How to prepare to buy your first home in 2023

Financial Planning, First time buyers, Home buying & selling
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There is nothing quite as exciting as buying your first home. Home ownership has become a rite of passage in Australia – a marker that you are successfully moving into a new phase of life.

But part of the reason it’s so satisfying is that there are challenges to be overcome as a first homebuyer – especially around securing finance, and the hurdles are magnified in 2023 as we tackle an uncertain economic landscape.

Organising your loan can be tough without guidance, so we’ve answered a few common questions to help get you into that first home with less stress and more success in 2023.

How much can I borrow?

When lenders assess your loan application, they look at several factors to determine your borrowing capacity.

The biggest among them is your home finances. The way you treat your dollars in the months leading up to your loan application will be a significant influence on the outcome.

To this end, you’ll need to have already implemented a budget and savings plan to help grow your deposit. This healthy deposit will be a benchmark figure in gaining a first homebuyer loan approval. Generally, the higher your deposit in percentage terms, the easier it is to finance the balance.

Lenders will then look at your household’s “profit and loss” sheet. They want to see details on income and expenses – so be prepared to share details.

This includes discretionary spending, so the six months leading up to applying for a loan is not really the time to spend wildly on travel, dinners out and new clothes. Being seen as sensible and frugal by the lender goes a long way toward loan success.

I believe the smartest move new borrowers can make is to engage a mortgage broker as soon as possible after deciding you want to buy your first home. We can help you establish budgeting practices and strategies that will improve your chances of securing a first homebuyer loan. We can also assist in seeking loan pre-approval so you know exactly what you can afford to spend on your first home.

How much deposit will I need?

As mentioned earlier, a healthy deposit goes a long way toward securing your loan. By the same measure, you don’t want to get stuck in an indefinite deposit-saving loop. At some point you need to determine how much is enough and take the leap into buying your first home.

The size of the deposit you’ll require is subject to several factors – including the general financial landscape in Australia at a given point in time.

In 2023, gaining finance will remain relatively challenging. Financiers are dealing with guidelines set by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) who are responsible for regulating lending institutions.

APRA directives have seen banks implement more rigorous lending parameters and more scrupulous analysis of financials. As such, you might need a slightly larger deposit in 2023 than was previously the case. Although these elements may ease at some future date, they must be allowed for in your calculations. 

Lenders also generally have differing deposit requirements depending on your needs. For example, the level of deposit for a homebuyer will vary from that of an investor.

Generally speaking, the more deposit you have, the better your chances of home loan success. That said, there are strategies that will allow you to boost your deposit when your savings are low, such as through government grants or with Lenders Mortgage Insurance.

As a general guide, whilst a 20% deposit i.e. if purchasing a property for $500,000, then $100,000 would be required, is preferred by lenders, you can buy with a 10% or even 5% deposit if you meet the criteria.

Aiming for a 10% deposit is a very good starting point though.

What is Lender Mortgage Insurance (LMI)?

LMI is mortgage insurance that is required by the lender when you are borrowing more than 80 per cent of the property value, which is not unusual for first homebuyers.

The confusing part for some people is the insurance isn’t for the borrower, even though you pay for it. It’s actually to protect the lender in case you default on your mortgage repayments. While it can cost a few thousand dollars, this amount can be capitalised (i.e. added to) your loan, so it’s not like you have to immediately come up with extra funds to enjoy the benefits of LMI.

LMI can be a useful tool for first-time borrowers because it allows you to get into the market quicker than if you try and save up a larger deposit. This is particularly useful if the market in your area strengthens in 2023 and you want to strike quickly when a prime opportunity presents. One of the keys to successful property ownership is “time in the market” which means getting in as soon as possible to enjoy more capital growth. LMI is a way to achieve that.

How about guarantor loans and government grants?

Guarantor loans are a way for the “Bank of Mum and Dad” to help you buy your first home without having to make a cash contribution.

It requires the guarantor (i.e. your parents or another generous relative) to secure the loan by offering a slice of the equity in their own home, which funds any deposit shortfall.

It can help you boost your deposit from, say, 10 to 20 per cent, which means you won’t be liable for LMI. This structure will also usually attract more favourable loan terms.

Your home loan is guaranteed by the family member’s equity until such as a time as you’ve paid down the principal of the loan (that’s the original loan amount) or the property’s value has increased to the point where the guaranteed portion can be released.

In 2023, I think we’ll see more of these structures too. Despite a general slowdown in property markets, many long-term owners, such as parents, have seen a substantial rise in their property’s value compared to a few years back. This added equity can be put to good use in a year where cost of living for the young could be a challenge.

Another way to boost your deposit is via a First Home Owner Grant. These schemes are state and territory based, so you will have to seek information pertinent to your jurisdiction, alternatively, you can just contact us and we guide you through the relative offers available. Your qualification for a grant and the amount you can access will vary depending on several factors. For example, as of right now, a first homebuyer in New South Wales can qualify for a $10,000 grant if they purchase a newly built house, townhouse, apartment, unit or similar for $600,000 or less, or if they contract on a house-and-land package for $750,000 or less.

It’s also worth noting that most states and territories also offer stamp duty concessions to first homebuyers.

Your mortgage broker can help you research what discounts and grants you might qualify for as part of your loan application.

How do I deal with repayment?

Your loan repayment will be a function of the amount you borrow, the period for which you have the loan and the prevailing interest rate attached to your mortgage.

Therefore, the way to minimise your repayment is by borrowing less (by either spending less or having a bigger deposit), borrowing over a longer period and/or by seeking the loan product with the lowest real interest rate.

The key should really be to avoid overleveraging. You should have financial buffers in place to cover unexpected costs – particularly in the initial years of your loan while you’re building equity.

You can work out your likely mortgage repayments by clicking this link which will direct you to one of our handy calculators.

What are some other buying costs?

As well as the purchase price of the property, there are several other costs associated with buying your first home. These additional costs can be anywhere between five and seven per cent of the purchase price.

One of the biggest costs is stamp duty which is collected at a state government level. Stamp duty is calculated based on the property’s purchase price and can run into many thousands of dollars. Fortunately for first homebuyers, many will be eligible for stamp duty concessions. 

Some of the other costs that you’ll need to budget for include:

  • Loan establishment and service fees
  • Lenders mortgage insurance (LMI)
  • Settlement and drawing fees
  • Registration fees
  • Building and pest reports
  • Solicitors fees
  • Insurances
  • Council and water rates
  • Owners corporate or body corporate fees

Be sure to factor these into your budget going forward so you are not caught short.

Securing your property

With finance pre-approval in place and sound knowledge of your financial situation, you can now source and secure your first home with confidence.

Choices around what type of home you want will be entirely individual with location and budget both playing major roles in your decisions.

Of course, sorting through listings and attending open homes are all part of the education too. Then there’s the negotiation and settlement processes where you’ll be dealing with an array of new professionals such as conveyancers, and building inspectors. You may want to tackle all this yourself or might choose to draw on the expertise of a buyers’ agent.

However you decided to proceed, having certainty around your lending before you start the search will deliver a great result.

If you’d like to explore what can be achieved in terms of borrowing for your first home, don’t hesitate to contact our team at Intuitive Finance. We have the networks, skills and guidance to ensure the best possible outcome when it’s time to take the plunge and buy your first home.

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Lachlan Mirams