Buying a home is likely to be the biggest purchase you’ll ever make so think about what you really want and need, and write a list. Is a garden a necessity or is off-street parking more important? How many bedrooms will you need?
Location is important too. How good are the nearby transport links and local schools? How far will you need to travel to work or to the shops? If you're moving to a new area, work out any new travel costs, as well as council tax payments and research your local amenities. If you're looking for property in London, our London Borough Comparison tool might help when you're weighing up the different areas to live.
If you can, check what the property is like at different times of the day by varying your appointment times for further viewings. The government's planning portal is also a great place to search for any major works that are due to be carried out nearby.
Register your details with local estate agents and look online at websites like Zoopla - sign up for alerts so you can be notified if anything that fits your criteria becomes available.
When you've found somewhere you like, phone the estate agents to book a viewing. When you visit the property, try to imagine yourself living there. Would the rooms be big enough to suit your needs? Is there enough storage space? Don't be afraid to check that things are in good working order – run a tap to check for water pressure, and have a look at the boiler to ensure it's in good working order.
To gauge interest, ask the seller how many viewings the property has had, and how long it's been on the market. It's also useful to find out the seller's situation at this point. Are they in a chain? Why are they moving and how long have they lived there for?
If you're buying a flat, would you like it to be freehold or leasehold? If the property is a leasehold, find out how long is remaining. Ask how much the service charge and ground rent is, and take a look at the upkeep of communal areas – after all, your money will be going towards these each month.