Getting started
Do a budget. This will tell you where your money is going, where you can cut back and where you can save. The budget then helps you work out what you want, need and can afford.

Set your goals
How much can you afford? What should you be aiming for? It's best to answer these kinds of questions now so you can work them into your budget. After all, there's no point shopping for a property if you cannot afford it.

Control your debt
If your budget needs to get into shape, now is the time to do it. If this means consolidating a few debts, then do it. There is no point in saving for a deposit if you're also being charged a high rate on your personal loans. With a large debt you can end up having to work so hard to pay the loan off that you never get time to enjoy your home.

Work your money
Maximise your savings by taking them out of low-interest bank accounts. Alternative accounts such as high-interest accounts or bonus savers offer a better return.

Check your credit rating
Before approaching a lender, ensure there are no nasty surprises in your credit file. If you do find something, make sure you talk it over with your lender.

Do your homework
To get the best possible home loan at the right price, you must do your homework. Ask questions, compare rates and visit lots of lenders.

Know property values in the area
There is a lot of variation in the prices people put on their homes. Check out several homes in the same area so that you know whether the house you like is overpriced or not. If it's overpriced make an offer below the asking price.

Know what's important for you
Write out a check list of the essential features of a home. Then put a second list of features you'd like the home to have but which you can live without if you have to. Use your checklist to evaluate the homes.

Put plenty of time aside
Don't be impatient to find the right home immediately. Sometimes it can take months (or even years).

Check out the area
Some houses are really appealing. Some of them, though, are well away from all facilities. No shops. No public transport. Do a practical evaluation of the area, so you can see if they are in convenient places. The further you have to travel to the shops the more expensive it gets. Check out the facilities in the area and not just the house.

Buy, but don't move in
For some, the only way of buying a home is not to live in it. This is because of tax benefits attached to investment properties. This may be the best way to get on your feet in the property market.