It’s the biggest investment you’re likely to make in your lifetime, so it’s important to devote ample time to researching the financial implications of buying your first home.

Let’s face it, nobody likes unwanted surprises, let alone when it comes to forking out your hard-earned cash. So, here’s a list of some things to expect when saving for your first home and how to ensure you are in the best possible position when it comes to sealing the deal.

Deposit

A deposit for your first home is likely to be your biggest challenge in getting a foot on the property ladder.

The more you can save towards your deposit the better off you will be, but at a minimum you will need to have 5% to 10% of what you expect to spend on your first home as a down payment. If you borrow less than 80% of the property value, you will also have to pay lenders mortgage insurance, which is initiated by the bank in case you default on your loan.

There are some lenders who allow you to borrow more than 80% of the property’s value but saving more means you will have less to pay off in the long run. Keystart is a transitional lender in WA, offering low-deposit home loans starting from just 2%, as well as additional benefits such as no lender’s mortgage insurance (LMI) or monthly account keeping fees. Their interest rates are higher than other traditional lenders such as banks, so it’s wise to work towards refinancing as quickly as possible.

Keep track of expenses

If you’re serious about owning your own home, you’ll need to rein in any extravagant and non-essential spending. The best way to do this is to have a budget and to stick to it.

Becoming a homeowner and saving a deposit is a case of keeping your eyes on the prize. Making small sacrifices like cutting back on a daily coffee or forgoing your regular Friday night take-out can pay dividends in your savings account in the long run.

A spreadsheet or a budgeting app that sets out your expenses is a good idea and will help keep you on track. It’s also good to set aside the deposit funds in a separate bank account, where there could be financial penalties if you make withdrawals. This will serve as a good deterrent to dipping into the account.

Additional fees

Buying a house isn’t just about paying the sale price. There’s a raft of additional fees you will need to pay as part of the process so it’s worth thinking about these early and to start saving towards them.

Additional fees can include conveyancing and settlement costs, stamp duty, pest and building inspections, council rates, utility bills and mortgage registration.

Lenders Mortgage Insurance

Lender’s Mortgage Insurance, also known as LMI, is an insurance that the bank or lender takes out to insure itself against the risk of not being able to recover the outstanding loan balance.

This is required if the borrower is unable to meet loan repayments and the property is sold for less than the outstanding loan amount.

In most cases, mortgage insurance is required if you are borrowing more than 80% of the value of the property. But while it may be another expense, it also means it will be a quicker journey to owning your own home rather than waiting until you save a deposit of 20%.

First homebuyer grants

Most governments acknowledge that buying your first home is an expensive exercise and offer incentives, such as one-off first home owner grants, to help first-timers into the market.

In most states, the grants only apply to new homes or those under construction. Established homes are no longer eligible for the FHOG and recipients must live in the property for at least six months of the 12 months after the transaction.

In Western Australia, the $10,000 First Home Owner Grant is available for buying or building a new home. There are no income or assets tests to qualify for the FHOG, however the total value of the home must not exceed $750,000 if the property is south of the 26th parallel, or $1 million if north of the 26th parallel.

First homebuyers in Queensland may be eligible for a grant of $15,000 towards buying or building a new dwelling if the property is valued at less than $750,000. The grant is paid per new home, not per applicant.

And in Victoria, a First Home Owner Grant of $10,000 is available if you are buying or building a new home valued up to $750,000.

Stamp duty

In most Australian states and territories, stamp duty is calculated on a sliding scale. That means the cheaper your property, the less stamp duty you will pay, but specific percentages and thresholds vary from state-to-state.

As well as the property’s location, the total amount of stamp duty to be paid will depend on the purchase price and whether you’re a first homebuyer, owner occupier or investor.

For example, in Western Australia, if a homebuyer is eligible for the First Home Owner Grant, a concessional rate of transfer duty applies. The threshold for a house is $530,000 and $400,000 for vacant land.

In Queensland, the first home concession applies to properties valued under $550,000 and can save you up to $15,925, while in Victoria first homebuyers do not pay stamp duty at all if the property is purchased for $600,000 or under.

House and land package upgrades

Given most state government grants are offered for new homes and not established properties, it’s no wonder many first homebuyers are turning to house and land packages.

It’s worth remembering that if you truly want to make a house your home with tailored inclusions above the standard specifications, there will be an added expense.

For example, you may want to upgrade the kitchen appliances or include ducted or split-system heating and cooling, a solar system, or a garage or a carport. These will all add to the bottom line, so it’s important to consider this in your savings plan.

Landscaping

Australians are big lovers of the great outdoors so it’s important to consider whether you want to create a private sanctuary and how much you want to spend.

Standard house and land packages rarely include landscaping so it’s worth speaking to an experienced landscape gardener to get a firm idea about the costs you might be up for when landscaping your new home.

Earthworks, retaining walls, turf, decking, paving and planting should be considered as part of the quote.

Furnishings

If you’re about to get a brand spanking new home, you’re going to want it to look at its best.

Factoring in funds to buy furnishings such as dining settings, couches and whitegoods that suit your new home will make it more homely. This also includes carpets and window treatments, such as blinds, curtains and shutters, depending on your tastes.

Extras

Being in charge of your own patch of paradise also means you’re responsible for council rates and utility bills, as well as maintenance costs that might crop up. The old adage of ‘saving for a rainy day’ is never truer than when you become a homeowner and it’s well worth setting up fund to cater for emergency repairs to save you from being caught off guard without the money to pay for them.

Satterley is Australia’s largest private residential developer and has built over 170 communities across Western Australia, Queensland, and Victoria. For more information about all Satterley communities, visit https://satterley.com.au/land-for-sale

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2021-11-22 Property Tips

A guide to saving for your first home

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