There are various places to start your search. Thought needs to be given to how you will finance your purchase. If you are buying for the first time, buying a buy to let investment or are buying a home to live in having sold your property and completed then the process is usually easier. If mortgage funds are required then it is essential that you consult a mortgage company or mortgage broker first in order to establish that in principle you will be able to obtain the loan you require to go forward.
If you have to sell a property first in order to fund a purchase then in an ideal world you should put your property onto the market first, agree a sale then find a new home. Doing this will make you a much more attractive buyer in the eyes of a seller and you will also know more clearly how much money you have at your disposal from the sale of your property.
A few of us who already own our own homes want to find a property first before putting their own homes onto the market and then subsequently find that they have to sell in a hurry, this can work but is a lot more stressful!
The first contact point for your search is looking online and www.rightmove.co.uk is the best place to start as it has all the properties listed for sale. Other websites such as www.zoopla.co.uk and www.primelocation.com are worthy but do not hold all the available stock.
Calling into an estate agents office (or telephoning) to talk about the area and properties in general will give you further insight into your search and may enable you to hear about a property before it appears on the above websites! Buying the local newspaper and looking in the property section will help you further as well as searching in estate agents windows although the latter is rather time-consuming!
Once you have found your new home and agreed terms then you need to instruct a licensed conveyancer to handle the paperwork. Around the same time you ideally need to put in your mortgage application form and valuation fee. If you would also like a comprehensive structural survey then it is best to organise this early on.
An average transaction from agreed offer to an exchange of contracts can take 3 months with the average financial completion following a couple of weeks later.