Buying a new home is an exciting time but it can also be full of challenges. In this step-by-step Buyers’ Guide, we’ll show you what to expect and suggest ways to put yourself in the strongest position when you find your dream home.

Obtain Mortgage Advice and an Agreement in Principle

Before you start your search, it’s vital to understand what you can borrow. Many people just use online mortgage calculators or a basic multiple of salary. They then start viewing properties that are too expensive or beneath their budget.

Mortgage providers consider several factors to determine how much they can lend, so it’s really important to seek proper mortgage advice. But who should you turn to?

You could speak to your bank, but they can only offer you their products. That’s why we recommend going to a mortgage broker in the first instance. They’ll search a comprehensive range of lenders on your behalf, matching your individual circumstances to the providers that can offer you the best deal.

Once you’ve decided who to choose, the broker will normally issue you an Agreement in Principle (AIP), which states what you can borrow. This will be accepted by most estate agents as proof of funds when you eventually make an offer on a property.

Don’t skip this step in your excitement to start viewing – having an AIP will put you at the front of the queue when making offers. All estate agents will ask for it, and some won’t let you view a property without one.

Choose a Solicitor

Recommendations from friends or family are a great starting point. Most estate agents and financial advisors will also be able to recommend a local solicitor or conveyancer if you’re struggling to find one. Customer review websites like Google Reviews, Trustpilot or Feefo can be especially helpful when searching for a reputable company.

Property transfers are complicated and will often be time-consuming, so a solicitor or conveyancer who gives you regular updates will make the whole process less stressful.

Having one main contact is essential so find out if you will have a particular person looking after your case. Ask if there are specific times when you can contact them and if they have a system that allows you to track how the purchase is progressing. Don’t forget to check who would cover any annual leave or sickness. If holiday or sickness cover isn’t available, it could delay your house sale or purchase by a couple of weeks.

It might all be plain sailing, but if there are problems you want someone who will give you clear options and advice. Your solicitor or conveyancer should be able to explain complex or unfamiliar things in a straightforward way without jargon so that you understand exactly what’s going on. They should also make it clear what is expected from you in terms of providing information, reviewing and returning documents, and paying deposits.

Don't be afraid to ask them about their level of experience. How many property transactions does the firm carry out every year? What's their local knowledge like for the area you want to buy in?

There is lots of ‘legwork’ that can be done before you’ve found your next home. Once you have an offer accepted, your solicitor will act for you until you collect your keys. The process typically takes between 12–16 weeks to complete and often requires intervention from your estate agent to ensure everything is on track. Your agent should keep in touch with you, the seller, and both sets of solicitors, which is why proactive communication is hugely important if you’re to meet a specific deadline.

Selling Your Property to Buy a New Home

Most people fall into this category. As estate agents, the most common thing we hear is, ‘I don't want to sell my home until I have found somewhere to go.’

While this seems sensible on the surface it often means that by the time you have found your dream home and decided to sell yours, someone else in a position to proceed has already had their offer accepted.

So, how do you avoid this vicious cycle? You generally have two options:

  1. Put your property on the market straight away
  2. Be very transparent with your estate agent about your situation and ensure your estate agent is honest with your viewers. By doing this, your agent and your solicitor can ‘manage’ the process until you find somewhere, regardless of whether your home goes under offer quickly. The pressure is off!

  3. Prepare your home for sale – but don’t go live until you’re ready
  4. If putting your property on the market now makes you nervous or uncomfortable, you can still instruct an estate agent but hold off with the marketing until you have found another property you like. As soon as ‘the one’ comes on the market, you’ll be weeks ahead and can list your home at the click of a button.

Set up Alerts for New Properties Hitting the Market

Most property sales start with a listing on either Rightmove, Zoopla, or OnTheMarket so we strongly advise you to visit these websites frequently and download their apps. However, it’s also worth setting up property alerts for the areas and postcodes you wish to live in. By doing this, you’ll receive an email when a new property comes onto the market. On Rightmove, you can even draw maps around all the areas that you’re interested in.

In a fast-paced market like the one we’re experiencing now, the best homes don’t hang around for long. Make sure you speak to local estate agents and build up a good relationship. Once agents have an idea of what you are looking for, they will let you know about new listings before they go onto the open market.

You never know, your local estate agent might already be preparing the brochure for your perfect home …

To put this into perspective, it takes us around two to three weeks to finalise all the marketing material. During that time, we’ll alert the people on our VIP buyers’ register, allowing them a sneak-peek of homes that are coming to market.

You can register to become a VIP Buyer with us here, but it’s worth asking other local agents to put you on their property search register too.


Before viewing a property, it is always advisable to do a drive-by. Don’t underestimate your first impression. Do you like the look of the home? What about its position? Is the area right for you?

Once you’ve checked out the location and decided it ticks most of your boxes, come to your viewing prepared. Take a notebook, and don't be afraid to ask the agent plenty of questions. They’ll probably have most of the answers on a pre-prepared information sheet, but they should be able to quickly find out anything else you need.

It’s also a good idea to bring a tape measure, especially if you’re planning to move with large items of furniture.

During the viewing, take the opportunity to check the outside of the property as well as the inside. Look out for loose tiles and signs of damp and enquire about the age of the boiler and the electrics. You don’t want any nasty (expensive) surprises if you bought the house.

Finally, ask what the owner intends to include in the sale. That chandelier in the hallway might look magnificent, but is it staying as part of the sale price?

