<strong>Camilla Dell</strong><br /><strong>MANAGING PARTNER AT BLACK BRICK</strong><br /><br /><strong>Q. Dear Camilla, I&rsquo;m trying to buy a property in London but every time I find something that I like I keep getting gazumped. What can I do?</strong><br /><strong>A.</strong> Your problem is not an uncommon one. In the UK, until you&rsquo;ve exchanged contracts, another buyer can come in and offer to pay more, meaning that you can lose the deal. The seller is under no obligation to refund you any valuation costs.<br /><br />But there are a number of things you can do and tactics to employ to protect yourself. If you see a property that you like, don&rsquo;t be too aggressive on the negotiation, especially if you know that there has been competition.<br /><br />You can put down a non-refundable deposit, whereby you request that the seller then takes the property off the market and agrees to what is known as a &ldquo;lock-out&rdquo; or exclusivity period. You are then best off moving as quickly as possible to exchange to secure the property properly.<br /><br />The other thing that you can do is move very quickly to exchange contracts, even on the same day, which is known as an attended exchange. However, both you and the seller need to have all your paperwork ready.<br /><br /><strong>Q. Dear Camilla, I hear I should stay away of lower ground floor flats. Are there any circumstances in which I should consider them?<br /></strong><strong>A.</strong> A lower ground floor flat isn&rsquo;t always ideal &ndash; they are prone to damp, can be quite dark, and can be tricky to sell.<br /><br />But they are often at a discount to other properties in the same area and tend to be more sizeable or with garden access.<br /><br />Particularly worth considering are properties that have been tanked, ie, have had a watertight membrane added around the property to protect it from damp.<br /><br />In general, if you&rsquo;re looking for outside space and a larger property, then it&rsquo;s a way of balancing location and size for your budget.<br /><br />Camilla Dell is the managing partner at search and acquisition consultancy Black Brick. www.black-brick.com.