Home buying experts

Sarah Stow

Principal Financial Planner and Property Investment Adviser
Profolio

Craig Heppell

Director
Agent in a Box

Andrew Blachut

Licensee
Property Now

Damian Collins

President
REIWA

Bill Nikolouzakis

CEO
IBuyNew &
Nykoproperty

Nicole Marsh

Buyers Agent
Eureka Buyers Agents

Craig Gemmill

Managing Director
Gemmill Homes

Jenna Hooper

Product Manager
CoreLogic

We asked them:

What tips do you have for people starting on their search?

Sarah Stow

Pay off bad debt first- Do you have credit cards or personal loans? Not only do these hinder your ability to borrow, they will also kill your cash flow once you get in the new house.

Craig Heppell

First and foremost - have your ducks lined up. Make sure your finance is approved and you know your budget limitations. Don’t ask for opinions/advice from everyone and anyone. Everyone who has ever bought a property thinks they are a property expert. Find tips from real experts or those who may be experienced investors.

Andrew Blachut

Because this is your first house, limit your risk and exposure so that your first ever purchase builds your wealth instead of it potentially creating a problem for you down the track. Buy well within your means and inside a suburb where infrastructure is in place and employment is high.

Damian Collins

Once you know which suburbs you’re interested in buying in, take your time to learn more about that area. It is imperative to do your research. What is the median price of homes in that suburb? Does this fall within your range? Is the house close to schools, transport, recreational facilities, shops etc? Does it meet market demands when it comes to reselling at a later date? Make sure to think of your first home as a stepping stone for your future.

Bill Nikolouzakis

Whether you’re buying a first home or becoming a rentvestor, the key is to do your research. Find out exactly what you can borrow, stick to your budget and never let your emotions get in the way of making a sound decision. Understanding both federal and state grants and duties is also vital, along with surrounding yourself with the right professionals. A mortgage broker that has experience with first home buyers and conveyancer should be the starting point. Buying your first home is all about taking steps up the ladder to eventually purchase the dream home.

Find out exactly what you can borrow, stick to your budget and never let your emotions get in the way of making a sound decision.

Nicole Marsh

I suggest first home buyers get their formal finance pre-approval in place and ready to go - BEFORE they even start looking. Then you will know exactly how much you can spend and can negotiate confidently to that level. An extra $10,000 or $20,000 in purchase price can often equate to purchasing a home with an extra bedroom, bathroom, or even a pool. It could make the difference between buying your long term ‘dream home’ and a home that will do for now.

Craig Gemmill

Finance is the first step. Finding out what you can borrow, what incentives are available – i.e. stamp duty concessions, First Home Owners Grant. Every state is different.

Jenna Hooper

Until you know what you can afford, it’s pointless watch-listing properties or trudging around Open Houses. You need to know your parameters and any areas of your financial record you need to address before you start on the whole homebuying journey. Check whether you are eligible for the First Home Owner Grant. This programme was introduced on 1 July 2000 to offset the effect of the GST on home ownership. It is a national scheme, funded by the states and territories and administered under their own legislation. Under the scheme, a one-off grant is payable to first home owners that satisfy all the eligibility criteria. You need to visit your our state’s office of revenue website to check your own eligibility.

What are the most common mistakes that first-time home buyers make?

Sarah Stow

Over-spending. As a rule of thumb, we say clients should spend no more than 30% of their net income on mortgage repayments. If you are earning $1000 in your bank each week, we would say you can comfortably afford $300 per week in repayments without over extending yourself. Using the above rule again, if your repayments are less than 30% of your after-tax wage bump them up to pay your mortgage off faster and save you thousands of dollars in interest.

Craig Heppell

Always give your budget a little stress test - what happens if we have to live on one wage for a time (babies, redundancy...). Also, avoid postcode prejudice. “Oh, we can’t live in X!” Well, guess what? X is your most affordable, sensible option.

Andrew Blachut

Agents and private sellers will take you far more seriously when they know you have finance approved. So much so that if the seller were to receive 2 identical offers and only one has finance approved, then that buyer will likely get the property. In fact even if your offer is lower (but you are already finance approved) and the other person isn’t, then you may still win the property with the lower offer.

