Net Gains: Netting an out-of-this-world home

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Indy Lifestyle Online
With the housing market in a state of frenzy, the Internet offers frazzled buyers and sellers an armchair alternative

I've found the house of my dreams. It's a cobalt blue, timber-framed farmhouse nestled among mature trees by a lake in New Hampshire, in the USA. The porch has a double hammock, inside there's a big stone fireplace, and it's up for grabs for just $50,000. I've never been to the States but I've viewed this place on the Internet.

Here in the UK, property related Net sites have been slow to develop, but things are rapidly changing. Now British Internet property magazines provide would-be buyers with data, plus everything they need to know about the accommodation (eg how many sockets) and its locale (eg from the nearest Indian takeaway to the best schools).

In the States, things are much more developed. Prospective house buyers simply fill in an e-mail questionnaire relating to things like how much they can afford, the desired architectural style and the number of bedrooms needed. Special Internet estate agents will then do all the leg work and e-mail the client details of a selection of properties which meet the specified criteria.

Those who want to build their own dream home designed to suit their particular needs can find several cheap ($50) user-friendly software programmes on the Net. You start with a line drawing and simply add or erase the brick- work, archways, windows, swimming pools etc. There are plenty of similar packages on offer which deal more specifically with interior design.

However, the main problems with self-build for most people are the price of the plot and the restrictions of planning permission. Fortunately, the Net offers the perfect solution. There is some prime land going for pounds 2 an acre with absolutely no planning regulations whatsoever. There's plenty of it, so I don't mind letting you in on this discovery.

It's on the moon. Commuting would be a bigger nightmare than you face now, but think positive. What about those splendid, unobstructed views back to Earth. And if views aren't a priority, you can always buy land on the dark side for half the price.

The beauty of this madcap American scheme is that it's entirely legal. Apparently, the 1967 international outer space treaty barred nations but not individuals from owning property beyond earth. However, the extra- terrestrial property market is one area in which we Brits are ahead of the Yanks.

Operating from a UK site, a company called Ganymede is organising an Internet auction of Martian land in parcels of one acre and upwards, with full legal documentation as proof of ownership - just think, you could charge the US government for landing space probes on your patch. If you're in any doubt as to whether to buy or not, you should know that for every acre of Mars that Ganymede sells, they're prepared to give a generous 20 pence to ChildLine.

What next? Virtual worlds where we can buy and sell virtual property in virtual paradises with real money?

Not surprisingly, it's already possible.

http:www.islandnet.com

just one of many sites which allow you go on a worldwide window shop for property.

http:www.ganymede-uk.demon.co.uk

Where to go to buy a plot on Mars.

http://www.demon.co.uk/gdx/mellanta/index.html

Welcome to a virtual reality world where there is no risk of negative equity on your home.

SITE UNSEEN

http://www.home-to-home.co.uk

A new 3,000-page property magazine which includes mortgage rates and connections to different lenders.

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