Although Hong Kong buyers are less likely to be ripped off by sellers than in the recent past, they should be thoroughly prepared before making an offer on a property, specialists advise. A buyer's checklist should include hiring solicitors and surveyors before a home search begins, reconnoitering a property's location, studying the fortunes of the local housing market and being prepared to pay for expensive interior design work, specialists say. And, of course, buyers need to ensure they are dealing with reputable estate agents and developers. According to Rupert Bates, editor-in-chief of Britain's home buyers' magazine What House, the recession weeded many shady developers out of the market. 'Although you are still going to get your rogues, things have moved on. House builders are far more switched on and less likely to spin buyers a yarn and there is far more of a customer service element to it,' he said. Builders were responding to Asian concerns about needing sophisticated security measures, he said. However, developers did not always make clear how costly buying an investment property could be, he warned. Central London investment properties needed to be furnished and decorated to expensive standards to ensure they attracted tenants, he said. Moreover, properties should be designed specifically to appeal to certain types of tenants. For example, most overseas tenants in Central London are Americans, with differing tastes from the capital's many European tenants. This meant an investor needed to hire a designer, who knew how to design a property for the rental market, he said. It costs GBP10,000 (about HK$118,900) to have a furnished two-bedroom apartment professionally designed. Alternatively, buyers could opt for a furnished property. Bates recommended St George, Barratt, Berkeley Homes and Galliard Homes as reputable developers. 'St George are Central London specialists who do a good job at the higher end of the market', he said. In particular, Bates singled out apartments at St George's Georgian-style Spitalfields development in the City of London for inclusion in an investor's list of prospective purchases. Its one, two and three-bedroom apartments are on offer at prices starting at GBP150,000 with St George estimating the gross yield at 10 per cent. Galliard Homes has a solid reputation for converting London Dockland properties to residential use and Barratt was keen to attract Hong Kong buyers to its projects, Bates said. In addition to focusing on the prime Central London locations, Bates recommended investors consider the Docklands because its local economy and infrastructure were rapidly improving. Also, developers Barratt, Alfred McAlpine and Berkeley Homes were erecting waterfront projects in the west London districts of Battersea and Chiswick which were worth considering, he said. Bates recommended Savills and Hamptons as reputable estate agents. Both have Hong Kong offices. Colin MacKenzie, head of the country house department at Hamptons, advised buyers to line up a solicitor and surveyor before agreeing to buy so that a sale could be completed quickly. Buyers should thoroughly check the location and accessibility to amenities. Roy Conway, marketing director at Galliard Homes, said buyers should check the capital growth of house prices before making a purchase. 'A booming market may mean a bust is around the corner, which, unless you are on the ground to make a quick decision, can cost money,' he said.