Property expert Kate Faulkner gives her advice on house hunting

Property expert Kate Faulkner Photo: Kate Faulkner

Every month there are lots of companies who report on what’s happening to property prices.

The Rightmove Index tells us what’s happening to asking prices, so gives an indication of whether sellers think prices are going up or will come down.

Hometrack and RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) information are called ‘sentiment surveys’ so they report on what professionals see happening at a local level, for example offer versus asking prices. These are useful to know what’s happening in the current market.

The Nationwide and Halifax tell us what’s happening to prices of properties which require a mortgage only so don’t include cash sales, while both Land Registry and LSL Acad records the final sales prices so reflect what ‘has happened’ to property prices sold since 1995. LSL Acad add forecasts to boost the data.

These reports are really targeted at governments, economists, industry and property professionals. They all measure the market at different times and calculate their ‘averages’ differently, so although they are interesting, if you need to know what’s happening to prices for your property or one you might buy, you need to talk to local agents and research sold and asking price data for your area.

There are lots of companies reporting on what's happening to property prices every month Credit: Martin Keene/PA Archive

There are some really easy ways to do this, and to get you started, below are my top three tips.

Put the postcode into a property search engine and always tick the ‘Include Under Offer, Sold STC’ box.

Research sold property prices on Rightmove.co.uk or Mouseprice.com. They will tell you what properties have sold for – unlike asking prices which are what the seller wants you to pay!

For full help and guidance on understanding your local market, visit my free ‘know your local market’ checklist.

Compare the overall cost of flats versus a house Credit: John Stillwell/PA Archive

Don’t worry about ‘average property prices’

High average property prices can be scary and make you think you will never be able to afford a property, but prices vary dramatically. For example in Barking and Dagenham, properties are advertised at £100,000 in one part of town to over £500,000 in another. The average of these two prices would be quoted at £300,000.

Will your property type cost you dearly?

Before you start looking for a property to buy, check how much prices differ for different property types. If you buy new, what premium will you pay? Or are Victorian character properties more expensive? Check if a 1930's or 1950's property would give you more space for your money.

Compare the overall cost of flats versus a house. Remember you will have to pay a service charge for a flat and the freeholder will decide when and how much you will pay for major works such as a new roof or windows, so factor this in when buying.

Living 5 minutes walk from a tube could cost you up to 20% more Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

And in London, Savills estimate being within a five minute walk of a tube could cost you 20% more than somewhere further away, so if you don’t mind walking a bit further, you could save yourself tens of thousands of pounds!

Would you be better off renting or buying? Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive

Renting versus buying

It’s hard when prices are rising or falling to know if you are better of renting or buying. The trick is to work out the annual cost of renting, work out how much you extra you can save over the year, then compare this to buying now versus buying later. I’ve created some easy ways of calculating this for you, so visit Kate’s calculations page.