FOR those in the know, autumn is a fantastic time to pick up a bargain when it comes to buying a holiday home.

With the end of the season approaching on many parks, there are often great deals to be found because the parks need to create extra space for the arrival of new models, and they're anxious to clear as much existing stock as possible.

The slashed prices often apply to both new holiday homes and pre-owned models which previous owners might have traded in when they upgraded.

For canny buyers, there are also often other incentives to be found – such as free or discounted pitch fees for the following year, or extras added on to the holiday home at no cost.

Either way, visiting parks can be a great way to spend a weekend, browsing around and looking inside the caravan holiday homes and lodges on offer, and receiving specialist advice about the ins and outs of ownership.

For couples and families not wanting to use their own funds to finance the purchase of a second home, many parks also offer competitive borrowing deals for customers.

It's not just the affordability which makes a holiday home on a park so desirable – it's also the fact that they help owners get so much more out of their leisure time.

Unlike a bricks-and-mortar property, a holiday home on a park can be enjoyed from the moment you arrive. There's no maintenance required, no grass to cut, and no unexpected repair bills to worry about.

The ability to take off on holiday whenever you choose is one of the most appealing aspects of a caravan holiday home or lodge. There’s no need to book or plan ahead if the weekend forecast sounds good, you can just pack your bags and be at your holiday hideaway just a short while later.

A holiday home also means that you can use your leisure time more effectively. By choosing a holiday park in the heart of countryside you love, or close to where you can enjoy a favourite activity such as walking, golf or sailing, you'll spend less time travelling and more time doing.

Whatever your reason for buying, plan from the outset to get the most out of your investment. In most cases this means choosing a park which is no more than two or three hours’ drive from where you live. Somewhere, in other words, where you can get to quickly whenever the impulse or a sunny outlook becomes too tempting.

When buying a new holiday home, the cost will be influenced by the size of the unit and any extra specifications such as central heating and double glazing. These options are becoming increasingly sought-after by purchasers because they allow the home to be used in comfort throughout the year, subject to the park's seasonal opening times.

On this topic, it is of course advisable to check if your chosen park does stay open all year, or if it closes for a short period in the winter to allow maintenance and other work to take place without affecting holidaymakers.

There are more than 3,000 holiday parks throughout the UK, and together they offer an enormous choice of different holiday styles. Some parks are very family-centred, especially those based in popular holiday resorts. It’s here you’ll find plenty to occupy all members of the family: swimming pools, children's clubs and play areas, live entertainment and a great carefree atmosphere – all just outside your front door.

Don’t feel left out if your idea of a relaxing break is completely different, though. Many parks are designed specifically for couples and families who enjoy quiet, undeveloped surroundings in the peace of the countryside.

If you prefer to take your pleasure from outdoor activity, there’s a long list of parks in Northern England which take you right to the heart of the action. Bike hire, pony trekking and water-sports are just a few of the opportunities available either on or near many centres, with equipment hire and professional instruction included if wished.

You will notice that some holiday parks are members of larger groups, but the majority are independently owned. They are often actively managed by the owning families which have developed them gradually over the years, shaping their character according to the type of customers they attract.

Of course, the main reason why many people buy a holiday home is to escape to quieter, restful and more natural surroundings. These features are a big selling point for many parks, the owners of which have invested considerably over the years in creating superb environments in which to enjoy nature and the countryside.

When you buy a holiday home on a park, you should be provided with a written agreement which will help ensure peace of mind in the years ahead. Within the agreement will be the all-important assurance of tenure: the right, in other words, to occupy the holiday home pitch for a given period of time which will not be less than ten years.

Pitch fees are, of course, payable on all holiday parks, but the actual amount will depend on a number of different factors, including the location of the park and the number of facilities on offer.