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First home buyer profile

Caitlin and Joel

Loan amount:

Monthly repayments:

Grants accessed:
First homeowner $15,000 and 2020 HomeBuilder $25,000.

15 per cent plus 5 per cent guarantor finance to reach the 20 per cent threshold required to avoid paying Lender’s Mortgage Insurance (LMI).

While 2020 was the year many things in the world fell apart, it was the year everything came together for house hunters Caitlin and Joel, both 33.

“We had always talked about buying a house,” Caitlin says. “Then 2020 happened. Our jobs were secure because we were both working in schools. And when all the Government grants started coming out we thought, ‘Okay, maybe we can do this’.”

In June this year, they got the keys to their first, and hopefully forever, home – a four-bedroom, two-bathroom new build – completing a two-year journey.

“It’s lovely being in our own house because it’s ours. We can do what we want, and I don’t have to worry about inspections. I’ve got a lovely, beautiful, big kitchen. Before we’d only ever had teensy-tiny kitchens,” Caitlin says.

And watching what has happened in the rental market makes her extraordinarily grateful she and husband Joel made big leaps at the right time to secure a home.

Understand your needs

Caitlin says the fact she and Joel had lived in many different rental homes and had two children helped inform their choices.

“We knew what we wanted and what we didn’t want. We picked the land and the house based on where we wanted to grow our family. It’s close to work and we loved this community,” she says.

With an outer metropolitan location as the starting point, the couple approached a builder and chose a house design before they applied for a loan or found a block of land.

Fortunately, it worked for them because their builder jumped on board to help them secure land in a competitive market. After hearing about an upcoming land release in their dream location, they bought off-the-plan to nab a prime 707sqm corner block next to bushland. Then the clock was ticking to line up finance.

It’s personal

The whole thing almost went pear-shaped at the start, when the couple approached a local broker who, although well-regarded, seemed to find more problems than solutions.

“It was issue after issue and we thought we were going to lose the block of land,” Caitlin says.

After a personal recommendation from Caitlin’s brother, they turned to a broker who was based 1700km away and immediately found the help they needed. It led to two of Caitlin’s greatest learnings:

  • Personal recommendations trump online reviews.
  • Everything that matters can be done over the phone or online.

“Something I didn’t realise at the start was that I thought you probably had to meet face-to-face. But I think it actually ended up making it a lot easier that we could do it online. They were happy for us to ring them at any time or email at any time, and that made it easy. We even did our legal stuff digitally,” Caitlin says. To this day, Caitlin has never met her broker or his staff in person, but was grateful for their support throughout.

“Having a broker meant we didn’t have to do the running around. We both work full time. We’ve got two young kids. We’re time poor. And having a broker made it a lot easier. We could just say, ‘this is what we want’ and they would help with that,” she says.

The loan

After taking advice from family and their broker, Caitlin and her husband decided to split their loan, with the majority variable and a smaller amount fixed. The flexibility to make additional repayments and have an offset account were the deciding factors.

“We also made sure we didn’t borrow to our maximum, knowing interest rates could rise, and they have,” Caitlin says.

While the couple had a sizeable deposit saved, it didn’t quite meet the 20 per cent threshold required to avoid paying Lender’s Mortgage Insurance so Caitlin’s parents guaranteed the difference, saving them thousands. And with the meteoric rise in property values since they purchased in 2021, Caitlin says her broker expects to have the house revalued and her parents released from their guarantor obligations within months.

“We’ve honestly been really lucky with the whole process. The market has changed a lot in two years, but I think it will continue to change as well,” she says.

Tips: Caitlin’s advice for those thinking of buying or building:

  • Join online forums: “There’s some Facebook groups for first home buyers. I’ve learned lots on that.”
  • It’s a team effort: “We had a great broker. We ended up with a fantastic builder. We had good people in our corner who felt like they had our interest at heart and wanted us to be successful.”
  • Put your name down early for land allocations: “Land goes pretty quick and that’s something we didn’t know to start with. So, put your name down on (developers’) lists early.” But also, be patient: “We could have bought a different block of land early on, but I’m thankful we didn’t because what we ended up with was so much better.”

Home help

FEDERAL: Under the new Government, several schemes will operate to help buyers onto the property ladder.

1. Help to buy (new)

Open to 10,000 Australians each year who do not own a home and are earning less than $90,000 a year for singles and $120,000 for couples.
Under the scheme, the Government will pay up to 40 per cent of the purchase price of new homes and 30 per cent for established homes, holding this stake.
Owners can buy back Government equity during the life of the loan, but any remaining when the property is sold must be returned with proportionate capital gains.
Participants must have a 2 per cent deposit and be able to service the loan and pay stamp duty and other establishment fees. They will not need to pay Lender’s Mortgage Insurance (LMI).

2. First Home Guarantee

From July, this expanded to 35,000 annual places for eligible first-time buyers who do not have a 20 per cent deposit. They must have at least 5 per cent, with the Government guaranteeing the remainder up to 20 per cent to avoid the need to pay LMI. An additional 5,000 places are available for single parents with as little as 2 per cent deposit.

3. Regional First Home Buyer Support Scheme (new)

Acknowledging rapid price growth outside capital cities, this Labor election promise is a regionally focused expansion of the First Home Guarantee and will be open to 10,000 buyers each year.

STATE: Incentives of up to $30,000 are also available to first home buyers depending on location and whether it is a new or existing property. To find out what State-based grants apply to your circumstances, contact me for a detailed breakdown.

Any advice contained in this article is of a general nature only and does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. Therefore, before making any decision, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice with regard to those matters. Information in this article is correct as of the date of publication and is subject to change.