Ever since I was a little girl, my mother always told me that one day when I will get married, I would have a house of my own. Since then, I started dreaming about my own place and making elaborate plans of furnishing it.

But at 33, when I was still not married and living with my parents, I decided not to wait for marriage anymore to own a flat. Much against my parents’ wishes, I decided to put all my investments into my dream home. Hence, I began my tryst to find a place that could define itself as my future home.

But despite being a keen buyer, I had a hard time being taken seriously by brokers and real estate agents. Real estate market to my dismay was still a male dominated area.

So I decided to up my game and take the bull by its horns. Hence I made a checklist:

1. Shortlist a property that is not far from your work. The distance between your home and your work should be less than an hour. Lesser time on the road ensures more time in your humble abode.

2. Strengthen your credit scores: Start paying your bills and credit card dues on time, this will ensure better home loan deals from banks.

3. Have a pre-approved mortgage: This will help you pick a property that will fit your budget. It will also expedite the loan process once you have found a good flat.

4. Build healthy savings: There are many hidden costs of buying a house, like brokerage, stamp duty and other basic renovation costs that are not covered by the home loans. Your savings can help you sail through these expenses.

5. Home buyers should also keep in mind the monthly costs associated with purchasing a flat, like the monthly loan EMI and home maintenance cost. Worry not if you don’t have a concrete figure—the point is to see if you can afford a ballpark amount every month.

After taking into account all the above details, I started shopping for my dream flat. As my office was in Gurgaon, I started looking for an upcoming flat in Gurgaon. There are few things one should keep in mind before buying a flat in this area:

1. Ensure the title is clear: The flats or apartment complexes under construction in Gurgaon should have the allotment letter of the land if it has been purchased from a government agency. If the land has been acquired from farmers, check the title paper which mentions the owner. This will help you determine whether the title of the property is clear or not.

2. Get a written agreement: A written agreement should have specifications of the apartment and all the terms and conditions, including payment plan and time of delivery. The quantum of penalty if any party defaults, such as, lapse of construction deadline in the case of the developer and payment schedule in case of the buyer, should also be mentioned in a written agreement. This will also take care of hidden costs if any. If one is buying a house in a completed project, the buyer should physically check the occupation certificate, fire safety equipment and mechanism, water and electricity connections and property tax receipts for the project.

3. Be doubly cautious: It never hurts to be cautious. Check the track record of the developer and bargain well so that you get the best deal.

4. The buyer should check the area of the apartment. The area marketed and sold is the super built-up area which is used to work out the cost of the apartment. But, the developer charges for the built-up area should include the area enclosed by the walls and the area occupied by the walls. The actual usable area is the carpet area which is the area within the walls.

Also, the approvals of building plan and floor plan, structural safety certificate, a no-objection certificate from the civic authority, environment clearances, and urban land ceiling certificate should also be procured. The buyer should have the occupation certificate, fire safety equipment and mechanisms, water and electricity connections and property tax receipts for buying a flat in Gurgaon.

Buying a home is a major milestone, and for most of us, a top life goal. But it is also one of our biggest financial fears. But with time, care and research, we can make the right decision.