Halifax released its new Home Finder smartphone app today, offering users a new method of searching for property information on iPhone and Android devices.
Mobile is an important area for property companies, with a customer survey from Rightmove finding that 52% of respondents had used a mobile platform to search for a property.
It’s easy to see why house hunters would use mobile. If you see a property for sale it’s useful to be able to search the details right there and then.
Rightmove’s smartphone app already caters to this market, but Halifax’s app has a trick up its sleeve that potentially makes it the best property finding app currently available.
Halifax Home Finder, developed by Grapple, is good-looking and simple to use, which are key factors developers should bear in mind when developing an app.
The first page you see offers a search tool, mortgage calculator, access to your favourite properties and a guide to the home buying process.
A quick search brings up all the properties in your chosen area in a list or displayed on a map, and this can then be filtered by the number of bedrooms, price and several other criteria.
You can then access all the usual property details, including images, but also the area’s sales history from the land registry and a repayment calculator to see if you can actually afford it.
Viewings can also be booked within the app.
While this is all fairly straightforward stuff, the information is all clearly laid out and it is easy to navigate between the search results and individual property details.
The amount of detail included in the property listings varies, but this is presumably due to the quality of the information supplied by FindaProperty.com.
When you have chosen which flats you want to view, the app allows you to add notes to the property details as you look round.
You can even take photos of the property and add ratings out of five for various criteria. All the details, including the photos, can then be emailed as a PDF and printed off.
This is a great tool, as realistically nobody is going to make a decision on a property while flicking through photos on a smartphone.
So it is really useful to allow users to print personalised property details so they can compare and consider their options more carefully.
This is where Halifax’s app sets itself apart from other property apps. Instead of just allowing you to search for properties on a map, Home Finder allows the user to view available properties in their immediate vicinity using their camera.
So, for example, if you are walking around London and want to know if there are any properties for sales in the area you can hold up your phone and each home for sale will be flagged up on-screen.
The results can be filtered by price, and also include local schools and transport links.
It is a really cool function and one that is fun to use even if you’re not looking for a new home.
While the basic functions on Halifax Home Finder are nothing new, the use of AR makes it stand out above the competition.
I’m not currently looking to buy - the mortgage calculator quickly clarified that for me - but the app is still great fun to use if only to be nosey about how much your neighbour’s home sold for.
The one issue I have with it is that it only lists properties that are for sale. The reason for this is because the app was developed primarily to promote Halifax’s mortgage products, so obviously it sees no value from adding rental properties.
I feel this is shortsighted, as the rental market in London is huge so it would be a great advert for the brand if it had thousands of people searching for rental properties on its app.
That said, Grapple has still produced a fantastic app for property searches, it is simple to use and rapid even when using 3G.
The AR and ability to email property details are great features that cater perfectly to the mobile user.