Buy your first home with the right facts and the right home loan.
If you're a first home buyer, you don't have the luxury of time or money to choose the wrong home loan, so we've saved you the trouble and distilled our home loan knowledge into a guide which goes through comparing and applying for a home loan all the way up to what grants are available.
Learn from the collective wisdom of one of Australia's largest comparison services and keep more of your money and time for the things you want to do.
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- What about the first home owner grant?
- How do I know if I am eligible for the first home owner grant?
- Are there any other grants I may be able to get?
- What is stamp duty and how much will I need to pay?
- Can I buy a house at auction for my first home?
- How does cooling off relate to buying property?
- Why life insurance is important after buying your first home
How to compare first home buyer home loans
Once you've decided to purchase your first home, you'll need to obtain finance. This can be done before purchasing a property with pre-approval, or once you've found a property. You'll apply for your desired loan amount, and your lender will decide whether or not to grant you the loan.
Because of the competition in the home loan market, there are thousands of different loan products available. Deciding which one to apply for can be tricky unless you follow a procedure like the one below.
A good baseline way to compare the various types of home loans listed below is to use the key facts sheets which lenders are required by law to provide.
A key facts sheet will include information such as:
- The basic features of the loan such as interest and comparison rates, interest type, term of the loan, loan amount and repayment frequency.
- The total amount you’ll pay back over the course of the loan
- The establishment and ongoing fees applicable to the loan
- How much you’ll repay each month and each year
- How much extra you’d pay if your rates increased by 1% p.a.
- The difference putting an extra $200 a month towards your loan would make on the loan term.
A key facts sheet can help you sort through the advertising and get through to the bare essentials a loan has. It doesn’t explain all of the major features a home loan might come with, so be sure to also get acquainted with these further below.
Types of home loans available to first home buyers
The next step to selecting a home loan is knowing the different types which can be found in the market. Many of us know about the standard principal and interest and interest-only loans (if you don’t we’ve got you covered below), but there are a huge range of loans you may encounter on your first walk through, and it literally pays to know what they are.
Principal and interest home loans
A loan principal is the amount you’ve actually borrowed, whereas the interest is the charge you pay for borrowing the funds. Principal and interest loans make up the majority of Australian home loans, and put a portion of each repayment you make to pay off the interest due and also some towards paying off the principal.
As you pay off your principal, there’ll be less interest due, so more of your repayments will go towards the principal.
The example below shows the proportion of your repayment that goes towards paying off interest and the principal in the first year, compared to how this changes in the 15th year. Note how the amounts which go towards paying off your principal greatly increase as the loan term increases. This is how a loan is eventually paid off.
Interest-only home loans
Interest-only loans will see none of your repayments go towards the principal, but rather completely to the interest that’s due. This means your loan will never get smaller, but also means your repayments will be smaller than with an equivalent principal and interest loan.
If paying off a home is your aim, interest-only loans may see the process lengthened, and may see you pay more interest than with an equivalent principal and interest loan. It should also be noted that due to recent regulatory moves by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), lenders have tightened criteria for interest-only home loans, particularly for owner-occupiers. It may be difficult to qualify for interest-only repayments as an owner-occupier.
Low doc loans
Applying for a regular, or ‘full documentation’ loan involves providing information about your income and assets. This will include recent payslips, letters from employers, proof of income including from rent, shares, government and superannuation, your assets and your debts.
A low doc loan won’t require as much of this information, providing an option for borrowers who are self-employed or investors who don’t have the ability to show a regular income. They generally have higher interest rates or will often require a larger deposit.
If you elect to purchase vacant land and build a home, or extensively refurbish an existing home, then you may need a construction loan. Constructing a home will require funds at different stages along the building process, so this loan allows you to progressively get access to money when you need it, otherwise known a a ‘drawdown’. Because you're only using funds as you need them, interest is only charged on amounts you've drawn down, and therefore you can save money.
Read through all the fine print on these loans, as the construction process is vulnerable to delays and cost increases which may need to be taken into account. Also be sure that your loan will allow the number of times you’ll need to withdraw funds to pay your builder.
Other loan types
There are other loan types, such as bridging loans which are useful when selling one property and buying another, equity release loans which allow you to access the equity you’ve built up in your property and use it, and finally line of credit loans, which merge your home loan with your daily spending and saving.
These loan types are for obvious reasons not usually applicable to those selecting their first loans.
