The housing market and the internet have long had a symbiotic relationship: rightmove.com has cornered the market on house hunting, Google Street View can now give nosey homebuyers a good look around their potential local area from the comfort of their own sofa, and now homebuyers with children can go one better by searching the schools in their new locality by Ofsted rating using www.locrating.com
The site was set up by a couple who experienced the trauma of marrying their choice of new home with their choice of good school first hand: “Every time we found a potential area, we spent hours trawling the web gathering information on local schools. It took us ages and quickly became very frustrating. We did find some sites that speeded it up a little, but we soon discovered their data was unreliable; in that some schools were mysteriously missing and often links were broken and data out of date.”
Out of this frustration was born “locrating”, or locating a school by its rating. The site is easy to use and the information is easy to read. It uses a simple Google Maps format with which most online househunters are familiar, also enabling users to use Google Street View to check out the area, to see if it looks like somewhere they might want to live. In fact, as with most simple-yet-brilliant ideas it leads one to wonder, why hasn’t it been done sooner? Locrating.com enables users to find a location of interest using either a post code, place name or just by zooming and scrolling around the map. Once a location has been chosen the page can show all schools or filter to just the schools of interest (e.g. primary schools and/or schools rated good or better by Ofsted).
Clicking on a school gives further information, such as school size, address, website etc. and links to more information, inspection reports and exam results. Even if a school has no rating it is still shown, as there are independent schools which are not inspected by Ofsted. Users can then choose to view exam performance on the map as well. This saves many hours of hunting down information and provides an efficient way of comparing schools.
This new site has the potential to be used not just by private homebuyers but by conveyancers in order to give a service with a perceived added value in these straitened times. As conveyancers – with one eye on the bottom line – seek to attract customers by thinking outside of the box, perhaps it is time to realise that house hunters are taking the initiative and looking to the internet to find the information which they feel is important. Homebuyers have long been provided with information such as who maintains their boundaries, rights of way and myriad other important-but-slightly-dull pieces of information, but to families considering the quality of local schools far outweighs any considerations about who maintains the pavement in front of the house.
Are you more interested in information about local schools than some of the information that is traditionally provided by conveyancers? Should conveyancers wrest back the initiative and begin to provide this and other relevant information to clients? Have your say….