Transitioning from renter to first home buyer

If you’ve been renting since forever and are getting sick of it, then you’re probably starting to think about the feasibility of buying your first home. Will it be an apartment, townhouse or free-standing house? Buying your first home might seem like a daunting task however: how much do you need to save? And where do you even start looking? And what if you forget to do something important?

To help you navigate this stressful process, we’ve bought together five easy steps to break the transition into owning to ensure you don’t miss anything and you can buy the home of your dreams ASAP.

Saving, saving, saving…….seriously

Ok, we are not telling you anything you don’t already know. Yes, you will need a deposit. To get that deposit you will need to save. We have all tried saving, but when you want to seriously start getting ready to buy your own home, it’s time to cut down costs and get down to business. Saving for your deposit — which, as a general rule of thumb, should be about 20% of the property cost (ie. if you want to buy a home worth $400,000, then you need to save at least $80,000) isn’t always easy. This may seem like a massive amount of money, and you’re right, it is. But if you have less than this when you want to buy, then you need to get Lenders Mortgage Insurance, which can be a costly additional fee. A larger deposit also means that your loan principle will be smaller, and hence your repayments which will make it more affordable once you own the home.

Saving this much money isn’t impossible though. You could save this in just four years by saving $1,666 per month from your salary. So $400 per week. That is not going to be easy be easy but for a two income household it is possible. Also this doesn’t include any extra money you may come into via tax returns, gifts or inheritances. Keep in mind that various grants are available to first home buyers, so you may not need to save the full $80,000 (up to $20,000 is available in grants in Queensland, for example).

Start the search

Once you’ve comfortably got enough money squirreled away, it’s time to start the search for your new home. This is such an exciting time, but don’t get carried away! Knowing what you want and need in your new home is a priority because it will help you find it faster. For example, you might need at least two bedrooms, a separate laundry room and be in close proximity to the city. In this case, you might consider an apartment or townhouse rather than a traditional house because it would mean you are closer to the CBD. It might be important to you that you buy an off-the-plan property because you want to secure that First Home Buyer Grant. Knowing what you want is half the battle when trying to buy, but we can help. Search every new and off-the-plan project in Queensland and the ACT on PropertyMash.

You must remember that it feels like it’s always a good and a bad time to buy a home. Lots of first home buyers get trapped into waiting for the market to be ‘just right’, which can be extremely difficult to time if you’ve never bought before. Luckily, there are websites like PropertyMash (that’s us!) or Domain who regularly post about how the property market is behaving. Of course, we’d recommend not getting too caught up in the property cycle when you first go to buy because you’ll be holding onto this asset for a while — property should also be viewed as a medium to long term investment!

Clean your (old) apartment/house

You’ll be wanting your bond back, if possible, so getting the place you’re currently renting into tip-top shape is first priority. Depending on how you’ve been treating it, this could be as simple as boxing up your belongings and giving the living room a thorough vacuum, or it could mean getting in a professional cleaner to save the space. You really want everything to look as great as you can, because getting your bond back means an extra $1,000 or so. You can use this money to buy new furniture, pay the first month’s mortgage, or set up a new savings account.

Get your ducks in a row

Now that you’ve bought a place and you’re getting ready to move out, it’s time to get all of your ducks in a row. Redirect mail to your new address, and update any important accounts with your new place of residence. Then, you’ll want to contact the power company of your choice to turn the lights on (we recommend getting the power to your place from one day before you move in, just in case it is delayed for any reason), along with water of course.

It’s important to do this as soon as you know you are moving in as it can cause issues if you wait too long. Missing important, time-sensitive mail that is sent to your old address — such as bills or wedding invitations — can cause some major headaches, so it’s one element of moving that you can’t afford to overlook.

Celebrate!

Don’t get so caught up that you forget to celebrate! You’ve just bought your first home, and now you’ll be living in it for years to come. All of your hard work saving has paid off, and you’ve got a space where you don’t need to ask before you put a nail in the wall, and where your roommates can’t complain if you leave the dishes in the sink for another day. Once you’ve moved in, invite your friends and family over and have a party to celebrate this new chapter of your life.

Buying your first home doesn’t have to be as daunting as it may at first seem. With some planning, a lot of commitment and research online website such as PropertyMash.com you really can still have that Australian dream of home ownership.

Written: 10 December 2019, Updated: 16 January 2020

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