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25mnb's blog Why estate agents are predicting that first-time buyers will take a greater share of the property sales in the UK over the next 12 months.

The seasonally adjusted number of residential property transactions in the UK with a value of £40,000 or above hit a five-year high in 2015/16, says central London estate agent LDG.

HM Revenue and Customs reports that 1,312,610 homes were bought in the last financial year, with a peak of 153,700 transactions being completed in March as buy-to-let investors rushed to finalise deals before a 3% stamp duty surcharge on second homes came into force on 1 April.

Property professionals are predicting that a fall in the number of buy-to-let purchases will open the door to more first-time buyers entering the property market over the next 12 months.

Whether you are a first time buyer or moving up the property ladder, every home hunter needs to follow some basic rules.

Here, estate agent Williams Lynchpasses on the benefit of the knowledge its staff have gained over the 20-plus years the business has operated from its base in Bermondsey Street, London SE1.

1 Get a mortgage agreement in principle

If you are financing your home purchase with a mortgage, obtain an agreement in principle from the lender before starting to view properties.

Although the agreement is only in principle, and does not commit the lender to make the finance available, it will indicate how much you can afford to spend on a property and prove to sellers and estate agents that you're serious about buying.

2 Appoint a conveyancing solicitor.

Estate agent Lawsons & Daughtersreports that it takes between nine and 11 weeks to complete a property sale in the Fulham area or London, including the 2-6 weeks between having an offer accepted and exchange of contracts.

This timescale can increase dramatically if you do not have a solicitor in place before making an offer for a property.

3 Research the area

Wherever you plan to buy a home, it is vital to thoroughly research the area – even if you already live nearby. Each street of every district has slightly different characteristics so it is wise to visit it morning, afternoon, evening and at night on different days of the week.

Remember to check out the availability of parking, traffic and noise levels, the travel time to your place of employment, the local supermarket and nearby schools. You may not have children at the moment but if this is to be a home for life, there is a possibility that your children will one day be attending local schools.

Don’t forget to tap your estate agent for information. As a property specialist in the area, they should have some inside information on that part of town.

And summon up the courage to talk to the residents of neighbouring properties, who should be able to give you the lowdown on life in that particular street or apartment block.

And finally…

Before putting in an offer, learn more about the seller’s personal circumstances. Is the seller in no particular hurry to move? Or in a desperate to sell because they’ve just accepted a job in another part of the country?

By taking into account the seller’s motivations, property buyers can tailor their strategy for negotiating the best deal possible.