Rent to buy
A rent to buy scheme sees you sign both a rental agreement and an option to buy a property. The rental agreement will usually see you pay an above market rental rate which is held by the vendor and slowly builds up to form a small deposit.
You then use this deposit when the agreed time comes to purchase the property, and usually get a conventional home loan to pay the remainder of the purchase price.
There are two important areas of concern with rent to buy schemes. The first is that during the rental period you have no rights to the property, which means if there are any unforeseen circumstances and you can no longer pay rent you could stand to lose the additional money you’ve put into the property.
Another way you can lose the extra money you put into a rent to buy property during the rental period is by failing to get a loan when it comes time to purchase the property. Rent to buy schemes can be a very risky proposition, so you should consult with a solicitor before entering into an agreement.
Vendor financing is simply when a vendor offers you finance to purchase their property. The key difference between a regular loan is that you don’t own the property until you pay the full amount off. This means any equity you build up through paying the vendor isn’t released until you get ownership of the property.
If the vendor loses their property you’ll also lose the ability to later own it, requiring legal action. In addition, interest rates are generally higher. Once again, vendor finance can be a very risky option, so consult with a solicitor before entering into any agreement.
Definitions of commonly used home loan terms
|Principal||This is the total amount you've borrowed from a lender|
|Interest||Interest is the cost of borrowing, paid to your lender as a percentage of the loan principal per year.|
|Loan term||This refers to the length of time you have to repay the loan|
|Repayment frequency||How often you'll be paying off your loan. Either weekly, fortnightly or monthly.|
|Loan-to-Value Ratio (LVR)||An LVR gives a figure of the loan as percentage of the property's value. Calculating an LVR before attempting to purchase will help determine the minimum deposit required.|
|Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI)||LMI is the upfront premium that is payable when borrowers have an LVR of 80% or more. This covers the lender in the event of your default.|
Common loan features
Even once you’ve chosen what loan type you’re after, there are a number of features in addition to the interest rate and fees you’ll pay which will complete the comparison phase. Some of the more common features offered on a home loan are explained below:
- 100% offset account. A 100% offset account is linked to your home loan and allows any funds in the account to cancel out, or ‘offset’ some of the interest due on the outstanding loan amount.
- Additional repayments. Many loans offer the option to put extra money towards paying off your loan, and extra repayments can help to reduce the loan term quicker and the interest you pay. Some variable rate loans and most fixed rate loans will have a maximum amount of extra funds you can put towards your loan each year, while others may not allow any amount of additional repayments to be made. Find out how much you could save by paying extra.
- Redraw. A redraw facility allows you to get access to any additional repayments you’ve made on your loan. Redraw facilities are offered on many loans, and allow access to funds in the event you need them. Read the fine print on your loan, as some will have a minimum amount you can redraw at any one time.
- Loan portability. Selling a property and then buying another usually requires the closing of one loan and the opening of a new one. Loan portability is an option that allows you to keep your loan and simply transfer it over to the new property, meaning you can avoid paying fees such as application fees or cancellation costs. This option typically has a number of requirements, such as keeping the loan amount the same and carrying out the exchange and settlement of both properties on the same day and same time.
- Repayment frequency. Each repayment you make will get you closer to paying off your loan, and the frequency at which you make them is another choice you can make with most home loans. Most loans allow for weekly, fortnightly and monthly repayments, so you can choose to pay it off in a way that suits your income.
If you specify to make fortnightly loan repayments, you can squeeze an extra repayment in each year and pay your loan off sooner. Find out the tricks involved in fortnightly repayments.
- Repayment holiday. This feature is an opportunity to take a break from making repayments. It can be useful during times of financial stress, and can allow a break of three to as much as 12 months. The payments you miss out on are still payable later, and you’re still charged interest on the loan for this period.You won’t have to pay this interest during the holiday, but rather it’ll be added to your outstanding loan balance and will begin to be paid through your repayments when you start to make them again. This could mean your repayments are increased to see that you still pay off your loan in the agreed time.
- All in one account. Some loans allow you to merge your mortgage, savings and cheque accounts together, often with a credit card also being part of the account. This gives the advantage of consolidating your debts and being able to put your salary and other income into the account to reduce the interest payable. Many all in one accounts charge a higher interest rate and have higher entry fees.
- Salary crediting. This feature simply refers to the ability to have your salary directly paid into your home loan account.
