Taking your time, doing your homework and asking the experts for help are all ways in which you can prepare for buying your first house.
A number of organisations offer valuable advice, and even financial support.
Considering the costs of buying a house, it's a good idea to ask a professional to take a look at your income and expenses before you decide to go ahead. Online calculators can give you an idea of the basic costs, but an in-depth analysis of your current and future financial situation is best left up to the experts.
Our Finances section has information and links to advice about saving, spending and budgeting for the big purchases like houses and cars.
Buying a house involves signing a contract. Lawyers (for example, a solicitor or a conveyancer) are often used to give advice and to help make sure all legal obligations have been met by both the buyer and the seller.
The Law Institute of Victoria's Choosing a Lawyer pages have information about how to find a lawyer that's right for you.
Help with your research
A lot of your own time will be spent doing the research, but there are services out there that can save you some effort.
Online real estate websites often have profiles of different suburbs and towns. Real estate institutes can offer property data that lets you compare sales prices across locations.
It can also help to get to know the real estate agents in the area where you want to buy, and ask to have your name added to their mailing lists.
If you're thinking about buying an older property, a house inspection can be an easy way to discover any hidden and potentially expensive problems. Consumer Affairs Victoria's Inspect properties before you buy page has some good tips about house inspection services.
Financial assistance from the government
Depending on your circumstances, you might be able to apply for financial assistance from the government.
The Deparment of Health and Human Services's housing website has information about Victorian Government services and support.
The Victorian Government's First Home Owner's Grant offers a one-off payment of $10,000 to people who bought very first home on or before 1 July 2013.
There may also be some concessions that you are eligible for as a first-home buyer. The State Revenue Office's First Home Owner page has some information about this.
If you need more advice about buying property, there are some great resources out there.
Consumer Affairs Victoria's Buying property pages offer a comprehensive guide to things like dealing with real estate agents, attending private sales and auctions, and what to think about when arranging finance.
The Real Estate Institute of Australia's Buying a Property pages have a lot of tips about purchasing property that can help you work out what you can afford, how to find a house, how to make an offer and what to do when you sign the contract. There's also a handy glossary of all those tricky real estate terms.