AS YOUNG people embark upon their working lives following school, college or university they are bombarded with all of the things they need to be thinking about to ensure they are well prepared financially for the years ahead.

From pensions, to saving a bit for a rainy day, the list of financial planning priorities can seem endless, bemusing and, quite frankly, a bit boring.

Of all those priorities, however, perhaps one in particular stands out and it is actually quite exciting: when can I own my own home and, more to the point, how can I afford it?

Owning our homes has been quite a distinctive feature of the UK for a long time, with the introduction of right to buy in the late 1980s only serving to emphasise the aspirations of people throughout the country.

Homeowners can now conveniently be split into a whole range of groups, from so-called second-steppers looking to move up the property ladder to individuals and couples who have decided that they no longer require the large family house they’d lived in for years and would prefer the option of cashing in some equity and downsizing.

Among the highest profile, and if you’re a politician possibly the most important of these groups, are first-time buyers. Arguably, they form the foundation of the whole housing sector.

It’s no secret that in recent years first-time buyers have found it more difficult than ever to find the financial resources to purchase their first home, especially with the need to accumulate a sizeable deposit.

The reasons for this are myriad, from tighter lending regulations from banks, to increasing demand and rising prices in the most popular areas, such as our largest cities.

However, having recognised these challenges, both the UK and Scottish Governments have launched a number of initiatives to assist first-time buyers, including help with building a deposit.

One of the most popular of these initiatives is the Help to Buy ISA, which essentially provides first-time buyers with free cash, alongside their own savings, to make buying a first home a little easier.

Those opening a Help to Buy ISA will see 25 per cent added by the Government for each pound they deposit. So £1,000 deposited will become £1,250. It is a kindly gesture, and certainly not to be sniffed at.

In addition, if a couple is buying a property together, both are entitled to the 25% bonus if they each open an ISA.

To be eligible, you must have never have owned a property anywhere. You also need to be 16 or over.

As ever, there is a little more to it, but if you’re a first-time buyer, it’s undoubtedly an attractive option.

That said, there is a small fly in the ointment. The Help to Buy ISA is only available to new savers until November 30 this year.

There is a replacement for the Help to Buy ISA, called the Lifetime ISA. There are a number of similarities and you can actually open both, albeit the 25% bonus only applies to one.

But there are also some differences. Among these is that with the Lifetime ISA you can actually save more, but with a Help to Buy ISA, the bonus is triggered more quickly.

In addition, you can withdraw penalty free with a Help to Buy ISA, but if you have a Lifetime ISA, taking out funds for anything other than to buy a first home, will attract a penalty.

There will be different reasons and benefits for choosing either of these, depending on your circumstances, but if you are exploring the possibility of buying your first home, bear in mind the period for applying for the Help to Buy ISA is coming to an end.

If buying a home for the first time is on the horizon, planning and research are key.

The internet can be great starting point, but if you’re not familiar with the home-buying process, it can be complex.

Getting advice from an independent mortgage adviser or financial adviser could make that dream home a reality sooner rather than later.

The Help to Buy ISA could be just what you need, but you need to get your skates on. Because when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Kevin Gardiner is mortgage operations director at Aberdein Considine.