Your borrowing capacity is how much you can borrow to purchase your first home, also known as borrowing power. There are a number of different factors to be taken into account, and the amount that you can borrow can change from lender to lender.
To get a general idea of approximately how much you may be able to borrow, you can use our home loan calculator. This should give you an idea of your monthly repayments and help you to work out what price range you should be shopping within. A complete assessment based on your personal situation of how much you will be able to borrow can be given to you by your bank or a mortgage broker.
While there's no one 'best' type of home loan for first home buyers, there are a couple of features which might be more appealing to borrowers trying to get into the market. While these are explained in more depth further down on this page, here's a brief checklist:
- A high maximum LVR. An LVR simply refers to the amount you can borrow as a percentage of the property value, and is usually limited at 80%, or as much as 95% if you're prepared to pay the extra LMI fee. A 95% LVR means you can borrow 95% of the value of the property, requiring you to come up with at least a 5% deposit. An LVR of 80% would see you require a deposit of 20%.
- Guarantor options. A guarantor is a family member willing to put a portion of their property on the line as security to help you piece together a deposit. Say you only have a deposit of 5% of the value of the property, and want to bump it up to 20% so you don't have to pay LMI. Your parents could guarantee this 15% of the loan with their property. If you failed to pay your home loan, they would be liable for this 15%.
- Minimal fees and low rates. If you're struggling to afford a property, you might want to keep costs down as low as possible. This means home loans with minimal upfront or ongoing fees, and one with a low interest rate.
- Good customer service. If this is your first property and first home loan, you might want some expert advice to help you manage your loan better and be there in times of stress or emergency. For this reason you might want to select a lender with a proven track record of having great customer service. You can do this by checking independent review websites such as productreview.com.au.
What's the minimum home loan deposit I'll need to buy my first home?
Just as there are a number of different factors when taking into consideration how much you can borrow, working out what the deposit requirements are for a first home buyer can change depending on the lender you choose and the type of home loan you have or are looking at.
As a general rule, you'll usually be required to have 20% of the total purchase price of the property to use as your deposit.
The other upfront costs of buying a property, such as stamp duty, can reduce the total amount of deposit you're able to put towards your home loan, so make sure you factor this in when calculating how much of a deposit you really have.
Don't be put off by the prospect of having to save so much money to cover your deposit, though. First home buyers may be eligible for various grants that may help to cover some of the other fees associated with buying your home.
Will I avoid LMI with my deposit?
If you have less than a 20% deposit your lender will require you to take out lenders mortgage insurance (LMI). LMI covers your lender in the event that you default on your home loan, and can cost several thousands of dollars depending on how much you're borrowing and the size of your deposit.
Most lenders require a deposit of at least 5%, even with LMI, and LMI costs for a loan where you only have a 5% deposit can be high.
Can I borrow 100% of the property price as a first home buyer?
Since the GFC, the days of no deposit home loans are now behind us. Now, the only way you can borrow with no deposit is with a family guarantee.
In some cases, with a family guarantor you can borrow 100% of the property purchase price. This involves your parents or another close family member guaranteeing a part of your loan with their own property. If you need a deposit of say $50,000 your guarantor can guarantee just this portion of your loan. In the worst case scenario that you can't pay the loan off, your guarantor is responsible for paying off this portion of the loan.
What are the other home loan requirements for first home buyers?
As mentioned above, you'll need a deposit of at least 20% if don't want to pay LMI, or at least 5% if you're prepared to shell out for this extra cost.
There are also other general home loan eligibility requirements you'll want to be aware of, such as:
- Your income must be high enough to service the loan you want. Your lender will use a serviceability calculator to work out how much you can actually afford to pay off. You can also use our borrowing power calculator to find out how much your income could allow you to borrow.
- You must be over 18. Most lenders will require that you're over 18 to apply for a home loan.
- Be a permanent resident of Australia or a New Zealand citizen, or a temporary resident with FIRB approval. This will depend on the lender, but you'll usually have to be one of these types of borrowers to be eligible to apply for a home loan in Australia.
Australian citizens and permanent Australian residents may be eligible to receive the First Home Owner Grant if they are buying or building their first home. Whilst your income and age do not restrict eligibility to receive the First Home Owner Grant, there are still criteria that need to be met.
