The cost, time and plethora of potential problems makes the whole business of buying, leasing and selling property a minefield. At best, it can absorb huge amounts of management time. At worst, it can lead to bankruptcy. Take specialist advice. Everyone dislikes agents but do not mix up chartered surveyors and valuers with this ubiquitous breed of high street hawks. Just as lawyers know the law, surveyors know bricks and mortar. There are different types: One group are effectively agents and know all about availability, rents and prices. It may be worth employing one to find the right space rather than traipsing around those selling or leasing. Building surveyors specialise in the nitty-gritty of construction. They can organise a new-build or inspect existing buildings for potential faults. Another skill lies in analysing the average 40-page lease a landlord will expect. Or they can take over negotiations on rent reviews, rating appeals and planning applications. Use an expert with letters after their name. Several professional organisations award these, such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers (ISVA). Ask in advance how much it will all cost. After taking a deep breath, consider how quickly such fees will be saved in making the right choice or winning a cut in the asking rent. Where to go for further help? The RICS Information Centre Tel: 020 7334 3838/42/19 The ISVA

Tel: 020 7235 2282