homepage is a little busy, with the Halifax logo, a search box, a scrolling demonstration section and all the usual navigation buttons making for a confusing mix. Things are clearer once you drill down into individual sections.
You can search for property – using a search powered by Findaproperty.com – by postcode or using your current location, and refine your search in the same way you can on most other property searches: ie, by type, number of bedrooms and, most importantly, price. Similarly, you can display the results by price, distance or date the property was listed.
When you select a property you can view photos, estate agents' descriptions, and local area information, and you can "favourite" the property – so far, so normal. The innovations lie in users being able to check recent sale prices for that area, using Land Registry data, and calculators telling you how much you would repay if you took out a mortgage on that property (you can tweak the deposit amount, interest rate and length of mortgage) and how much you could borrow. You can also add notes and photos and rate the rooms of your favourite properties.
To have the triumvirate of property search engine, house prices data and mortgage finance tools in one place is like having some kind of property-related Swiss army knife in your pocket.
Is it fun?
Of course it's fun. Whether you're looking to buy or are already on the ladder, it's intriguing to check out what is for sale in areas you like or, if you're like me, to see how much your friends' and neighbours' homes last sold for.If you're a serious property hound, the ability to rate individual rooms, add your own photos and add viewing notes is incredibly handy. No longer will you have to try to remember which house was the one with the appalling kitchen – you know, the kitchen the estate agent failed to include a photograph of when listing it. Is it pretty? The homepage may be a little busy, but once you get used to it this is the queen of property apps. The design is highly professional and offers little surprises here and there, like the corkboard on which Halifax has written handy property-buying tips. Should you download it? Yes. There are, of course, quibbles. We were admittedly viewing only a trial version of the app, but the Land Registry data did not seem complete compared with sold prices listed on the Land Registry website itself. Also, when using the mortgage repayment calculator, you can only raise or lower the interest rate in 0.25 percentage point amounts (annoying when there are plenty of mortgages at, for example, 4.69% rather than 4.5% or 4.75%). But these distractions may well be ironed out or improved in future versions and should not put you off. The calculator telling you how much you can borrow is based on Halifax's lending criteria, but otherwise this feels like a genuinely useful app rather than a sales exercise.