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Copyright © 1999, MCB UP Limited
For any property professional, keeping abreast of local, regional and national markets, together with individual market sectors, is of importance. In this respect the WWW provides a number of useful sites for accessing such information, including the publications of the larger surveying firms, and both national and local government.
Property specific sites
Many surveying practices, both large and small, now have a presence on the WWW, with most of these firms using their site as a marketing exercise, providing an overview of their services, and in some cases properties which they are currently marketing. In the case of the larger national (and international agents), the more recognised firms generally allow visitors to access a greater amount of information. A number of these sites, which offer a variety of information, are outlined below.
Knight Frank http://www.knightfrank.co.uk/ for example, allows visitors to contact its offices worldwide, with a greater amount of information available within the UK. Beyond providing an outline of the services, the company offers copies of research reports which are available to view or download relating to many different sectors, including residential, management, retail, leisure and hotels, but also reports of the European market, for example, Poland and Spain.
Those entering the Lambert Smith Hampton Web site http://www.lsh.co.uk/ can register their details to gain access to more information and market reports. The site provides an overview of a number of reports and by, completing a form, copies of the report will be despatched by snail mail. Also available on the site is information on deals, market news and market commentary.
In a similar format to the Knight Frank site, Grimley http://www. grimley.co.uk/ also provides copies of its research reports including those on the economy and property markets, housing and market trends. FPD Savills http://www.fpdsavills.co.uk/ also allows access to a variety of reports in the commercial, residential and agricultural sector. This site also has a searchable database of property available according to property type (e.g. commercial or residential), size, price and geographic location.
With so many agents on the WWW it is simply not possible to provide an overview of each individual site. In order to maintain some neutrality, other agents with a presence on the Web include Chesterton http://www. chesterton.co.uk/, DTZ http://www.dtz.se/uk/index.shtml, Jones Lang Wootton (http://www.joneslangwootton.com/home.htm) and Richard Ellis http://www.richardellis.co.uk/. In the case of King Sturge http://www. kingsturge.co.uk/, data on rental levels in different market sectors, in different locations, can be viewed over time according to your own choice of inputs from the lists provided.
In the residential market one London agent, Winkworth http://www.winkworth.co.uk/, shows the potential of the WWW, by allowing visitors to view inside a number of properties it has for sale and to rent. By clicking on "take a walk inside tour", details are provided on how to download some additional software which is used to view the photographs. This may take a few minutes, or longer, depending on when you access the site. Having done this you can then choose from a selection of properties ranging from around £500,000 to £1m in price and view different rooms, gardens and views of the individual property. With each photo you can pan around both left to right and up and down, including the ability to rotate 360 degrees. While the clarity of the photos may vary, depending also on screen resolution, this is a really innovative site which shows the potential of the WWW. In time it is likely that this technology will be exploited even further, with the ability (even today) to show video clips.
The Halifax Web site http://www.halifax.co.uk/ allows visitors to view its house price indices according to area, type of property, and age. The site also provides a house price calculator, which enables you to select a region of the UK, and calculate a price from inputting a value and selecting two dates from 1983 Q1 to 1998 Q2 (as at October 1998). The percentage change is also provided. By way of example, I chose East Anglia and 1988 Q4 as my start period, with a value of £80,000. Taking the end period to be 1992 Q1, the system calculated the value in 1992 to be £55,315, a reduction of 30.86 per cent.
In the previous editorial, those who visited the SPR Web site may have come across the Property Mall http://www.propertymall.com/, which enables firms and organisations involved in commercial property to use the Internet to their best advantage. The site provides news in the property sector, and access to a number of property resources. One company with a presence in the Property Mall is Investment Property Databank (IPD) http://www.propertymall.com/ipd/index.html which specialises in performance measurement and market analysis for the property industry. The site provides an overview of the work of IPD, with the ability to view some general data, and also access some information free of charge, including the UK annual index, and research reports, e.g. the "Value UK Commercial Property Stock". This information is quite useful in providing an overview of property investment performance as a whole. More detailed information is also available by subscription only.
UK Government sites
The main gateway to both national and local government Web sites is through the CCTA Government Information Service http://www.open.gov.uk/. From this, two main indexes are provided, i.e. an organisational index listing sites alphabetically, and a functional index which lists sites by keyword. A search facility is also available, while the "What's new on GIS" provides a list of new additions to the site with links in the current month. There is also a listing of new additions for previous months dating back to October 1995.
In terms of keeping up-to-date with national economic affairs, the HM Treasury site (accessed through the organisational index or see http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk, provides a number of useful pieces of information on the UK economy, including details of the budget (e.g. copies of the speech and other associated news releases). Other economic information is available, including policy papers and economic forecasts. Details of other Treasury publications are also provided.
Official Government statistics can also be accessed online (see http://www.statistics.gov.uk/ or http://www.ons.gov.uk/). Both these sites are inter-linked and provide data on issues including the UK economy (e.g. gross domestic product, retail price index and mortgage advances), housing (e.g. owner occupation, private renting and housing associations) and general population data. For a more localised view, data can be viewed on a regional basis, for example data for Wales, the West Midlands and the South East, though this information is not as useful as specific as the more national information.
Using the functional index, clicking on "Local Government" provides an alphabetical listing of local authorities in the UK with a presence on the WWW. By clicking on any of these provides access to information on each of the individual local authorities. For example, clicking on "London Borough of Westminster" provides details of this authority (see also http://www.westminster.gov.uk/index.htm. I chose this site purposely, as it is a good example of what sort of information can be provided for property professionals. For example, a summary of the Unitary Development Plan is available which encompasses issues, among other factors, relating to offices and industry, housing, transport, shopping and conservation and design. Also available is a planning database, which can be searched on various criteria, e.g. date or planning team, to find appropriate current (or previous) applications. Such a feature is clearly of use to property professionals, especially if provided on a wider basis for each individual local authority area.
Overall, the UK Government Web site is extremely useful, and to fully review this site would take up a number of editorials. If you are trying to find some information relating to national or local government, then it is really worth searching this site.
Nigel AlmondSchool of the Built EnvironmentUniversity of GlamorganE-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org