First-Time Buyers: The Ultimate Buying Guide Your First Home
First-time buyers are at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to buying property. They have no equity to draw on to help them along. As a result, they have to rely on their own ability to save rather than the money they’ve already paid into a house.
Raising a deposit isn’t an easy task either. Many lenders have specific requirements in place when it comes to the money you use. At least a portion must come from genuine savings. This means you need to establish a pattern of putting money aside to show that you can meet regular payments.
Thankfully, the Australian government recognised the burden that this places on first-time buyers. To help them along, it created the First Home Owner Grant (FHOG). You may be able to use this grant to purchase your first property.
Of course, there are various requirements you must meet to access it. This article offers a comprehensive guide to what the grant is and how you can get it.
What is the FHOG?
Introduced mid-way through 2000, the FHOG provides successful applicants with a grant to buy their first property. The amount you receive depends on a number of factors, which we’ll get to in a moment.
The grant requires you to go through an application process and meet certain requirements. Furthermore, each state operates its own version of the grant. Though there are plenty of similarities, you will usually find that you receive differing amounts of money depending on the state.
That’s because it’s the states that fund the FHOG, rather than the federal government. As a result, each state or territory has the right to apply its own legislation to its version of the FHOG.
What Are the Eligibility Requirements?
As mentioned, each state is able to set its own eligibility requirements for the FHOG. Thankfully, they’re pretty uniform across all states. If you meet all of the following conditions, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to apply for the FHOG:
- You can only access the grant if you’re either building or buying your first property.
- You have to be a permanent resident.
- You’re not allowed to apply for the grant under a company name or via a trust.
- You have to be at least 18 years old.
- The property must be your primary place of residence within the first year of you taking ownership. This means that you need to live there for a minimum of six months out of that first year.
- You may not apply if you’ve previously owned a property. There does appear to be one exception to this rule though. If you bought a property after July 1st 2000 and lived in it for less than six months, you may be able to apply.
- You must have signed the contract to build or buy after July 2000. This shouldn’t be a problem for any first home buyer today.
- The property’s value must not exceed the limit. Each state has a different limit that you must stick to.
This covers the general requirements. But you need to know more about the limits that each state has in place. The following covers those limits as of September 2018.
The Breakdown by State/Territory
The good news about the FHOG is that it’s not the only incentive provided to first-time buyers.
Let’s look at what you may receive depending on the state in which you make your purchase.
Queensland is among the simplest of the states when it comes to the FHOG.
It offers a sum of between $15,000 and $20,000 as part of the grant. The exact amount depends on a few factors. These include the date that you signed the contract and the value of the property.
You can use the FHOG to help fund the purchase of a house, townhouse, or unit. You can also use it to help you build one of those property types. However, the property must not exceed $750,000 in value.
The amount you receive for the FHOG in Victoria varies depending on where you buy your property. Those buying a home in one of the state’s cities can access a maximum grant of $10,000. Those buying in regional Victoria see this maximum double to $20,000. Like Queensland, the property may not have a value of over $750,000.
Victoria may also offer you some concessions on stamp duty. This isn’t directly related to the FHOG. However, some of these concessions are only accessible by first-time buyers.
Australian Capital Territory
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has one of the lowest grants for the FHOG. You can access a maximum amount of $7,000 on a property valued at $750,000 or less.
There are also stricter rules about the type of property that you can buy. You can only access the FHOG in ACT if you buy one of the following:
- An off-the-plan property
- A brand new property
- An older property that has undergone substantial renovation
Furthermore, it extends the period that you must live in the property after buying. You have to spend the full first year living in the property, rather than the six months that most other states require.
On the plus side, ACT may allow a first-time buyer to defer paying duty on the property. This can help with immediate cash flow when making your purchase.
South Australia is even more restrictive than the ACT when it comes to the type of property you can buy. You’re only allowed to access the FHOG if you buy a new residential property. Moreover, that property cannot exceed $575,000 in value. Off-the-plan properties fall into this category. However, you can’t access the FHOG when buying a renovated property.
You do receive a grant of $15,000 if the property meets these conditions and you’re eligible for the FHOG.
You may also be able to access a stamp duty concession as a first-time buyer. This concession has a $21,330 cap for off-the-plan properties. That falls to $7,000 if you’re buying an established property.
Western Australia allows you to access an FHOG of $10,000 when buying or building a new home.
However, the maximum price cap varies depending on where you are in the state.
If you’re south of the 26th parallel, you’ll likely have to buy a property worth $750,000 or less. Those north of the parallel may be able to access the grant on properties worth up to $1 million.
There’s also good news for people who entered into a contract to buy or build between January and June 2017. They get a $5,000 boost to the FHOG, creating a total of $15,000.
Finally, those buying a property worth $400,000 or less may be able to access the Home Buyers Assistance Account. This gives them up to $2,000 more on top of the FHOG. However, you can only access it when buying a partially built or new home via a licensed estate agent.
New South Wales
The property price cap varies in New South Wales (NSW).
You can access a grant of $10,000 for both established new homes and building a new home. However, you’re capped at $600,000 for the property’s value when buying an established property. This rises to $750,000 when building your own.
On the plus side, you won’t have to pay a dollar in stamp duty when buying a property worth less than $650,000. Plus, there are various concessions available for properties worth up to $800,000.
Things are also a little easier for buyers with low deposits in NSW. If your lender has to take out Lender’s Mortgage Insurance (LMI), you may not have to pay insurance duty. Lenders typically take out LMI to protect themselves when buyers offer less than 20% of a property’s value as a deposit.
The Northern Territory has one of the most generous FHOG offerings in Australia. You can access a maximum of $26,000 when buying or building a new home. Better yet, there’s no purchase limit assuming you signed the contract after January 1st 2015.
First home buyers can also access a stamp duty discount in the state. This has a maximum limit of $23,928.60 and is only available for properties valued at $650,000 or less. There are further renovation and household goods grants available for those who qualify for the stamp duty discount.
All of these stack on top of the FHOG.
Tasmania altered its FHOG policies in June 2018. Those who signed a contract to buy or build a home between January 2016 and June 30th 2018 can access $20,000.
Unfortunately, anyone who signs a contract after June 30th can only access a grant of $10,000. The grant only applies to the following property types:
- Off-the-plan properties
- New homes
- “Spec” homes
- Owner/builder homes
Thankfully, there’s also no price cap to contend with when buying in Tasmania.
A Few More Things to Consider
That covers all of the eligibility requirements and what you’ll receive from the FHOG from each state.
Here are a few more things to keep in mind:
- You can apply for the grant directly from the state or territory. Each has its own FHOG website from which you can access the application form. Or, you can ask your lender to apply for the grant on your behalf when you’re applying for a mortgage.
- Lenders aren’t under any obligation to provide you with any information about the FHOG. Most will accommodate you because it can help you to make your purchase. But don’t assume they’ll automatically tell you everything that you need to know. Research the grant for yourself before speaking to a lender.
- When buying with somebody else, neither one of you can have received the FHOG before.
- The FHOG isn’t a direct payment. You’re only able to access it upon settlement of your property purchase. Those building their own properties can access it upon laying of the slab. However, you can usually speak with your lender and the seller to arrange to use it as part of a delayed deposit.
- Do not sign the FHOG form before signing the contract of sale or building contract for your property. You must sign the FHOG after signing the other contract.
The Final Word
With this guide to hand, you know everything you need to know about the FHOG.
Use this information to help you search for a suitable first property. This guide helps you to stick to the property value limits in each state and allows you to budget more effectively.