Whether you are buying your first home, relocating, moving up the ladder to accommodate a growing family or downsizing to a smaller place, it makes sense to do your homework.
Make a list of the things which are most important to you, in descending order. For example, if you work any distance from where you are buying, then transport links are likely to be top priority. On the other hand, if you have children, then proximity to good schools may be your primary consideration.
Are local bars and restaurants important? Parks or open countryside? Make sure you research the area thoroughly, not just the street on which you are looking to buy.
Sites such as Rightmove.co.uk and Findaproperty.com list thousands of properties for sale. Most have a selection of photographs along with a detailed description and floorplan of the property, and some even allow you to take a virtual tour of the place. However, not every estate agent pays the fee and signs up to these sites, so you might find your dream home in an estate agent's window or on an individual estate agent's website.
If you are interested in a property, go back and revisit at different times of day and on different days of the week before you put in an offer. A road which may seem quiet on a Sunday afternoon might be a rat run for commuters at rush hour during the week. And of course, if you have only seen a property in the dark, it makes sense to go back and visit in daylight (this could be an issue during the winter).
Look beyond the existing decor, but do look out for any potentially expensive changes that would need to be made. Run the showers, flush the toilets, ask about the heating. Simply repainting a property is cheap and can make a world of difference. Having to put in a new kitchen, bathroom or boiler is a major inconvenience and costs many thousands of pounds.
Keep an eye on your budget and don't be tempted to overstretch yourself because you have fallen in love with a property.