Making an Offer

When you’ve found the home you want to buy, it is important to demonstrate to the agent that you are a serious buyer. Arrange a second viewing and ask the estate agent about the seller’s situation. If they want to move quickly or have had the house on the market for a while, they might be willing to accept a lower offer.

Before making your offer, do your homework and find out what similar properties in the same area have sold for recently. See how your target property compares and pitch your offer accordingly.

Look for advantages in your own situation. For example, if you are chain-free (i.e. a cash buyer), your seller may well consider a lower price for the extra convenience of this. It also helps if you can show that your mortgage is already approved, or that you have a mortgage in principle.

Make sure you submit your offer in writing, along with any terms and conditions. Be specific – if you want any appliances or light fittings, include them as part of your offer.

Once you submit an offer, the estate agent will carry out a few checks, including verifying that your current home has been sold (if applicable). They’ll also need to see:

  • Proof of funds
  • Identification and proof of address
  • Solicitor’s details

If you’re purchasing using a mortgage, you’ll need to provide your AIP and proof of deposit, totalling the purchase amount. Cash buyers must provide bank statements showing cleared funds.

If you’re buying with the proceeds of a sale, the agent will need your solicitor to confirm that you have no mortgage. Alternatively, you can provide your latest/final mortgage statement.

If there are lots of other buyers making offers, be ready to walk away if the bidding goes too high for your budget. If you are asked to make a ‘best and final offer’ make sure that you provide the seller with as much information as they need to make an informed decision about your offer. This should include an offer price you are comfortable with, how proceedable you are, how flexible you are with move dates and your source of funds.

Arrange a Survey

Unless your property is a new build (and sometimes even then), you will need a surveyor to check it for problems. There are four different types of survey, which go into various degrees of depth. Don’t skimp on the survey, or take anyone else’s word for it that the house is problem-free. The cost of a survey is insignificant compared to the potential cost of sorting out structural issues.

The mortgage valuation survey

If you’re buying the property with a mortgage, your mortgage lender will arrange a valuation survey (which you will pay for). This type of survey is purely to confirm that the house is worth (at face value) approximately what you have agreed to pay for it. This reassures the lender that the mortgage could be recouped by the repossession and sale of the property (and helps to prevent fraudsters from taking out huge loans on cheap properties).

Most mortgage surveys confirm the value of the property. However, they don’t cover the building’s condition in any detail. You will still need to conduct your own survey to make sure the property won’t cost you a fortune to maintain.

When should I get a property survey?

You can get property surveys right up until you exchange contracts, but it’s best to get them carried out as early as possible. This way, you can try to renegotiate the price if the building needs work or if the survey flags up any major issues such as subsidence or dry rot.

It can take up to two weeks to receive a surveyor’s report, so again allow plenty of time.

There are four main types of survey, of varying degrees of thoroughness. Broadly speaking, the older the property, the more thorough the survey should be. A more detailed survey will be more expensive – but not as expensive as having to do lots of unexpected renovations. Bear all of this in mind when choosing a home to buy.

A RICS Condition Report is the cheapest and most basic survey, costing approximately £250. It looks at the superficial condition of the property and highlights potential legal issues, but it won’t look at the structure in any detail or give you any advice on potential repair requirements. This type of survey is only really suitable for a relatively new (less than 5 years old) conventional property.

A RICS HomeBuyer Report is the most popular kind of survey, and costs around £400 and upwards. It tells you more about the structure of the property, identifying issues such as damp and subsidence and suggesting necessary repairs. The surveyor won’t, however, check behind furniture, under floorboards or between walls. You can combine this kind of survey with the mortgage valuation report, usually for around an extra £100.

A RICS Building Survey, popularly known as a ‘full structural survey’, is the most detailed and expensive, costing between £500 and £2,000. It’s very detailed and involves checking behind the walls, between floors and above ceilings, and it will give you a clear idea on the structural condition of the property and any work that is necessary or recommended. This survey is especially helpful if you’re buying an old property or planning a renovation. However, it doesn’t usually include a valuation.

Consider the Associated Costs of Buying

Apart from saving for a deposit and securing a mortgage, you’ll need to factor in other costs as part of your buying and moving budget. Make sure you research:

  • Estate agency fees (if selling)
  • Solicitor’s expenses, including search fees (for selling and buying if applicable)
  • Mortgage broker fees
  • Survey costs
  • Stamp duty (click here to see how much stamp duty you’ll pay)
  • Removal costs
  • Insurance – your lender will require that you have buildings insurance in place on the day you complete.

Learn more about us

How can we help you? Find out more about our area coverage, property experience and our team.

Learn more

Your local office

Get in touch with our friendly team who will be more than happy to assist with your property needs.

Get in touch
Piccolo Property Sales & Lettings

Friendly staff providing excellent and reliable service. I have deal with Piccolo and it was a great helpful service. Many thanks for Lou, Helen and...

- Praveen Hasanka

Piccolo Property Sales & Lettings

Thank you Pennie and Maia for making the process of selling Mum's house so easy for us. Your professionalism was second to none and we appreciate all...

- Sarah Brown

Piccolo Property Sales & Lettings

I have dealt with a couple of letting agents when renting properties and I can say piccolo has by far been the best. They have been easy to contact...

- Tom B

Piccolo Property Sales & Lettings

Lou and the lovely Piccolo team have done a fantastic job of letting my Salisbury property over a number of years. It has always been very reassuring...

- Ian Harris

Piccolo Property Sales & Lettings

Finally an Estate Agent that really care! Helen and the Piccolo Team are just absolutely fantastic, efficient and went out of their way to help us....

- Cindeez Guilbride

Read more