Buying a house is both stressful and incredibly exciting – especially if it’s your first time.

And you’ll soon realise that there are no shortcuts when hunting for your home – well, none that really work.

So instead of setting yourself up for disappointment, or chasing the impossible, why not sit down a draw up a sensible list over a cup of coffee? Where to start?

What can I afford?

Even before you decide on a location, the number of bedrooms, and pool versus jacuzzi, you need to know how much you can spend. The banks may have a different view on this than you do, so step one is to approach your bank (or a couple of banks) and find out what they are prepared to lend you. If you are a first-time buyer, you may well get 100% loan. If not, then you will have the figures you need to allow you to get your deposit together. For a quick result, make use of one of the many home loan calculators out there, which will give you a pretty good ball-park figure. Don’t forget to add the “additional costs” of bond registration and transfer.

buying a house of your own

Buying a house you actually want

Your lifestyle and future plans will dictate the best property for you, so a good old wish-list is a great place to start. City or suburbs? Townhouse or small-holding? Gated community or freehold? Do you need to be close to schools, the highway, or medical centres? You can also pick out a few desired locations and take a Sunday drive to get a feel of them before starting your property search.  This list will automatically eliminate areas which don’t fit, and narrow down your search parameters.

Take note of the area! Take a look online, or talk to an estate agent about area trends – are they going up or down? Will your property investment be safe if you decide to sell in a few years?

Keep your options open

Once you know how much you can spend, and where you want to live, you’ll be faced with a host of choices. Tudor style versus contemporary? Above the road? An old fixer-upper or a home where you can move in and unpack? Don’t buy the first thing that comes along (although that can be a great thing if you know exactly what you’re looking for.) Rather make sure to view the properties that fit your requirements and your budget and give them a fair chance. Sometimes, knowing what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you do.

Common sense should reign supreme when you are buying a house. Emotional purchases can cause a whole heap of trouble, so it will pay you to poke around once you have found something you like.

Our following article: Your personal checklist when buying a house: Part 2, goes into more detail on how to find a rose among the thorns, and not get caught with a lemon.

If you have any helpful advice for people buying a home, we’d love to read your comments below.