Q. I’m investigating buying a property in an area that I am completely unfamiliar with and wonder how in this particular market I can get to grips with whether I’m paying too much or securing something for a realistic price, I’ve heard that there are a few websites that you can look up properties and check out what they originally sold for, is this correct and if so tell me more?

A. Buying a property in a completely unfamiliar area can be like dicing with death unless you do your homework thoroughly. Often property will come to the market for an unrealistic price – testing the waters as it were and if you find yourself not well equipped enough when conducting your property search then you can easily get caught and over pay. The websites you mentioned contain very useful information that is now widely and freely available to the general public. These websites (typical example www.nethouseprices.com ) contain up to date Land Registry data disclosing the actual price paid for the property as well as the date the transaction completed. This can be obtained by simply typing in the postcode of the block/street you are searching, the only information it doesn’t disclose is the size of the property, and things like parking, and views which would of course add further value, so the information could relate to anything from a studio apartment up to a spacious penthouse, so this would all need to be taken into consideration when looking at the prices. Further, to make this type of information work for you would have to understand what the property market has done over the years so investigating the highs and the lows of the property market over a period of time is crucial if you are going to be able to make a fair appraisal. Try to strike up general conversation with the local agents to see how the market has faired in the area over the years, most agents are more than happy to talk things like market conditions through. Its also worth asking their opinion on what they feel is a good buy within the vicinity, just to help build a picture overall that will eventually arm you with enough information to come to a shrewd and insightful decision.