First Home Buyers’ Checklist: What You Need To Know

By Johnny Nguyen

There’s nothing wrong with chasing the great Australian dream – after all, owning a home is an investment and a place you can truly call your own.

But in Australia, first home buyers only account for 17.6 per cent of total occupied housing commitments, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). However, getting on the property ladder doesn’t need to be an unattainable dream. Instead, by following the right steps you too can own your perfect first home.

Step 1: Work out what money you have to play with
Before doing anything else, you must first assess your finances to work out what properties you can apply for, and how much financial help you’re entitled to. This can be done by calculating your debt to income ratio:

Monthly expenses/pre-tax income = debt to income ratio percentage.

This figure lets banks or lenders see what you can afford in the way of mortgage payments. The maximum debt to income ratio is currently set at 43 per cent by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which is the highest possible ratio a borrower can have and still qualify for a mortgage.

Mortgage lenders can help you with these calculations and find out if you can get pre-approval for a home loan.

Step 2: Seek legal advice
Although extremely exciting, buying a home (first or not) doesn’t come without piles of paperwork. From covenants to easements, the legalities associated with buying a home can confuse the best of people.

Therefore, before purchasing a property, it’s important to get independent legal advice. Not only can a conveyancer help with the fine print details from complex reports and documents, they can also ensure all legal processes are followed. As purchase agreements are legally binding documents, it’s important you feel confident with every part of the process before signing.

Step 3: Think about property type
Currently, separate houses are the most popular type of occupied housing in Australia, with 72.9 per cent of people falling into this category, states ASB data. However, there are other alternatives that may suit other buyers better, such as townhouses or apartments. When deciding on the property type for you, consider the following factors:

Will the property you choose now work for you in the next five to ten years?
Are you willing to do work on the property or would you prefer a home without renovations?
Have you conducted your due diligence and are happy with the results?
Due diligence refers to conducting research about the property type itself and factors relating to it. Below are some of the most important factors buyers should consider before purchasing:

Location: Do you want to live in the catchment area for good schools? Are you close to amenities like shopping centres and public transport stops? Does the neighbourhood and people in it appeal to you?
House qualities: How many rooms do you need now? How many rooms do you need for the future? Is it suitable for pets? Is it pest free, dry and insulated? Is there enough storage space?
Practical issues: Is the area prone to flooding or natural disasters? Is the crime rate low? Are there any industries nearby that would affect your quality of living?
These questions are all important when considering the type of property you need and want. From here, you’ll be able to shrink the pool of eligible properties, making your choice a lot easier.

Step 4: Visit open homes
While you think you may have found your dream home online, in real life, properties can look a lot different. This is where open homes come in – they give buyers the chance to view the home in the flesh and help envision whether they could live there or not.

However, it’s important to make a plan in advance and consider the following:

  • Check for any signs of problems such as leaking, holes or mould.
  • Get a good gauge of the insulation, ventilation and heating.
  • Ask whether work has been undertaken on the home, and if so, what and why.
  • Test taps and cupboards to see if appliances work properly.
  • Assess the exterior of the home for size, cleanliness and whether work needs doing.
  • If possible, chat to any neighbours who may have come in for a look. Ask them about the area and just have a general chat to determine if you could live harmoniously in the same area.
  • Check if the property ticks the boxes for what you’re looking for.

Step 5: Going to auction
Once you’ve found the house of your dreams, it’s important to make the property agent aware of your interest. From here, you can go through the legal documents with your conveyancer before heading to auction.

At auction, grab your bidder number and wait for proceedings to begin. Regardless of what happens during the auction, it’s important to know and stick to your budget throughout. If you secure the highest bid, you’ll be asked to sign the sale and purchase agreement and pay the purchase deposit. The remaining amount must be paid on the settlement date stated in the agreement. On the same settlement day, you’ll get the keys to your very first property, ready for moving in.

From here, you can work on making this house your own home, complete with all of your personal touches and tastes.

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