Buying a house How to find a property

House and keys

Finding your ideal home can be a lot of work

You probably already have your ideal home in mind, but it's important to do your research before you start house-hunting.

Make sure you examine your finances and work out your budget before you go on any property viewings.

If you will need a mortgage to buy your new home it's a good idea to start shopping around for the best deal. Our step-by-step guide to buying a house highlights everything you need to do to secure the home of your dreams, from saving for a deposit to collecting the keys.

  • If you need some expert advice on how much you might be able to borrow, you can call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0808 252 7987 for a free initial consultation.

Expert video: buying a house

Buying agent Tracy Kellett, who owns BDI Homefinders and sources dream homes for a living, offers some useful tips on how to find the right property for you.


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Downloadable checklist: finding the right property

Finding your perfect property in the right location can be a complicated task. Our checklist will help you make sure you consider all factors. You can also read on for more advice.

Download our checklist

How to find your ideal home: things to consider

Write down everything you need and want in a property then check this list against what's available and how much it might cost. Check the Land Registry website for the latest house prices but be careful of regional averages as every area is different.

Some things you might want to consider when listing what makes an ideal home include:

Number of bedrooms

Your ideal home might have three bedrooms, but if that means you'll have to stretch your budget, think carefully about whether you really need them. If you'd only use two bedrooms regularly, with the third used as a spare room for occasional guests, is it really worth spending thousands of pounds extra - or could a sofa bed in the sitting room do the trick for a fraction of the price?

Property type

While everyone is in search of their dream house, you might have to be realistic in your property search. 

When we surveyed 1,990 recent home movers in 2015, over two-thirds of home buyers told us they had made some kind of compromise when choosing their property - and yet 89% were satisfied with those compromises.

Both 'character' and new-build properties frequently command a premium, as do those in prime locations or built to top specifications.

Unless you can get a good deal then consider an alternative. A property in need of attention should have a lower asking price than one that's fully renovated, and a place that's two or three years old will be cheaper than one that's brand new.


If you’re not sure where you would like to live but have your heart set on a particular style of property - for example, a Victorian terrace - find out where such buildings are common.

Ask yourself what locations you need to reach regularly, how you plan to travel there and how long the journey will take.

Check the Department for Education website for lists of schools by education authority and performance tables. You can find out about admissions criteria on local authority websites. 

If you find that the right property in your perfect location is out of your price bracket, consider selling up and moving into a rented house temporarily. This makes you a cash buyer, able to move quickly if new homes come on to the market, which will make you much more appealing to vendors.

See our guide on how to find the best place to live for more tips and information. 

The average time for house hunting is 22 weeks infographic

Where to find a property

Property portals 

Most people's first port of call when looking for a home to buy is Rightmove or Zoopa. Portals like these are useful for making initial searches to find out what you can afford, and you can also set up alerts so that you are notified as soon as properties go online.

Once you've spotted a pad you're interested in, you can often find out more detailed information by contacting the estate agent that's advertising it directly.

Do bear in mind that not all properties being sold will be featured on every property portal, and you won't be able to find properties being sold privately, either.

What's more, in areas where the market is fast-moving and competitive, properties will often sell before they hit the web, so do register directly with estate agents too (see below).

Local newspapers and estate agents

It's a good idea to search the local newspapers and regularly visit local estate agents (go in, don’t just look in the window) to ask what’s coming onto the market, or drive around favourite areas to spot any private ‘for sale’ boards going up.

And it might sound obvious, but be friendly to the estate agents whatever misgivings you might have - they are far more likely to call someone they like when a new property hits their books.

Read our guide to finding the best estate agent, which includes a free downloadable checklist to help you through the process of buying a house through an estate agent.

Private sales and auctions

You can search private sales websites and adverts in newspapers and magazines such as Daltons Weekly, Loot and Hot Property or even consider buying at a property auction.

You could also put letters through the doors of houses in your favourite streets to see if anyone is interested in selling - you can see how one couple did this on our moving house video diaries page. 

More on this...

Last updated:

February 2016

Updated by:

Stephen Maunder


Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

Which? Limited (registered in England and Wales number 00677665) is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited (registered in England and Wales number 07239342). Which? Financial Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited. Registered office: 2 Marylebone Road, London NW1 4DF.