Buying a home is an exciting time. However, it can also be full of challenges, from facing competition from other buyers and organising your finances to keeping the conveyancing process on track and knowing what to do and when.

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.

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, in most cases, such a homeowner never ends up moving. Why? Because by the time they have found their dream home and decided to sell theirs, 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

Be very transparent with your estate agent about your circumstances, and ensure they’re being honest with your viewers. By doing this, your agent and your solicitor can delay taking action before you find somewhere, regardless of whether your home goes under offer quickly. The pressure is off!

2) Prepare your home for sale – but don’t go live until you’re ready

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.

Both scenarios above will ensure you’re in a much stronger position to buy the home your heart desires should it become available.

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 crucial 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 unique 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.

Set Up Alerts for New Properties Hitting the Market

Most property sales start with a listing on either Rightmove and/or Zoopla, 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 hits the market. On Rightmove, you can even draw maps around all the areas and streets you’re interested in.

In a fast-paced market like the one we’re experiencing now, properties don’t hang around for long. By speaking to local agents and building relationships, you may hear about new listings that are weeks away from hitting the open market.

Imagine that – a local estate agent might already be preparing your perfect home for its debut. How excited would you feel if you could see it before it was launched?

To put this into perspective, when a Burton James client sells their home, 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.

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 on the street? Is the neighbourhood right for you?

There have been many occasions when we’ve turned up for a viewing, but the viewer has already discounted the property because they don’t like the area. You can easily avoid this situation with a little reconnaissance.

Once you’ve checked out the location and decided it ticks your boxes, come to your viewing prepared. Take a notebook, and don't be afraid to ask the viewing representative 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.

While you’re here, 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

Found the home for you? Make sure you submit an offer in writing, along with your 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

Proof of Funds

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.


Once your offer is accepted, you must instruct a solicitor, who will act for you until you collect your keys. In the welcome pack, you’ll be asked to accept their terms and complete forms regarding essential details about your purchase. At this point, you might also need to pay search fees.

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 pro-active communication is hugely important if you’re to meet a specific deadline.

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.


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