Money: The Hi-tech Investor - The net is up your street

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THE INTERNET takes the grind out of research if you are thinking of moving to a new area and want to find out about local house prices, schools and services. It's also great if you just want to find a local plumber.

Two sites offer a wide range of information about local services, schools, average house prices and council tax rates. produces natty graphs comparing house and flat prices in any postal district against local and national averages, while the new Yellow Pages and Equifax site, HomeSight, offers advice on home buying and postcode-specific information.

HomeSight also sells reports on the radon and subsidence risk to your prospective property for about pounds 25 each. This also buys a guarantee that HomeSight will pay the pounds 1,000-pounds 2,000 excess on any insurance claim you make for either of these problems.

Sounds too good to be true? It is. People in London and other areas at high risk of subsidence (or radon problems) are excluded from the guar- antee.

Citibank branches out

Citibank, the US bank that operates current accounts over the net, is entering new areas of personal finance.

Its first "mass market" product for the UK is a personal loan, which has just been launched on the net. The loan carries an interest rate of 7.9 per cent for customers who take out payment insurance, or 8.9 per cent without cover. Citibank claims these are the best rates for an unsecured loan for 20 years. Loans from pounds 3,000 to pounds 25,000 are available.

Citibank has caused something of a stir in the UK's relatively staid banking environment. The Citibank current account, on offer to households with a combined income of at least pounds 30,000 a year, pays above-average interest on credit balances, at 2.5 per cent for accounts holding pounds 2,000 or more. The bank has an extensive online banking service for its current account.


Muslims on the web

Muslims who adhere to the rules of shariah, the code that governs Islamic life, now have an internet-based resource.

The Islamic Investment Banking Unit (IIBU) has set up a website which explains shariah and gives a history of Islamic finance. Islamic law means that it is difficult for devout Muslims to use many conventional financial services, including mortgages.

The IIBU, which is part of the Bank of Kuwait, has developed special home-purchase plans, Manzil Murabaha and Manzil Ijara, which comply with shariah. Details of the plans are on the website.

The IIBU also wants to encourage Muslims in the UK to make their views known about Shariah-compliant financial services. Visitors to the site will be able to contact the IIBU via its web pages.


Holiday cash online

THERE'S no need to queue at the bank for your foreign currency or traveller's cheques. British Airways Travel Money has taken its service online at Travelex's site, with no commission to pay on the deals. The money must be ordered at least 24 hours in advance. You then collect it from any Travelex branch (which can be at the airport) or British Airways shop.

Stephen Pritchard can be contacted at: