First home buyers are back in the property market.

After being squeezed out in the home buying wilderness for years, the regulatory and banking measures to dissuade investors (particularly from overseas), are starting to have an impact and open the door for first homeowners.

Figures out last week showed the proportion of first home buyers in the property market hit a four year high in July, while their demand for loans for new houses hit a 38 year high.

That’s a great outcome. Now the key is to make sure the home you buy is the one you can afford. Here are seven steps to take to make sure you’re on the right track;

1. Check your credit score and look at your cash flow

Knowledge is power and you want to know how good a customer you will be for the financier if you borrow from them. You can find out how you rate for free at a number of credit score websites.

The higher your score, the better the interest rate on your mortgage you may be able to negotiate. Good credit can mean significantly lower monthly payments, so if your score is not great, consider delaying such a big purchase until you’ve repaired your credit score.

Banks have an advertised home loan interest and then discount that rate according to how good a payer or customer you are. Having multiple other products, like insurance and credit cards, with the bank should also qualify for a discount.

As for monthly payments, experts say a good rule of thumb is to make sure the total monthly repayment doesn’t consume more than 30 per cent of your take-home pay. If it’s higher then have a plan to reduce it over a short period.

Because trading houses is so expensive (stamp duty, real estate commissions, conveyancing fees, moving costs) plan on being in this first home for at least 10 years.

2. Have cash for a deposit

Technically you can negotiate any deposit with the vendor. These days it can be as low as 5 per cent and is often contingent on the length of the settlement. A general rule of thumb is the shorter the settlement the smaller the deposit can be negotiated.

But your financier may stipulate a higher deposit so that you have greater equity in the property to protect the value of the home loan from any falls in property values.

Just remember if the deposit is less than 20 per cent the financier will often require you to take out mortgage insurance which will cost about 0.5-1 per cent of the value of the loan.

3. Plan for surprise expenses

Even if you can afford the monthly payment, be aware of hidden costs. Buying a home means stamp duties, legal fees, insurance and council rates that can add up to hundreds of dollars per month.

For people who have come from renting, these extra costs can be a shock so make sure you’re well prepared and have a bit of a slush fund in the household budget.

Don’t forget to inquire whether you qualify for a first homeowners grant and for stamp duty concessions in your State.

Simple savings strategies from Kochie. 

4. Get pre-approved for a mortgage

Once you have the financial budget in order and decided to take the plunge into a first home determine how much you can afford to spend and stick to that limit.

Talk to the bank about a pre-approved loan up to a certain limit before house hunting, which demonstrates to you, the real estate agent, and to vendors how much you can afford. When you’re in a bidding battle with other potential buyers a vendor will usually take an offer from those with a pre-approval letter before those without one.

Remember though, you don’t have to spend every cent up to the approved loan. It’s generally good practice to aim for a home that costs less than the maximum approved amount.

5. Find the right real estate agent

Always remember real estate agents are working for the vendor. The higher the price they can get out of you, the more they receive in commission from the seller.

Having said that, finding a good real estate agent who understands your needs, can pay large dividends in the long run. Reach out to friends for recommendations, and interview several options to determine their level of experience and expertise in the suburbs you’re interested in.

Buyer’s agents are becoming popular. They act for you and do all the legwork of finding the perfect home, and dealing with real estate agents … for a fee. It can be a flat fee or a percentage of the value of the property.

Your can also hire a buyer’s agent to simply bid at an auction on your behalf.

6. Start the hunting within your price range

Start off by determining your general needs — where you want to live, how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need, and certain school zones you’re trying to be in.

Then, become your own expert. Technology has empowered people like never before to do a lot of the searching online, and to really understand the market before actually going out in person.

Websites like have become research essentials.

7. Put in an offer you’re comfortable with

Buying a home is a very emotional process. It’s important to remain rational and stick with your price limit while buying. A lot of times people get caught up in bidding wars, and will go way over what their price limit because they love the house so much.

Don’t just put in an offer because you’re emotionally drained and desperate to finish the process. Expect to miss out on a few homes before you find the one.

If you’ve found the right one, make your bid quickly. There may not be much room to negotiate or drive the price down, as you’ll likely be facing competing offers.