8 Steps to Buying Your First Home

There are few things that carry the same financial weight as our first home loan. This can be a stressful time for first home buyers and the process at times, can be a bit challenging.

To help, we’ve outlined 8 steps to buying your first home to give you an idea of what’s to come. But remember, nothing can replace the value of finding a mortgage broker you trust to help you through the process.

Step 1: Save your deposit

Before you start looking for your first home, you will need to be financially prepared by saving a deposit. Generally, saving 10% of the value of your first home is a great target since it meets most lender’s requirements. Ideally that 10% has been saved over a minimum period of 3 months which is known as ‘genuine savings’. Showing lenders you can regularly save means they trust you more to make your loan repayments.

That 10% will be split into 1) your deposit and 2) associated costs. One of the biggest costs will be stamp duty, along with legal costs, strata and building report costs.

Step 2: Establish your capacity

It is now time to figure out exactly how much a lender will loan you, and how much you can afford to repay. Financial factors that are considered include, how much you get paid, how much debt you have, your living expenses, your assets and more.

It will also be time to figure out what incentives are available to first home buyers in your state. Depending on the value of your first home, stamp duty might be waived or discounted along with potential first home owner grants.

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Step 3: Choose your lender and loan product

This is a pretty big step. Choosing your lender and the loan product you like is a big decision. But remember, choosing a loan is not just about the rate. Additional considerations, like if there is a fee to pay off a lump sum of your loan, if the rate is fixed for a period or the availability of offset accounts are all important. And sometimes a slightly higher rate might give you all the additional features you want.

Step 4: Get pre-approval

Having a home loan pre-approval means that your lender has given you a conditional ‘thumbs up’ for your home loan. This means you can go out and find that dream home secure in the knowledge of how much you can spend. The pre-approval to aim for is one where the lender has seen proof of your income, debts and other financial factors as this is the most secure.

A home loan pre-approval usually lasts between 3 and 6 months, so it means you have a firm budget in mind when you’re out there looking for the property you want to buy. It also puts you in a better position to negotiate on price, and is essential if you’re thinking about buying at auction.

Once you’ve actually found the home you want to purchase, your lender will want to know if there is anything major that has changed in that time, like changing jobs.

Step 5: Make an offer and buy the house

So, you’ve found the home you want to buy – yay! It’s now time to make an offer and hopefully have it accepted by the seller. One of the best recommendations at this stage is to get a pre-purchase pest and building inspection which can cost upwards of $500. I know it sounds pricey, but it is a good investment and could save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

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Once you have your building and pest inspection done, it’s time to dust off those negotiating skills and secure your house at a price you can afford (enter pre-approval!)

Step 6: Sign and exchange contracts

Once the offer is accepted, contracts are signed and exchanged. This is usually the time to get your final mortgage approval, and organise your side of the deal. This is also the step in which you will pay your deposit on the property. The majority of people hire a solicitor / conveyancer to handle the transfer for the property and organise settlement directly with the lender, according to the settlement date on the contract of sale. Once the settlement is complete, your solicitor will need to transfer the name of the property from the seller to yourself (the buyer).

Step 7: Cooling off

You have a few days cooling off period in case you change your mind and back out of the purchase. This period is designed to give the buyer the opportunity to get any further inspections done on the property and calmly make sure their decision to purchase the property was the right one. If you back out, you may lose some of your deposit. If you have bought at auction though, you won’t have the option – auction purchases are final!

Each state varies on it’s cooling off period time frames, so it’s important to check with the real estate agent or your conveyancer.

Step 8: Settlement

This is the fun part – settlement is when the keys are handed over and you officially become the owner of the property! Settlement usually occurs four to six weeks after the exchange of contracts, and is when the balance of the purchase price is paid to the seller. You are entitled to inspect the property before settlement to make sure the property is still in the same condition as when you purchased it and there have been no major changes to it since.

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Now’s the time to cue the celebration and start organising the house warming, you have officially purchased your first home. Congrats!