Ascary new breed of house-hunter is stalking the city streets. He has downloaded every fact, figure, comparison and trend - and he knows what he wants.

He can spot an ambitious price tag at 50 paces and he may have "toured" dozens of properties before even picking up a phone.

Are the estate agents nervous? Well, they shouldn't be, believes one city specialist, Philip Jackson, of Maguire Jackson, in Birmingham.

The huge rise in the number of property websites means today's potential buyers have more information at their fingertips than ever dreamed of.

The modern house-hunter is ultra-knowledgeable, even sophisticated - and it's not actually a bad thing for the industry.

"Quite the opposite," said Philip Jackson this week. "Good estate agents are embracing the challenge and positively rising to it."

The market place for potential buyers and tenants has changed almost beyond recognition over the last few years, he admits.

"Potential house-hunters used to walk into an agency whose advert they'd seen in the local paper, pick up the particulars for a dozen properties, view half of them and then choose one to buy.

"Those days are long gone because buyers have more options at their disposal, the main one being the internet.

"There are thousands of websites advertising properties for sale or rent and even some set up by private vendors to sell individual properties.

"Now buyers will log onto those websites and view properties at their own leisure, often before they even visit an estate agent."

It is not just the agency websites that are furnishing buyers with all the information up front. At the click of a mouse, they can be on the specialist property sites that set out to tell the fuller story: area statistics and even actual sale prices - more telling than mere asking prices.

"Recent headlines about the credit crunch and the mortgage market are also sinking into the psyche of buyers. News is so easily accessed and buyers can track interest rates, regional property trends, value indexes etc at the touch of a button."

Some of the information applies to the country as a whole, some of it is directed more regionally, but a great deal of it sinks in and that makes for a very knowledgeable house-hunter, according to Philip, but however good the homework, a potential buyer also benefits from local expertise.

"We are in a prominent position in the heart of the community in which we're selling and letting, meaning we can pass on sound knowledge of this marketplace.

"That added value is what customers are looking for and they won't tolerate agencies lacking in that knowledge," added Philip.

"A good estate agent should be able to add plenty of value and go well beyond what a buyer or tenant can find online."

Strangely enough, agents can help purchasers find their way through the information "overload".

It is also worth bearing in mind that, however instant the response from a website, the information on it is only as good, and as current, as the efforts of the humans who put it there.

Local agencies can also provide guidance on local issues, current planning applications, lease renewals, area masterplans, parking issues and managing agents.

"These are the sorts of issues that buyers won't necessarily find out for themselves."

There are those little things that can be crucial, the sort of information gleaned by selling agents who see hundreds of properties a year. For example, apartments built by certain developers might be known for extra storage space or generously-sized second bedrooms. Other developments might be known for the quality of the interior design.

Such knowledge, backed by long experience, can save a lot of time for the property-hunters.

"It usually takes a little time to fully understand a buyer's or tenant's particular needs but that investment is well spent because it makes the process of finding the perfect home that much smoother for everyone involved."

Maguire Jackson has just opened a second office in the city's Jewellery Quarter, heightening its local presence.

Maguire Jackson can suggest a good range of top websites for buyers who like to do their homework:,,, and