By Elissa Baxter

Remember hunting for the first house you rented or bought? Remember the arguments over the street directory? The take-away coffee and parking nightmares? The sense that you would never have a relaxed Saturday morning again?

Happily, technology can now do away with many of these hassles, leaving you more time and energy for things like delicate price negotiations that computers are yet to master!

Here?s our guide to tech-savvy house hunting.

1. Hunt during the week

You don?t need to start your house hunt at 7:00 am on Saturday. Go online to a couple of the big online real estate sites and a few local agents. Sign up to their email services so that every time a house that?s within your area and price range comes up, they send you an email.

2. Eliminate the duds

Sort through all the houses which fit your criteria. For the ones you like, delve into the sites for more information like floor plans, which can quickly tell you that a ?study/third bedroom? actually means ?closet?. A virtual tour gets rid of all the houses with hideous tiles.

3. Map it out

Visit a mapping site like www.whereis.com to see exactly where a house is. This way you can tell well before you visit if the house is near a busy street or at the quiet end of the road. Use the ?photo? option on whereis.com and you can even get a bird?s eye view of the neighborhood to check out everything from the neighbour?s pool to the pitch of the house?s roof.

4. Phone to the rescue

To make your tour of potential homes even easier, why not make a list of the addresses inspection times in your mobile phone?s calendar, to help you keep track of just when you are due at the next property. Newer phone models with built-in GPS navigation systems can also help by telling you where to go so that finding unfamiliar addresses is a breeze.

5. A picture is worth a thousand words

Use your mobile?s camera to take photos of bits and pieces you want to remember, but which are not in the brochure. Beautiful views from the back deck or rising damp in the living room are easily captured and labeled with the house address. You will then have a file of information about each property that will help you make a sound decision.

6. Photo files

Stacks of photos can be extremely useful if you are planning work on the house after you move in. A builder is much more likely to be able to give you a ball park figure on an extension or a new kitchen with a floor plan and a pictorial tour. Photos of your new home in your handset may also come in handy when you make the trip to the furniture shop. Being able to see the loungeroom can help to choose the perfect sofa.

7. Know the right price

Once a house is a real prospect it?s time to research price. There are a number of companies that will supply you with information about when the house last traded, what it sold for and the price of surrounding homes. Some real estate agents also have comprehensive databases of past sales so you may be lucky enough to see marketing material from the last time your chosen house was on the market. Using that information you can see how much it sold for last time and whether the current owners have renovated the place since they bought it, which will give you an idea of their current price expectations.

8. Knowledge is power

There is a huge volume of information available online with predictions about movements in the property market and calculators that help you to estimate your likely ?add on? costs like legal fees, stamp duty and even removal costs. Try www.yourmortgage.com.au

9. Get pre-approval

Once you have the house of your dreams within your grasp, you can apply online for a mortgage pre-approval before making an offer or attending the auction. A firm offer which is not conditional on loan approval is always more attractive to a vendor.

Source: Australian GO magazine