Getting into the property market: Advice from first-time buyers

When thinking about buying your first home there are a lot of things to consider. First is what do you want, and the second is can you afford it? From a finance point of view there are a lot of different schemes from the government to help you, such as no stamp duty for first-time buyers if the property is under $500,000, and a reduced stamp duty up to $550,000. There is also a grant specifically for first-time buyers purchasing new property. It is being reduced in the 2018-19 financial year, but it is still worth having and can make the difference to buyers being able to afford the deposit or not being able to afford it. Plus, developers will often help out too with offers and deals.

“Buyers looking to get into the market should make sure they have their finance pre-approved,” Hamish Bowman from Ray White in New Farm told PropertyMash. “That way, when they see something they like they can act quickly.”

“The market in Brisbane represents good buying in the
property clock cycle. It’s at about 6pm so a great time for first-time
buyers. There are currently exceptional buying opportunities in the inner-city apartment market.” – Hamish.

Buying an apartment

We caught up with Bella Macfarlane, a recent graduate from QUT who bought her first home in Brisbane last year: a two-bedroom, two bathroom apartment in Arthur Street, Fortitude Valley. She had been working hard and saving since before university, living with her parents in South Brisbane and has lots of great tips for people wanting to buy their
first home.

“Saving is such a big part of it, plus having a good agent and finance team,” explained Bella. “As a first-time buyer, you need someone who will take the time to explain everything to you. I worked four days a week while studying, my parents have property so I was always really focused and I knew what I was saving for.”

advice for first home buyers

PropertyMash Editor, Sarah Tayler, chatting to Bella about her buying experience. PHOTO CREDIT: Georgia Goodchild.

If Bella could give tips to other first-time buyers it would be to think ahead and consider what you might use the property for in the future – for instance having a roommate to get some extra income or accommodating children.

“I chose this building in the end because I really wanted something new and I was happy that I could have some influence over the design and I really liked the overall look of the building.”

As well as choosing the building carefully, Bella cautions to pay attention to the details such as the quality of the finishes.

“I am really happy with the finish of the apartment, but you have to be careful because some developers try to save money on that aspect. The renders I was shown were really helpful to understand what it was going to look like, and the finished product is very similar to the artist’s impressions,” Bella told PropertyMash.

“One thing I didn’t know is that the first-time buyer’s grant is actually something you have to apply for separately. It is a lot of paperwork, but you can apply for it after you have already moved in.” – Bella.

“If you are coming from your family home and moving into an apartment, plants can make a huge difference to make it feel more homely. Also, some developers offer furniture packages which are really good value and save you a
heap of time looking for things.”

Building a house

Building a house for the first time can be intimidating, especially if you are also a first home owner. Manuel and Di Figota moved to Queensland from Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake with their two children aged 11 and 21. After renting for five years they made the decision to buy a home in Collingwood Park in Brisbane’s south-west. They searched for almost a year and finally found a house and land deal in Six Mile Creek Estate for $470,000.

“The plot was flat and had good soil quality which can save you up to $10,000 in building costs compared to a lot with poor soil,” Manuel told PropertyMash. When house-hunting they decided on building over buying an existing property because it offered great value for money, and as first-time buyers they were eligible for a grant from the government for building new. When giving tips to other first-time buyers Manuel said finding good consultants who are down to earth and really listen to what you want is really important.

advice for first time buyers building a house
The Figota's house construction in Collingwood Park, 2017.
advice for first time buyers building a house
The Figota's house construction in Collingwood Park, 2017.
advice for first time buyers building a house
The Figota's house construction in Collingwood Park, 2017.
advice for first time buyers building a house
The Figota's house construction in Collingwood Park, 2017.
advice for first time buyers building a house
The Figota's house construction in Collingwood Park, 2017.
advice for first time buyers building a house
The Figota's house construction in Collingwood Park, 2017.
advice for first time buyers building a house
advice for first time buyers building a house
advice for first time buyers building a house
advice for first time buyers building a house
advice for first time buyers building a house
advice for first time buyers building a house

“Our consultant used their experience to make suggestions and gave us tips such as recessing the shower base so you don’t have to step over a ledge to get in, and other small details that make a big difference once you are living in the property,” explained Manuel. The Figotas bought the property in April 2017, construction started in August 2017 and was due to finish in April 2018. But they were delighted when their new home was finished almost four months early.

“I wouldn’t change anything about our new home, it is exactly what we wanted. If I could give other first-time buyers advice it would be to get a good consultant that you trust who has your interests at heart and is transparent about all the costs.” – Manuel.

“The construction manager was really on top of it, he made a huge effort to make sure we could spend Christmas in the new place,” said Manuel.

The process wasn’t always easy though, and the sale almost fell through when Manuel and Di struggled to get the right finance package.

“The broker we were using wanted us to take a second loan to make our deposit bigger, and that just wasn’t an option for us,” Manuel told PropertyMash. “We had another broker recommended to us and that really made all the difference.”

The Figotas have only moved ten minutes down the road from their rental property in Forest Lake and are enjoying the new suburb. The only drawback is the waiting list on school places as the suburb is still very new.

Written: 4 July 2018, Updated: 21 January 2019

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