If you’ve never bought a property before, or perhaps it's been years then it can seem a daunting endeavour….

Looking for a home can be different for everyone, some will find a home on their first weekend and others will look every weekend for many months. To try to be the former and not the latter it is important that you are prepared and know what you want, but also remain flexible.

The first and most important step for every buyer is to work out what your budget is. This should be realistic and based on what you can comfortably afford to repay. Talk to your friends and family to find a good mortgage broker and make an appointment. If you already own a home and will be selling, get in touch with some local real estate agents to find out what your property is worth.

Unfortunately step one brings us all back to reality and our dream of a beachfront mansion flies out the window. But now that you know your budget, you can start asking yourself the questions that will help you to decide on a home. The main ones are location, basic features (bedrooms, bathrooms and garaging) and age/condition. There are many more question to consider; are you a keen gardener or is a paved courtyard more your style? Does public transport matter to you? How far are you willing to commute? Are you willing and able to renovate? All these questions and more need to be answered to work out what the non-negotiable needs are and which features you want but can be flexible with.

Now that you know what you can afford, where you want to live and the kind of home you want to buy, it’s time to start your search. Jump online and put in your search criteria and set up an email alert with the major sites. Local agents will also have a buyers list that get exclusive access to homes before they hit the market, so get on the phone or drop into the office to register as a buyer.

The hard but often fun bit begins now, attending open inspections. This is where you’ll need to be sure about your needs and wants. Open inspections can be short and you’ll often have to rush through to make time to see all the properties you want to see. If, at the end of the weekend, you have a few properties that might suit, don’t be afraid to ask for a private inspection so you can take your time to look around and ask all the questions that are racing through your head.

So you’ve found the right property, inspected it a couple times or didn’t need to, and you’d like to make an offer. Ask the agent for an offer form, some might insist on going straight to contract, don’t let this worry you as you’ll still have your cooling off rights. Be realistic with your offer, know what it's worth, include as much information as you can on your offer, offer amount, deposit, settlement period and conditions.

Depending on the agent, the situation and the vendor, the negotiating can vary quite a lot. You may simply get a yes or a no. If it’s a no, the seller might counter offer or most commonly they will ask you to increase your offer. Negotiating can be difficult, especially because you are doing it with someone that does it every day, but that doesn’t mean you’ll walk away feeling like you’ve lost. If you know your budget and have a good understanding of the property’s worth then stick to it and all parties can win.

Most buyers will make a building inspection a condition of their offer, it is best to conduct this within the Cooling Off period, which, in South Australia, is two clear business days after you have been served a fully signed copy of the Contract and Form 1. If the building inspection finds some major defects then you have a few options, continue with the contract, renegotiate the price or have the vendor do the repairs, or Cool Off and walk away. If all has gone well and you are continuing with the contract you’ll need to engage a conveyancer and get a copy of the contract to your broker so they can process your loan application.

Congratulations, you’ve bought a house, time to start packing.