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Set in stone

I have seen a good house in a location I want but it has been covered with cladding. Can this be removed and should it affect the value of the house?

Mary Roberts

Liverpool

It depends what sort of cladding has been applied and why. Stone cladding is used for one of two reasons: to improve appearance or to keep water out.

The cladding must be chipped off by hand and the surface underneath will not be smooth. If the cladding was applied to keep water out you are likely to find very porous red brick underneath which is likely to be pock-marked. If it is an old property, you may find a lime mortar covering and you are likely to disturb a large surface area. If your intention was to cement-render and colour-wash, you can proceed.

If, however, you want to restore a property to its original brickwork, you should think again. Cladding is difficult and expensive to remove.

Moving on to value, however unattractive you feel the property is it does not necessarily follow that it will be cheaper. When a majority of properties in a road have been treated in this way the value will not be adversely affected.

If it is of a Coronation Street stone type cladding, the value is also unlikely to be affected, certainly when the property first comes on the market. What might be affected is the saleability as many vendors will disregard such a property.

If the cladding does appear to be holding back the sale of the property, it may be worth suggesting to the estate agent that the cost of removing it be deducted from the sale price and make your offer on that basis.

Time to try again?

In 1995 I had my property on the market for more than a year. The estate agent priced it at what he believed was a realistic valuation but it remained unsold. I decided to take it off the market and have had to pay a bill of pounds 800 for marketing costs. Am I likely to have any more luck now that the market has picked up?

Lou-Lou Rossi

Belfast

In general, the market is a great deal more active than it was two years ago so yes, you are more likely to sell your home now.

Think very carefully, however, about which estate agent you use. In most parts of the country agents operate on a "no sale, no fee" basis. However, in some areas of northern England and in Northern Ireland there are charges up front for marketing and advertising. Ensure that you obtain three estimates from different agents. Ascertain what each is charging and see what services are included in the price. Remember, in this market agents are having difficulties getting properties on their books. You should be able to use this to your advantage and get a good deal from an agent who is hungry for your business.

Finally, don't automatically go for the highest valuation. Ask to see evidence that the agent has sold similar properties in the recent past for a similar price to that at which they want to market yours.

Going West

I am looking to purchase a property in the West Country as a holiday home. What sort make the best investments?

LM Graham

Portsmouth, Hampshire

This partly depends on how often you intend using the property and whether you envisage renting it out in addition to using it yourself.

As a rule, the more run-down a property is, the cheaper it is, and there are many examples of people who have bought an old building in Cornwall, for example, and dedicated their spare time to renovating it. These efforts usually result in a picture-postcard holiday cottage which is worth many times more than the original purchase price. This is probably the best investment in terms of increasing the value of a property - but only if you have the skills, and more importantly the time, to achieve this result. Also remember in this scenario, you can only expect a rental income when the work is nearly completed.

If you have less time, you might consider part of a barn conversion, a flat, a unit in a large country house or a converted stable block in a parkland setting. You will be able to realise an immediate rental income and are less likely to have to worry about the maintenance of the garden, which will be either non-existent or may be dealt with on a communal basis.

If you do decide to go for a cottage-type property in good condition - which will cost a lot more - try to avoid wet central heating systems which will be under threat when the property is unoccupied during freezing winter weather.

Answers were supplied by experts at Woolwich Property Services and Ekins, the group's surveying services subsidiary. The panel is headed by Alan Oliver, managing director of Woolwich Property Services, and answers published queries on buying and selling, valuations, surveys and market factors such as price trends.

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