Property: Home Truths

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Planning permission

We wish to build a conservatory on the back of our property. Will we require planning permission, as a friend has told us it is not necessary?

T Marriott, Ipswich

There are national rules which state that, subject to certain limits, conservatories can be built without planning permission. However, local councils can remove these rights, so houses in certain areas will require permission before a conservatory can be built. I would suggest you contact your council.

Right to buy

I want to buy my freehold. How do I know if my house qualifies under the various Leasehold Reform Acts?

J Herman, Cleethorpes

Most long leaseholders have the right to buy the freehold of their house. This is known as the right to enfranchise. To qualify, you generally have to live in a building that would normally be considered a house. If it is a house that has been divided into flats then you should have the lease of the whole house. If part of your house overhangs another property, it will be considered a flat. There are a few exceptions such as property owned by the Crown or by charitable housing trusts and the National Trust. I would suggest you contact your landlord or seek legal advice on how to proceed.

First move

I am currently looking to move house and this will be the first time I have moved. What should I look for when choosing an estate agent to sell my home?

P Pearson, Tonbridge

Invite a few of your local estate agents to visit your home and value it. This is not a detailed valuation, it is simply the agent's estimation of the market value of your property. The amount of detail, care and interest shown by each estate agent will give you some idea of the sort of service you can expect.

You should also consider the fees the estate agent will charge for selling your home. These are usually around 2 per cent commission of the sale price of your property.

Ask some questions about the service you will receive, such as will they advertise your property in their window or in the local press? Will they take photographs to interest potential buyers? Will they still charge a fee if they are unsuccessful at selling your property?

The coverage your property will receive is also important, and it is worth asking each agent how many branches it has, and if your house will be marketed throughout the branch network.

Dealing with defects

I am in the process of buying a property that has a "defect in title". This sounds worrying. My solicitor has suggested I take a defective title indemnity policy. Is this normal?

M Rees, Swansea

A "defect in title" highlights an inconsistency in the claim of ownership of land. Normally, it arises where the seller is unable to produce a copy of the deed proving ownership. A Defective Title indemnity policy protects the new owner against these defects. These policies are very common. Your solicitor should check the policy terms to make sure the policy covers the correct financial risk.

George Wise is managing director of NatWest UK Mortgage Services.

q Send your queries on practical property issues to the following address: Home Truths, Travel & Money, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, fax: 0171-293 2043; e-mail: