Top tips for first time buyers
Save up for a deposit
Many mortgage lenders require you to have a deposit of at least 10%, and charge anyone with less than 25% of a property's value to put down significantly higher interest rates.
So raising the biggest deposit you can will enable you to get a cheaper mortgage deal and benefit from lower monthly repayments. It can make sense to wait a few more months to buy your home if it means you'll have a larger deposit to put down.
To help you save up as much as possible, it's worth making some small changes. Taking packed lunches to work, for example, could save you £5 a day - or about £100 a month.
And boost your returns by putting the money in a tax-free cash ISA, in which you can shelter up to £5,760 from the taxman this tax year.
Find out how much you can borrow
It's important not to overstretch yourself financially when buying your first home.
Check out government schemes
The government is keen to encourage more people to buy a home and has launched its Help to Buy scheme. The first part of this scheme only requires you to have a deposit of 5% and the government will stump up a further 20%, giving you access to more attractive mortgage rates. You won't pay any interest on the government's 20% slice of the loan for the first five years.
The second part of the scheme again only requires you to have a 5% deposit, but the government will provide a guarantee that covers up to a further 15% of the mortgage.
Find a great mortgage
When comparing mortgages, bear in mind that certain lenders, such as Lloyds TSB, offer specialist mortgages designed to help cash-strapped first-time buyers (FTBs), while some mainstream mortgage deals are available to people with deposits of just 5%.
Specialist FTB deals - which generally involve a friend or relative investing savings into an account linked to the mortgage - include Lloyds TSB's Lend a Hand, Woolwich Family Springboard and Yorkshire Building Society's Offset Plus.
Don't forget the fees
Many mortgages come with arrangement fees and these can be as high as £2,500. So it pays to factor this into the equation. You may find it's cheaper to opt for a mortgage with a higher rate but lower fee.
Don't forget that you'll also have to pay stamp duty on properties worth more than £125,000.
Research the market
You may have to look at a lot of houses and flats before you find the right one - whatever you do, don't just buy the first one you see.
Visiting different estate agents and properties will give you an idea of how much a particular home is worth. And looking in different areas will enable you to decide whether or not you are prepared to compromise on location to get more space for your money.
Make an offer
It's nerve-racking making an offer on a property. After all, you may want to start low, but you don't want to miss out on the property of your dreams.
To make sure you go in at the right level, it's a good idea to ask the estate agent how long the house or flat has been on the market and if the seller wants a quick sale. Looking at sold house prices in the area can also help.
Hire a lawyer
Once you have had an offer accepted, you will need to hire a solicitor or licensed conveyancer to handle the legal aspects of the purchase. The cost of this will usually be between £500 and £750.
Get a survey
Your mortgage lender should arrange a surveyor to value the property within a few days of agreeing the mortgage in principle.
But it is sensible to arrange your own survey to get an idea of any problems there may be with the property. You can use anything that comes up in the survey to further negotiate on the price, while you may feel that you want to walk away if big issues such as subsidence are revealed.
It's important to have buildings insurance in place by the exchange date - both to protect your investment in the property and for your mortgage lender. Don't insure the property for the purchase price, though. You only need insurance for the amount it would cost to rebuild.
It's a great feeling getting the keys and spending your first night under a roof that's really yours. You might even enjoy unpacking all the boxes!