Chapter 13: Your Own Homework

This is an extract from the ebook How to Really Buy a Property.

What's covered in this chapter
  • What will happen to property prices where you want to buy;
  • How to check your credit record before the bank does;
  • How to find out if a property is in a flood zone;
  • How to check if a property has planning permission (or if it needs it);
  • How to find out what the current owner paid and if this really matters;
  • How to find the nearest park, railway, busy road, etc. from your armchair;
  • Checking the schools in a given area;
  • What crime is like in any particular neighbourhood.

There is plenty you, as a buyer, can check about any particular property and much of it can be carried out over the internet. This will help you in deciding whether or not to view a property in the first place, how much you are prepared to offer and even give you bargaining chips in the negotiations. Some of the most common questions that you can find answers for yourself are in this chapter.

What will Happen to the Property Market?

Unfortunately this is a black hole many buyers fall down. There are numerous sources on the web with average house prices, average salaries and a wealth of other data which you can use to start building your own model of what will happen to the market. But these rarely work. A visit to the archives of will reveal some very sensibly argued predictions that never came to pass.

For more on this see Chapter 5: Is the Property Market Overvalued?

Am I in a Good Financial Position to Buy Property?

If your property purchase is going to involve borrowing money it is worth checking your current credit ratings. Many people who have lead a prudent life are often surprised to find they have a very poor rating. Others are also taken aback when a mortgage is rejected because of some event in the past that has long been cleared up but the settlement was never properly passed on to the credit rating agency.

Use an online agency such as Experian to check your record. Note it takes several days to register with postal verification required so do not leave it to the last minute.

Is the Property in a Flood Zone?

The Environment Agency has a complete map of the United Kingdom showing all the flood zones. These can be seen online at their website

Is There Planning Permission for This Property?

If you have looked at a property that is new or appears to have had an extension you can check if planning permission exists for this before going down the expensive road of hiring a solicitor and paying a surveyor.

It is important to note that some small extensions in certain areas do not require planning permission - check with the local authority for exact details in your location.

To find out if the property you are buying has got planning permission the files are freely available at walk in centres operated by the local council. Some now even keep their databases on the internet for public access.

How Much Did the Vendor Buy the Property for?

The last time a property was sold (if this happened within the last decade), and the value it sold for, are listed on the Right Move website at In considering the current asking price you should take into account:
  • How long ago the last transaction was and what has happened in the market since then.
  • If you are aware of major improvements (has it been renovated by a developer, has the current owner added an extension or converted the loft, etc.) Ask the selling agent or the vendor if you are unsure.
Note that this can sometimes be a case of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. If you know the property was purchased twelve months ago for £100,000 and is now on the market for £200,000 this does not mean it is overvalued even if you find it hard to accept the profit that the vendor is making.

Remember not all buyers will have carried out as much research as you and if surrounding and similar properties are selling at this level, then so will this one.

How Far is the Nearest Park, Busy Road, Railway?

Google Maps now offer an excellent way to look at your prospective property from above and allow you to check for anything which may put you off. This might include large buildings that could be factories, busy roads, airfields, etc.

Recent improvements mean it is even possible to look around many streets using Google Earth before you even go to view a property.

What are the Schools in the Area Like?

You can check the performance of schools close to the property you are buying at but if you are thinking of one particular school be sure to contact them directly. Many have strict post code dictated boundaries.

What is Crime Like in the Area

There are cold statistics on sites such as but if crime seriously concerns you then getting in contact with the nearest police station can be very useful. Many have community officers who are very much in touch with specific neighbourhoods and can tell you the reality, good or bad, far better than a few percentage figures.


The amount of self-education that is possible continues to grow with every year as technology moves forward and especially as the internet evolves. You can keep up to date with the latest online tools at your disposal on the webpage