Searching for and shortlisting properties
There are many ways in which you can search and shortlist properties that meet your criteria, including looking online, in high street estate agents’ windows and in local newspapers.
Property websites and estate agents websites
There are a number of online aggregators that make comparing properties easy. Estate agents’ sites also provide the ability to search properties by various criteria and the best sites enable you to set up alerts based on your preferences, so that you will receive an email the moment a suitable new property becomes available. On this website for example, you are be able to search for properties in a variety of ways, access a rich source of information about the process of buying a property, explore London areas in detail and save searches and set up alerts in My Favourites.
High street estate agents
Using websites is not always exhaustive and some properties are purchased without even appearing online.
You should keep in regular contact with estate agents, as there will be other people shopping around when you are and hearing about a property ahead of others could give you an advantage.
Shortlisting suitable properties for viewing
Be organised when it comes to pulling together your shortlist.
Begin to make a physical list, and request further information from estate agents before arranging a viewing. The list should be dynamic, and you should remove properties from it as you rule them out, or they are sold. Likewise, you will need to add other suitable properties to it as they come on to the market.
Remember that pictures and floor plans on websites, in brochures and in estate agents’ windows, are no substitute for seeing the property and its environment with your own eyes, and viewings are highly recommended. Wide angle lenses are often used to fit more of the property into the photo, but they can also make rooms seem bigger than they are. Computer generated images are sometimes used for buildings that are being built, and these give helpful insight into what the property looks like, but are no substitute for a site visit.
Take your time when viewing the property. Arm yourself with a checklist and list of questions, and spend time walking around the neighbourhood either before or after your appointment. It is likely that you will be viewing several potential new properties, so take some pictures during the visit and note down any pertinent information.
Getting ready to make an offer
As your shortlist becomes more refined and favourites begin to emerge, arrange another visit to see these properties at a different time of day to your first visit. This will give you a better understanding of the property and the area.
If you are still interested, find out what similar properties have sold for in the area, and for how long they were on the market. This will give you a good steer on how quickly you will need to act and whether an offer pitched below the asking price is likely to be accepted. Then, providing you have the mortgage arranged in principle, you will be ready to make an offer.