Making the decision to buy your own home is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make, a decision made tougher by the current economic climate in the UK and internationally. But looking on the bright side, property prices are, at best, stagnating (unless perhaps you are interested in a prime London location, which frankly seems unlikely if you are buying your first home).

So what sort of area do you want to live in?

It can help to start writing a list of all the things that are most important top you about a location. Think about what you like and dislike about the location where you are currently living and where friends and relatives live. You may need good transport links for an easy journey to work, you may also want to be close to pubs, restaurants and shops. Or have easy access to the countryside for the week-ends. Whatever matters to you, start writing it down as it will help to focus your search.

Now start to draw up an initial search area – don’t be too set on a certain town or postcode as you may find it is too expensive or simply that the type of property you want is not available on the market in that area. You may also find that once you start looking at properties that location isn’t, after all, everything and you may be tempted by a larger home in a less favoured area. But do be aware of the higher running costs of a larger property and factor this into your decision-making. Choosing a home is a very personal decision and you may not know what you want until you see it.

Once you have a rough search area start to view properties with the features you are looking for – you will probably have an idea of number of bedrooms so that is always a good starting point. Always be prepared to compromise to a certain extent because rarely will you find the ideal property but homes can be transformed so if a house or flat does not have everything you need but has the potential to be altered then bear that in mind before you discount it.

You will quickly get an idea of what homes cost with certain features in your chosen area and it is then time to get a good idea of what amount of mortgage you will be able to take out. Unfortunately many mortgage lenders no longer offer a “mortgage in principle” where you have documented proof of the amount you can borrow and remember that lending criteria have become significantly stricter in the last few years due to the economic downturn. You may find that you will not be able to take out as large a mortgage as you had anticipated. But once you have had a few quotes you will be able to fine tune your house search with a much better idea of your budget.

Next, making an offer, confirming the mortgage and getting a survey…