It may not always seem like it, but mortgage lenders are actually falling over themselves to get business from first time buyers. Apart from being more flexible with their existing deals, they also create special products aimed at those hoping to get a first foot on the property ladder. Figure it out The numbers game is the biggest issue for most first time buyers. Figures from the government reveal that the average house price in the UK now stands at £159,480. But if you are earning an average salary of under £25,000, how will you ever get the mortgage you need? It is a dilemma facing thousands of people. The number of first-time buyers entering the property market is now at its lowest level since records began in 1974 according to research from the Halifax. During 2002, 526,300 first-time buyers purchased a property, but this figure dropped by almost a half in 2003. If the financial headaches ended with getting a mortgage it would not be so bad. Buying property also means finding cash for valuation fees, the mortgage arrangement fee, solicitor's charges and stamp duty. But don't despair. Lenders are doing more than ever to make dreams come true for first-timers. Multiple choice Traditionally, you can borrow three times your income, or two and a half to three times the joint income of you and your partner. These are known as income multiples. But many lenders now offer higher multiples to attract borrowers who need the additional cash and are prepared to loan what they think you can afford to pay. It is also possible to obtain four times the main income plus one times the second income or even three times the joint income. It may be tempting to take the maximum amount offered and buy your dream home. But over-stretching your finances could lead to problems further down the line if you cannot afford the higher repayments. Think about what would happen if you lost your job or wanted to take a break from work to start a family. The full monty If you are paying rent and bills, there may not be much money left at the end of the month to build up a deposit. But it is worth trying to put something aside as this usually gives your greater choice when it comes to mortages. Paying for 20 or 25% of the cost of the property will probably help you secure a much better mortgage deal as loans of less than 80% of the property's value tend to be in lower interest rates and attract fewer fees. The minimum requirement with many lenders is 3%. One alternative is a 100% mortgage. The rates are usually slightly higher on these loans and the downside is that if property prices drop, you will immediately find you have negative equity, where your mortgage is higher than your property value. These deals also tend to attract a Mortgage Indemnity Guarantee or Premium. Put simply, this is an insurance premium you pay for that pays out to your lender if you cannot keep up repayments on the mortgage. In short, these loans cost more and carry more risks. Get certified Self-certified mortgages were created for borrowers who have fluctuating income or are self-employed and who would otherwise struggle to get a traditional mortgage. This type of loan does not require you to give proof of income but in most other respects the mortgages are the same as a standard mortgage. Most self-certified loans require a delcaration of income from the borrower but some lenders may insist on further information, such as confirmation from your accountant. As always, though. it is crucial to avoid the temptation to borrow more than you need and over-stretch yourself. Many lenders also require bigger deposits - up to 25% of the value of the property - on self-certified mortgages than on standard mortgages. The added risk for the lender means that these loans often attract slightly higher rates, too. Ray Boulger of mortgage broker Charcol, comments: 'While they do tend to be more expensive, competition has forced that margin down. Some lenders are now offering the mortgages on the same terms as their mainstream loans.' Work it, own it If you are newly qualified and struggling to pay back university debts, you may get a lucky break. Certain jobs attract extra help with first mortgages. 'Key workers' such as nurses, teachers and police officers may be eligible for the government's Starter Home Initiative which provides help with deposits. Professionally qualified borrowers such as doctors or accountants may be offered preferable rates from lenders. Family values So long as you don't mind remaining attached to the apron strings, there is a way that parents can provide practical help. Some lenders offer special deals that accept your parents as guarantors. Put simply, this means they agree to assist if there are any payment difficulties. Most lenders ask the parent to guarantee all of the loan but some only ask them to be guarantor for the element outside what their child can afford. The MarketPlace at Bradford & Bingley offers an exclusive version of the 1st Start mortgage, which is specifically designed for first timers. The product allows first time buyers to include their parents income when calculating how much they can borrow. The deal, funded by the Bank of Ireland, is a 2-year discount with a current pay rate of 4.29%. "With many parents having to physically find large amounts of cash to help their children with a deposit, this product offers an alternative solution. It allows parents, or indeed a relative, to use their income to help secure a larger loan, preventing them from having to find all that cash,' explains Elliot Nathan of The MarketPlace. Rent a room Of course, if you do not have wealthy parents or would prefer them not to have control over your mortgage, there are other options. The Inland Revenue's Rent-a-Room scheme has special rules that usually apply when you take in a lodger (broadly, a lodger is someone who pays to live in your home, normally with meals provided, and who often shares the family rooms). Under the scheme, a certain amount of gross (that is, before expenses) income can be received tax-free from furnished accommodation in your only or main home. You cannot, however, then claim any expenses, or capital allowances. The 2003-04 allowance is £4,250. Special Rent-a-Room mortgages are also available which allow borrowers to add the rental income from letting one room onto their salary before their income multiples are assessed. This means the scheme - ideal for low earners - enables the borrower to add the £4,250 allowance onto an income multiple of 3.25 times their salary (or 2.75 times joint) when borrowing. 'Many people are concerned about over extending themselves when it comes to mortgage borrowing,' explains David Bitner, technical manager at The MarketPlace. 'This solution provides a structured means of borrowing while at the same time allowing many more people to become homeowners. 10 key questions Consulting an independent mortgage broker is a sensible move for anyone with unusual requirements such as first-time buyers who need to borrow more than lenders typically allow. Asking these 10 key questions will help you get the right deal: * How much can I afford to borrow? * How can I tell which mortgage rate is best for me? * What is the best type of mortgage for me? * Which repayment method is best for my circumstances? * Can I make lump sum payments to reduce the size of the loan? * Are there any redemption penalties? * Does this mortgage come with compulsory insurance? * What other charges will I have to pay? * What happens if I can't pay? * What about the small print?