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When viewing properties, try not to get too excited straightaway. Even if you find somewhere you love, always go for a second viewing. This is when you look around more carefully, checking for signs of damp, cracks and other obvious flaws. Go back to view it again at a different time - rush hour, or the weekend, for example. Don't be afraid to ask the agent plenty of questions: make a list, and for important questions, get the answers in writing. Among the things you should ask are: How long has the property been on the market?; How long is the lease (if it has one)?; Why are the vendors moving?; If a flat, what are the service charges and ground rent?; What's included in the sale?; Are there any parking issues? 13 12 TAKE PICTURES AT YOUR VIEWINGS If you're seeing a lot of houses, they'll soon blur into one, so document each one with photographs to help you remember which property had the great kitchen or stunning master bedroom. FOR SALE 11 ASK SELLER TO TAKE IT OFF THE MARKET Check online to see what comparable houses nearby have sold for recently. Put in a bid below the asking price - around 5%-10% is expected. And make your offer on the condition the seller takes the home off the market. This cuts the chance of gazumping, where the seller accepts a higher offer after the sale has been agreed. Until contracts are exchanged, either party can pull out at any time. 056 | OCTOBER 2016 BEWARE RIPOFF SERVICE CHARGES With a leasehold flat, the freeholder is usually responsible for insuring the building and maintaining communal areas. Leaseholders pay ground rent and service charges to the property's freeholder. Unfair service charges that run into thousands of pounds are rife, particularly in larger blocks. Always get the figures agreed in writing before you make an offer. 14 GET A GOOD SOLICITOR This will help ensure the buying process goes as smoothly as possible. Ask friends and family if they can recommend anyone. Your solicitor will do all the legal paperwork, Land Registry and local council searches, draft the contract and handle the exchange of cash. This costs anything from £100 to £1,500. Ask for a full fee breakdown and ask what needs to be paid if a sale collapses - lawyers will often charge a fee for work done, even if it was the seller who pulled out. And don't be afraid to hassle them. 15 CHOOSE A SURVEYOR There are two main types of survey. The first is a RICS HomeBuyer's Report. This costs £300-£400 and is suitable for conventional properties. For older or quirkier residences, consider a full structural survey. These cover everything, and can cost up to £1,000, but they're often worth the expense as they could give you ammunition to haggle down the price. MAKE SURE YOU GET ALL THE IMPORTANT INFORMATION AGREED IN WRITING BEFORE YOU EXCHANGE, INCLUDING SERVICE CHARGES, AND ALL FIXTURES AND FITTINGS WORDS: DAVID CROZIER IMAGES: GETTY IMAGES 10 DON'T RUSH VIEWINGS

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