Damian Collins

Not understanding the contract. Generally you take a property “as-is” when buying. If you want the contract subject to building and pest inspections, you need to include those terms in the agreement. If you are buying at auction, then it’s worth getting a pre-purchase inspection report up front. It’s a big decision, so don’t rush it and regret it later.

Bill Nikolouzakis

The first time you do anything is a learning experience and buying your first home is no different. The biggest mistake we see first home buyers make is getting too emotionally invested and not being subjective about what they want to achieve with the purchase. This can lead to overpaying for a property or buying above their budget. Either of those things can make the process a lot more stressful than it needs to be and doesn’t serve them best.

Nicole Marsh

Don’t be afraid to pay for good advice and expertise. If you find the right advisors, the information they provide will be worth their fee ten times over. They will remain unemotional and will make sure you keep a level head through the whole process. Secondly, I often see first home buyers get so caught up in the aesthetics of a house - they will forgo a great house, in a great location - because it has an ugly kitchen or bathroom. I would buy an ugly house in a great location any day. The house you can fix, but the location you can’t.

I often see first home buyers get so caught up in the aesthetics of a house - they will forgo a great house, in a great location - because it has an ugly kitchen or bathroom. I would buy an ugly house in a great location any day. The house you can fix, but the location you can’t.

Craig Gemmill

Rushing the process. Do your homework, maximise your spend on your home and work out a wish list. What can the builder do in their packages and what can you do over time to add value to your home? Don’t go crazy spending up big on expensive inclusions that may not add value i.e. a swimming pool may cost you $15,000 but does it add $15,000 worth of value to your new home? Most valuers will tell you cost does not always equal value.

Jenna Hooper

Property is our national obsession. Residential real estate accounts for a whopping $7.6 Trillion of our nation’s asset classes. When everyone has a property story to tell, everyone has an opinion. But the reality is that the property market dynamic moves like no other. Even experts can be taken by surprise, so it definitely pays to be actively up-to-date in terms of your property market understanding: and we’re not just talking the snippets you see in the news headlines.

What are some possibly unexpected things that a first-time buyer should plan for?

Sarah Stow

With banks now making it increasingly difficult to lend, avoid any lending issues by seeing a mortgage broker before purchasing and getting a pre-approval in place. There are always extra costs that come up when buying a new home, from connecting services to buying new furniture, make sure you have a buffer built up and put aside so you aren’t going into your new homeowner journey on the back foot.

Craig Heppell

Knowing down to the last dollar how much it will cost to live in and own the property: mortgage, insurances, council rates, body corps (units etc), general upkeep etc. Be prepared to adjust your lifestyle: eating out/holidays to Bali/going to the opening of an envelope/buying the latest 4WD may have to be put on the back burner.

Andrew Blachut

First time buyers should be ready and able to act swiftly once they find the perfect home. It’s good to realize that the better the property, the more likely it is that others will be wanting it. By being ready and able to place a deposit down immediately that an offer is accepted, you will get the full attention of both agents and private sellers.

Damian Collins

Settlement costs; pro-rata rates, taxes, home insurance and potentially transfer (stamp) duty costs can add up to a substantial amount at settlement. Work out with your broker or bank how much you may need.

Settlement costs; pro-rata rates, taxes, home insurance and potentially transfer (stamp) duty costs can add up to a substantial amount at settlement.

Bill Nikolouzakis

Before you even start the search for a property speak to a mortgage broker with strong first home owner experience and they will make sure you have enough funds to complete the purchase including all costs.

Nicole Marsh

Make sure you know your purchasing costs before you start and put it all in a spreadsheet. Things like a pest and building inspections, conveyancing costs, and any initial maintenance work required. Then there’s removalists costs, costs to have the electricity and phone connected - and don’t forget to set aside some cash for the housewarming party. You will only buy your first home once!

Craig Gemmill

The most practical advice I can give, is make sure you are organised before you apply for a loan. Understand that everything you do is going to come under more scrutiny. It’s not just a simple process anymore. Technology has been a real game changer. People are using less cash, so everything can be tracked when you use your cards. Make an informed decision before you buy, knowing that someone is watching you.

Jenna Hooper

Lastly, may be well out of your frame of reference for the time being, but thinking ahead 5+ years for school zones is recommended, otherwise you may find yourselves moving before you want to - remembering that the average time people hold onto a property in Australia is currently 10.3 years. You can find nearby schools to any property in Australia at onthehouse.

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