When you go and visit a property, try to ignore the internal decoration and general state of the property. Instead, try to picture the property as a blank canvas. If it contains some fittings that you really dislike enquire to whether or not these could be removed prior to a new buyer moving in.
Do not just consider the house and garden in your decision. Press the estate agent showing you around for information about the local area. Check the availability of amenities, schools, social clubs, pubs or whatever is important in your daily life.
If you do then become interested in the property, proceed to do a bit of research about the neighbourhood as a whole before putting an offer in to the seller. Check you are happy with the general neighbourhood environment, if necessary visit the property at a different time of day or evening to experience the area at that time.
If you are entirely happy with the property and it fits within your budget then put an offer in to purchase with the estate agent. If you offer is then accepted you must begin the search for solicitors to help you with the conveyancing.
When considering which solicitors to instruct, ask your estate agent which conveyancing solicitors they recommend. However be aware that some agents will take a referral fee from certain conveyancing solicitors if they forward on a potential client - so they may not be entirely objective. Feel free to ask them if they getting a referral fee - the code of conduct for solicitors states that solicitors have to inform clients about any referral fees being paid by them to an estate agent.
You should also know that a lot of the large estate agency chains have deals with large conveyancing 'factories' that are far away from the area, and so will send their clients there instead of to a local specialist - in return for a sizable referral fee. People who work at conveyancing factories are likely to have very little knowledge of your area, and you will probably find that you don't have a dedicated lawyer who handles your purchase, but instead you are passed around all the members of the firm. Most people who use conveyancing factories only do so once, finding the service slow and impersonal.
In light of this it is always beneficial to conduct your own research using the Internet and obtain quotes from different firms before instructing a conveyancing solicitor. Make sure in particular that you pick specialist conveyancing solicitors who really know what they're doing, and avoid those small one-man bands who seem to cover every aspect of law.