First home buyer hacks and traps to avoid

Melissa Jenkins
(Australian Associated Press)

Don’t rush, get independent sales history figures and secure pre-approval for your loan to boost your bargaining power.

These pointers apply to all home buyers, but can prove especially useful if you are plunging into the property market for the first time.

In a environment of record low interest rates, a cooling housing market and a raft of stamp duty concessions, there have been more first home buyers over the last few months than in the last five years.

Loans to first home buyers reached a five-year high in November 2017, accounting for 18 per cent of total owner-occupied home borrowings, dipping slightly the following month to 17.9 per cent, according to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Between November and December last year, the average loan size for first home buyers rose $7,600 to $334,700.

AA Financial Planning managing director Kane Jiang says first home buyers often rush into buying property to keep up with those in their social circle when they should take their time instead.

“Quite a lot of first home buyers rush into making decisions and it could be that they follow the herd, some friends … or some family members,” he said.

Mr Jiang said sometimes first home buyers make price the leading criteria, which can have its drawbacks later down the track.

“Things are cheap sometimes for a reason,” he said.

“It could be that the area might not have a lot of future growth or future potential or it could be an area that is not an ideal place to eventually raise a family.”

Mr Jiang advises some first home buyers to consider having a trusted family member or friend bid for them at auction so they stay within budget, which should factor in stamp duty and legal fees.

He said it was important to research a suburb’s property sales history using data from an independent source rather than relying on information from real estate agents.

ASIC’s MoneySmart senior executive leader Laura Higgins said it’s important for first home buyers to research what type of mortgage best suits their needs.

For example, when considering a mortgage linked to an offset account, first home buyers should research whether that feature works for people with similar circumstances.

“Understand how a product is put together and understand where the real benefit is for you and if it’s actually a cost saving for you over time,” she said.

Mr Jiang said it was prudent to secure pre-approval for a loan before making an offer, which makes you a more attractive option for a seller needing to move quickly.

The official cash rate is at a record low 1.5 per cent, where it has remained since August 2016, but the Reserve Bank of Australia is widely expected to start hiking rates as early as the end of the year.

Mr Jiang said some first home buyers might consider a fixed rate home loan for the next few years to provide more certainty around loan repayments, while others may make extra repayments to establish a buffer in the event of rate rises.

Ms Higgins it was important to revisit your mortgage regularly to ensure it still meets your needs.


– Consider locking in your loan, or a portion of your loan, at a fixed interest rate for a few years while interest rates are low

– Get a building and pest inspection if it’s not a new property

– Research the reputation of a developer if considering a new home

– Get pre-approval for your loan

– Get a trusted family member or friend to bid on your behalf at auction

– Get suburb sales history from an independent source


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