Q. I really want to purchase a second property as an investment but have neither the time nor the inclination to go house hunting? I have heard about property ‘search agents’, but don’t know enough about them or the service they provide, are they worth considering?

A. Property search agents or home finders, as they are also known, can help you to find and source your next property in the UK and overseas. Property search agents act solely on your behalf and can help to remove the stress of a move by providing independent and extensive local advice and support on all aspects of property searches, negotiation, saving you time and managing the whole buying process in some instances. They will usually tailor their service to meet your personal needs. They will start by getting a thorough briefing about your criteria. Is this an investment buy or a home?  Is rental return vital? How important is it to be close to schools and public transport? They should know your budget and time-frame and how flexible you are prepared to be. Location is all-important and a search agent should be able to help you here. They should be able to suggest places you might not have considered and they should have good local contacts, so they hear about property for sale that is not listed with local estate agents. Search agents should prevent buyers from making costly mistakes. Buyers might want to buy in an area where they have friends but experienced property search agents may highlight issues you would not otherwise of been aware of.

Expert knowledge of an area is a vital part of the role of the property finder but where they can really add value is in helping buyers clarify exactly what they want. Unrealistic expectations about what you can afford to buy for your budget can lead to disappointment. Finders will provide impartial advice and listen carefully to what you want. They will be unemotional and steer you away from an expensive mistake. They should be able to suggest up and coming areas that you may not have heard of but which offer better value than the more established areas. It is vital to sign a contract to ensure you know exactly what you are getting for your money. A good agency should help you from start to finish, handling price negotiations for you, advising on how to finance the purchase and helping throughout the conveyancing process, to bring your purchase to a successful close. Fees vary but average charges will be between 1.5% to 2.5% of the purchase price. Most search agencies will also charge a retainer, normally around £500, which may be deducted from the final payment. As always, try to get a recommendation from someone rather than hiring someone blind.