Property: Remote control? No problem

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Indy Lifestyle Online
It is pretty neat at any age to be able to operate the television, video security system, lighting and curtains all from one monitor. But for anyone getting on in age it could be a godsend.

At present, music, TV and lighting controllable from one switch tend to be available only at the top end of the market, where the buyer is likely to be young enough to get out of the chair. A new company, Mullion (01285 657576), is to build homes with an automation system, as well as adapting older buildings.

The new homes, starting at pounds 400,000, will include a flexible "smart room", which can be adapted for various uses. For older buyers there are extras such as audio induction loops for the hard of hearing, low-level lighting and wide doorways.

When it comes to finding land or houses ripe for development, it's a tough world, but perhaps contacting someone recently bereaved to suggest they sell up is not the most sensitive of approaches. A reader from Pinner in Middlesex was distressed to receive a letter from a property company suggesting that since she was now the owner of the house, perhaps they could do business, and pointing out that they were happy to make cash transactions.

"My husband died a few months ago and I did feel upset when the letter arrived. Then I was angry that the information should be used in this way, and was concerned that some people might be vulnerable at times like this," explains Mrs Abraham.

In fact, as she suspected, the probate register is a public record and anyone can trawl through it for information. Apparently wills provide a good source of unmodernised flats and houses. The best advice seems to be to ignore such letters, or, for those thinking of selling, to make sure your property goes on to the market so that the company can compete along with everyone else.

It is becoming easier to complain about property matters. The latest to join the line of sympathetic ears is the Land Registry, which has set up an independent complaints reviewer to listen to anyone affected by the actions of the registry.

The price of a play cottage for children, featured in a recent article in these pages, was sent into orbit by the addition of an extra nought. The Children's Cottage Company (0171-223 0876) produces thatched replicas for the garden from pounds 1,600, not pounds 16,000 - which will come as a relief for those who may have thought it would be wiser to save up for the real thing.