Online tool to alert keen house-hunters

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 05:00 22/12/2013
Clint Van Marrewijk of ThunderMaps
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ
HELPING HAND: Clint Van Marrewijk of ThunderMaps says people are typically specific about where they want to buy a house.

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House-hunters can now receive email alerts if a house comes up for sale in an exact area of their choosing, such as within a school zone or a block of streets they like the look of.

Thundermaps, a Wellington technology start-up, developed the free service, which works with Trade Me's property listings, to showcase its talents.

Home buyers visit Thundermaps' website, map out one or more areas of interest by "dragging and dropping" lines on a zoomable-map of New Zealand, and then ask for alerts to be sent to their email address whenever a property is listed inside those zones.

Managing director Clint van Marrewijk said people often tended to be quite specific about the area they wanted to live in. Its approach "brought the right listings to the buyer", instead of requiring they scan and filter advertisements themselves, he said.

About 80 per cent of Trade Me property listings had the information needed to accurately map them at least to the correct street, he said.

Thundermaps created the service using "an application programming interface" (API) provided by Trade Me. The API acts like a window into Trade Me's listings data and has allowed third-party developers to develop more than 1000 services that use the company's data, without Trade Me's direct involvement.

Trade Me property head Jimmy McGee said the site wasn't that familiar with Thundermaps, but the house-hunting alert service looked like a genuinely useful tool.

"Entrepreneurs doing cool stuff like this is one of the reasons we launched the API," he said.

Thundermaps also lets people map out areas and receive alerts when car parking spaces come up for sale on Trade Me or when flats are available for rent.

Other free services in its "public library" of maps let people receive notifications of traffic hazards, earthquakes, feral cat colonies, sports events, graffiti and dolphin sightings in their areas of interest.

Thundermaps employs five fulltime staff. Van Marrewijk said most of its paying clients, which include an energy company and a major port, used its service to map workplace hazards and incidents.

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