One very interesting thing that you can do is use one of the many websites that records and gives you access to the value of property sales in an area. For instance, if you are looking at buying a particular house, then now you can usually find out for free online what it sold for and when last time it was sold, together with information on the sales before that too.
By looking at the value of sales of other properties in the road over time, you should get a good idea as to whether prices in an area are stable, erratic, going steadily up, going steadily down, and so on. You may also glean useful information like people tend to live there for a long period of time, or indeed there may be a high turnover and people only live in that road for a couple of years at a time. This can tell you interesting things about who is attracted to the area: for instance retired people or those who are buying their first-home, or those looking to start a family who then move away from the area once they've got a couple of kids and need a bigger house, and so forth.
Importantly for your own purchase, if you find out that an identical property in the same road went for, say, more money a few months ago then this may help you decide where to pitch your offer, or conversely if another property went for less then you may wonder if they aren't being a bit ambitious with their asking price and that might put you off the house a bit.
When you do view property prices, you should bear in mind what the countrywide situation is like too: remember that prices have generally dropped a bit in all areas over the last couple of years, so if there are houses that went for more than what is being asked for the property you are looking at that sold during the boom period of late-mid 2000's, then that could be why... it doesn't necessarily mean that property in the area you are looking at has suddenly become very undesirable for some worrying reason or another!
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