iStock image.The first step is the hardest. Most hopeful first-home buyers would agree that the initial leg up on the property ladder — saving a hefty deposit — is the biggest hurdle. But focusing too much on the eye-watering sum could overshadow other important steps towards home ownership. It’s not just the deposit. “The deposit is obviously the first and most important step. While some buyers have parents who can provide a guarantee, others will need some sort of deposit whether that’s 5 per cent, 10 per cent or 20 per cent, but then you also have stamp duty,” said Taj Singh, co-founder of advocacy group First Home Buyers Australia.Depending on the state or territory, and the type of property being purchased, stamp duty fees vary greatly for first-time buyers so it pays to visit firsthome.gov.au at the start of the house-hunting journey.“On a $500,000 home, that could be more than $20,000. In the city property prices are much higher so stamp duty is obviously more, but in the regional areas it’s hard to pay that, too, because incomes just aren’t as high,” he said.Mr Singh said first-home buyers were on the back foot if they did not factor in the compulsory tax.“We meet people who are ready to buy, but they don’t know they have to pay this much stamp duty to buy their first home. They then have to save extra and when they are finally ready to buy, property prices have increased another few per cent in that time.”Do the house-buying homework. Don’t shop for what you can’t afford.“A lot of people say first-home buyers have a champagne taste on a beer budget, which is not really true,” Mr Singh said.More from news01:21Buyer demand explodes in Townsville’s 2019 flood-affected suburbs12 Sep 202001:21‘Giant surge’ in new home sales lifts Townsville property market10 Sep 2020Buyers may have a dream hit list when it comes to what property they want, but a little homework can go a long way towards avoiding disappointment.“We find a lot of first-home buyers have a good idea of where they want to buy, but they don’t necessarily know if they can afford it, or if the property is suitable for them. So check out what median prices are and how they’ve performed historically, also it’s good to research amenities in an area so once your family grows, you’ll know if you’ll still see yourself living there,” he said.Think outside the box.“Consider a strategy we call short-term pain, long-term gain,” Mr Singh said.“Rather than being disappointed because you can’t afford that dream home now, consider buying a smaller property, or a property farther out and pay that down quickly. Then after some time you can look at upgrading, or buying in a more desired area,” he said.“Aspiring first-home buyers are realising the dream is not necessarily to buy where they grew up, or where their parents are telling them to buy. It’s more about just getting into the market, being motivated to pay off the property and then upgrade.”Homebuyer or landlord?Today’s first-time buyers fit into two camps: those looking for a home, and those opting to go down the “rentvestor” path.“What ‘rentvesting’ is all about is actually living (and renting) where you want to, or have to live, but buying where it’s more affordable,” Mr Singh said. He said a growing number of “rentvestors” chose to stay with their parents longer while they built up equity in their investment.