Collas Crill's 'Queen of Apartments' Sharon Therin gives her top tips...

1 Visit your bank's mortgage team or mortgage broker to find out how much you can borrow; it is generally five times your own, or your joint, salary. Beware: any outstanding debts could affect the amount you can borrow.

2 You now know what you can borrow and the fun begins - viewing properties! Make a list of your priorities, for instance parking, private garden, the potential to extend. As a first time buyer you are in a strong position to strike a deal with a seller. Don't be afraid to make an offer at less than the asking price. They can only say no!

3 So you have found the property you want to buy. You need to go back to your bank to make a formal application to borrow. The bank might have already said it would lend what you need but be aware their agreement is made subject to receiving a satisfactory survey on the property, which confirms that it is worth what you have agreed to pay. You pay the bank for this report, but it is undertaken for their benefit and does not look closely at the structure of the building. Therefore if you are buying an older property you might wish to get a more detailed survey. Bear in mind that the more detail in the survey, the more it will cost.

4 How do I find out what the legal fees will be? Your estate agent will undoubtedly recommend some firms for you to call and get a quote for legal services. Friends and relatives may recommend their own lawyers. Do shop around and don't be afraid to ask what you are getting for your money. This is the biggest investment you are likely to make - the cheapest quote may not always be the best.

5 How do I make the best use of my legal adviser? We are there to help and guide you through the transaction, so don't be afraid to call or email us with questions when they arise. Remember we have agreed a fixed fee so it doesn't matter how often you contact us, the fee remains the same. We are gathering all sorts of information for your benefit and will be happy to discuss any concerns you have, big or small.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.