Q. What costs would I incur if my purchase does not work out?

A. Home Buyers Expenses Insurance is available to help safeguard against some of your buying costs if your purchase fails to proceed to legal completion. Please ask for full details.

Q. I am looking at potential properties to buy; what are the key questions I should ask the Estate Agent or Vendor?

A. Is the property freehold? If it isn't, what is the ground rent and how long has the lease to run?

Does the owner have to pay any maintenance charges to anyone apart from builders, decorators, etc., to whom he or she has given specific orders?

Is the road and main drain taken over by the council or do the frontagers have to club up every now and then to have them repaired?

If you are in a business or profession, can you put up your brass plate and can your spouse hang out the washing or are there any restrictions?

Has anyone got the right to traipse across any part of your property? Ever?

If there is any evidence (extra cookers, sinks, etc.) of more than one family living in the property, what guarantee is there that they will all move out, thus ensuring that you get full vacant possession on completion?

Has the property ever been flooded or faced serious risk of flooding?

Q. How do I find out if I'm selling my property at the right price?

A. You need to collect information on two points: how much similar properties have actually fetched, and what opposition there is in the market on this very day. Don't let anyone flatter you into wishing for the moon. There are plenty of agencies who, to get a job, will raise your hopes unduly. Start comparing by collecting details of properties of a similar age and type from your local paper's property column. If an agent to whom you apply for particulars asks for your name and address give it. When you have found some properties, which you think, will make useful comparisons, go and do the viewing bit. Ask the vendors how they decided on their price. If the way they shape the reply is persuasive, note it for future use; if not, make a note not to say such silly things yourself when the time comes. A reputable Estate Agent will always substantiate their valuation with evidence of comparable properties that have sold in your area recently.

Q. Is it true that solicitors always make a charge, even if a house sale or purchase does not proceed?

A. No. If your house sale or purchase should fail to go ahead for any reason what so ever, no legal fees will be payable. This excludes local searches and other authorised disbursements.

Q. What constitutes fixtures and fittings?

A. Custom seems to say that fixtures are permanencies and semi-permanencies that one can't simply pick up and walk away with. Basically, it includes things, which are attached to the property. One way of looking at it is whether removal of the thing in question would damage the property. Television aerials, for example, are fixtures. You can put the lampshade under your arm and walk away with it but the light switch is a different matter. It's the bits and pieces other than what are obvious parts of the house (such as the doors) and what is obviously not part of the house (such as a heavy plant pot in the garden that's too heavy to lift) which causes the trouble. Situations where it's not strictly breach of contract to remove an item but would be a breach of good faith to do so should be avoided.

Q. Will I incur any one off costs when buying a house?

A. Solicitor/conveyance fees - allow between £700 and £1100 plus VAT

Property below £125,000 is exempt from stamp duty, as are certain postcodes up to £150,000- it is always worth checking. Stamp duty of one per cent is payable on properties between £125,001 and £250,000. Three percent between £250,001 and £500,000

Survey costs - anywhere between £250 and £1,000 depending on the type you commission

Mortgage lender's arrangement fee - only applicable on certain mortgages Other than my mortgage what other costs will I have to find? You will also have to pay:

Buildings and contents insurance
Life assurance cover
Council tax
Maintenance costs (utilities, servicing, repair)

If buying a leasehold property or a flat, there will be a service charge and/or ground rent

Q. How much can I lend if I need to?

A. Before you start doing the rounds of estate agents, you need to know how large a mortgage you can get - there's no point searching for the house of your dreams if it's out of your price range. A good start would to speak to an Independent Financial Advisor who is not tied to any particular lender and can therefore source the best mortgage for your particular circumstance. Ask how much the lenders will let you borrow and request an agreement in principle that confirms this amount. Most Estate Agents will require proof of this prior to viewings and you can use this to add leverage to any offer you make on a home.

The amount you can borrow will be based on the size of your deposit and how much you earn. Lenders are usually prepared to lend you around three times your annual earnings, or if you are buying as a couple, this raises to three times the first income plus the second income, or two and a half times your joint income. Research available mortgages by reading specialist magazines like What Mortgage and Home Buyer & Mortgage Advisor available in newsagents, and money sections in magazines, newspapers and the Internet.

Other costs involved with buying a property if the price of the property you plan to buy is more than £125,000, then you have to pay a government tax called Stamp Duty. The lender will need to carry out a valuation of your prospective home to check it is worth the money it is lending you. This will cost you from around £250. Lenders may also charge an arrangement or completion fee. Legal fees are a major expense. Your solicitor or conveyancer will charge a fee for its services, starting at £400. The land registry costs, a local search (usually between £80 and £150) and other disbursements are also on the solicitor's bill on which you have to pay VAT. You'll also need to set aside money for insurance, moving costs and furnishing costs. Are 100% mortgages available? For first time buyers finding it difficult to raise a deposit, 100% M

Q. How long will it take for me to complete a sale on my property?

A. Good planning is essential if your property sale is to be successful. The entire process is generally anticipated to take around 10 weeks from offer to completion. Here's a rough guide:

Approximately four weeks from offer acceptance to buyer having survey done and receiving a mortgage offer.

Approximately four weeks from mortgage offer to exchange of contracts.

Approximately two weeks from the exchange of contracts to completion.

Q. When is the best time to go on the market?

A. Obviously some home sales are forced by circumstances that need immediate action for example a change of job or a divorce. But if you can choose when you go on the market then start the selling process when the largest numbers of people are looking. Spring-summer is the favourite time to move, but there is usually a spurt after Christmas. If you have a hunch that interest rates are going through the roof or you have inside knowledge that stamp duty may rise yet again then try to get in before these events occur.

If you are selling your home and hoping to buy another, you have to think carefully about at what stage you want to start looking for a new house. There are three ways to do this:

You can buy and sell simultaneously. It will save you storage and rent costs but it can put you in the stressful position of being at the whim of a chain.

You can sell your house and then rent while you find another - though property prices may rise while you wait.

You can sell your house but request several weeks between exchange and completion in order to find yourself a new property however, this may compromise your buyer. Whichever way you choose, it is best to at least have an offer on your own property before looking for a new one - bridging loans are expensive and should be avoided at all costs.

Q. Is it true that solicitors always make a charge, even if a house sale or purchase does not proceed?

A. No. If your house sale or purchase should fail to go ahead for any reason what so ever, no legal fees will be payable. This excludes local searches and other authorised disbursements.