In most states and territories of Australia there is a cap on the maximum purchase price of the property you can buy and still be eligible for a payment from the First Home Owner Scheme. The amount you'll receive for your First Home Owner Grant will vary from state to state in how much you will receive and if you are eligible so you should always ensure that you are referring to information specific to the state you are buying your first home in.
You may also be eligible for an additional Grant if you choose to build your first home or buy off the plan. Again, the amounts available will vary from state to state so it's worth checking with your own state's revenue department to be sure. Read our quick facts guide for more information.
How do I know if I am eligible for the First Home Owner Grant?
Your state's revenue department should have a complete listing of any prerequisites and requirements you need to fulfil in order to qualify for the First Home Owner's Grant.
The property must also be your primary place of residence; that is you need to live at the property in order to be eligible for the First Home Owner Grant. This means that it must be your intention to live continuously at the property within twelve months of settlement and then live there for at least six months as your permanent residence.
Are there any other grants I may be able to get?
The First Home Owner Grant is a federal initiative. Each state has their own different schemes and initiatives to help make the purchase of your first home more affordable. Your bank's lending representative, your mortgage broker, or your conveyancer may be able to help you find out what these initiatives are, if you are eligible and how to access them.
Alternatively, you can check with your individual state's revenue department to see if they offer other initiatives for first home buyers.
What is stamp duty and how much will I need to pay?
Stamp duty originally was a physical stamp that had to be included on a document before it was legally verified
Stamp duty is an upfront, state based tax that is levied on the purchase of property. It is important to take stamp duty into account when budgeting for your new home. As stamp duty is a state levy, the amount you need to pay will vary from state to state or territory, using different rules and calculations.
The cost of stamp duty can be quite significant and you should always determine how much the stamp duty will be when you are looking at buying any property. A good stamp duty calculator can help you determine how much you will need to pay so that you can account for it when budgeting to purchase your first home.
Can I buy a house at auction for my first home?
You most certainly can, but buying your first home at auction can present its own issues. The main problem for first home buyers purchasing their home or land for their first home at auction is that they must have funds ready to complete the purchase of the property on the day without waiting on finance.
If yours is the winning bid at the auction, you must have the deposit ready to pay on the day. Auction sales are unconditional so you are not able to cancel the contract if your loan approval from your lender is declined.
For this reason, you should consider applying with your chosen lender for a pre-approval. This is simply a conditional approval where your lender assesses whether you're able to afford the repayments based on your income and deposit amount, but your approval will be subject to them verifying all your financial information and conducting a valuation on the property you're buying. Once you have your purchase contract signed, you hand it to your bank for them to move your approval through to the formal approval, or unconditional approval stage and get it ready for settlement.
How does cooling off relate to buying property?
The cooling off period is the time in which you can take a moment to step back, go over the contract, seek advice, think about your decision, and walk away if you change your mind. Most people have in their life made purchases that they regret and wish they could take back to the store but can't. It's one thing to buy a pair of shoes on impulse that stretches you a bit tight until your next pay day, but it's quite another to buy a house or property on impulse which can affect your entire life.
The cooling off period when buying real estate is generally two working days after the date you signed the purchase contract. It may not be applicable in all situations, however (such as buying at auction). The cooling off period should not be used as a catch all solution if you are unsure if you should buy the house or property. If you have any doubts, find out if there is a cooling off period and if possible, talk to your bank representative or your mortgage broker or even to your legal advisor before making any decisions.
New home? Is it worth considering life insurance?
For many first time home buyers, buying your first home and taking out a mortgage is also a time to consider the protection you have in place to cover your financial obligations. Life insurance and income protection can help guard your mortgage repayments in the event that you pass away or are unable to work due to illness or injury. Buying a home is a massive financial commitment and while it is never a pleasant thought to have, the last thing you would want to happen is to leave those you love with a mortgage debt if you were to pass away. If you are looking to buy your first home, it might be worth reviewing your current life cover or taking out a new policy to ensure the right support is there.
Where to from here?
Comparing the interest rates and fees associated with a home loan round out the different ways to compare and select a home loan. One way to do this is through the comparison rate, which is a rate which by law must be included next to the advertised rate on every Australian home loan.
Selecting your first home loan shouldn’t be difficult, but it should be comprehensive. Decide on what type of loan you’re after, the features you’re looking for, and then finally take a look at the interest rates, fees and charges on the loans you’re interested in before you sign the application form.