You have decided like the majority of Australians that it is time buy your own home. But what do you do next, where do you start, who should you speak to. Purchasing a house is the single largest investment that most people will ever make. As such and before you enter into a Contract of Sale or even start looking for a property there are a number of matters you should attend to ensure the whole process runs smoothly.

The single most important element is arguably finance.

The amount that you are able to comfortably borrow will determine the amount you can spend. But more fundamentally are you a good credit risk, will you be able to obtain finance and will the terms of that finance be acceptable. In order to eliminate potential liability in the event that you cannot obtain finance, you may decide to make the Contract of Sale subject to obtaining finance.

That is if you are unable to obtain finance, the contract will be at an end. However if you are purchasing at auction you will more than likely be unable to include this condition meaning you should be very certain that you will be able to obtain finance and the amount that you can borrow prior to bidding.

Now that you know how much you can spend, the next step is to acquire an understanding in respect of prices in the area that you might like to purchase in. You will need to research prices and past sales to work out what is a fair market price. Remember you cannot rely on the selling agent, they act on behalf of the seller, not the purchaser and essentially one aspect of their job is to obtain the highest and not necessarily the fairest price for the seller.

Once you have identified a property that is within your price range, it is highly recommended that you have the Contract of Sale reviewed by your lawyer. What do the documents disclose about the property, good bad and indifferent. There is no point in purchasing the sellers problems.

Alternatively if you want to demolish the existing house and rebuild, renovate the current house, sub-divide or build townhouses, etc are you able to do so or are their restrictions contained in the certificate of title, convents or planning requirements preventing you doing what you would like.

The contract documents should be reviewed in the context of your plans for the property to ensure you can do what you want to do. Imagine purchasing a property with a view to building your dream house only to learn there is heritage overlay that prevents you from doing so, a costly mistake.

Finally and once you have completed all your due diligence, make an offer. As it is your offer and not the seller or selling agents offer you can include what you think is appropriate. The vendor may or may not accept that offer or propose different terms.

This is the commercial negotiation that will occur. At the end of that negotiation, if there is a meeting of the minds you will enter into a Contract of Sale with the seller for the purchase of the property.

As always this article contains general information only and should not be relied on for detailed advice related to your particular circumstances. Should you require such advice, please contact your lawyer.

Freya Southwell is the lead property lawyer at Sutton Laurence King Lawyers. Freya can be contacted on 03 9070 9810 or frs@slklawyers.com.au.