Buyers dial up new homes on iPhones

Location-aware app allows users to research homes for sale

The Kiwi obsession with home ownership can further indulged by a new location-aware iPhone application that allows users to research homes for sale in their vicinity.

Realestate.co.nz chief executive Alistair Helm said the web has changed the way people shop for houses. The new iPhone application, launched with banking partner Westpac, takes that to another level in making the process "dynamic".

"It's voyeuristic as well. there's no getting away from it," he said.

The real estate cliche "location, location" applies not just to where a property is situated, but how people find a property as well, Helm said.

The application uses data from a daily feed provided by real estate companies that averages 600 new listings a day, he said. Currently there are around 42,000 properties listed on the application, out of a total of 60,000 on realestate.co.nz's website.

Helm said the discrepancy is created by property agents choosing not to list by address some exclusive agencies they don't want competitors to find. Realestate. co.nz is encouraging agents to be more open and list more properties by address on the platform.

Users of the application can zoom in and out on a map to find nearby properties for sale, research prices, look at photographs, and call up contact details for listing agents. They can call or email the agent by tapping their number or address, and, when they go to see a house, can take their own photos of it and, through integration with the iPhone's camera, associate these with the property for later review.

The application, built by Auckland-based developer Cactuslab, also provides a range of tips for home buyers.

Open homes are also flagged in advance on the map through to the end of the following weekend.

The Westpac partnership delivers further value, Helm said, as banks, mortgages and property buying are inextricably linked. If they can call the agent to get a viewing and other information, why not call a mobile mortgage manager to handle the financial side at the same time?

Westpac's head of brand and marketing, Ian Moody, said integrating banking and real estate in the application provides convenience and choice.

It puts people in control of their own buying activity through devolving information and power while providing opportunities for human intervention if required, he said.

For the bank, it provides powerful lead generation of people actively looking for a home and home finance. Another aim is to remove one of the barriers buyers have in approaching banks for finance – the fear of rejection.

Westpac's ATMs are also included on the application's maps.

"Consumers have a rapacious appetite for property information," Helm said. "They no longer want to sit back and allow others to run the process."

They are also contacting real estate agents much later in the buying process. Once the agent was the first stop, because they were the only source of information on homes for sale. Now they are almost the last stop, as users research the market privately online ahead of buying.

"The customer owns the information. The agent has valuable skills but the relationship has changed markedly," Helm said.

On launch, the application went to number two in the list of New Zealand's top free applications and remained in the top 10 last week.

Online reviews have also been very positive, Helm said.

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