Buying a home raises mixed emotions in the best of us. One minute you’re envisioning living in a great space that suits you, and the next you’re in the grips of anxiety about a lifelong and potentially crippling mortgage repayment.
But the good news is that you’re not alone. Many people have been through this process before. Following some of the key learnings can remove a little of the stress and surprise from the journey. Here are nine tips for first home buyers.
(1) Timing is everything
There will always be houses for sale in a suburb near you – and there’ll always be good deals to jump. Wait for a good opportunity, but also the right opportunity. The best approach to deciding when to buy is also to do so when you can afford it. Do your homework, consider your circumstances, monitor the market and ask for advice.
(2) Don’t fall for the ‘rent money is dead money’ shtick
Depending on your circumstance, the flexibility that comes with renting can be super valuable. Renting isn’t throwing away your money – it’s exchanging that money for a safe, comfortable roof over your head. When you rent, your landlord covers the cost of repairs and maintenance, but that’s something you’d need to pick up as a homeowner.
(3) Don’t underestimate the value of an emergency fund
Unexpected costs can happen to anyone at any time. A burst pipe, a leaking cistern or even a leaking roof could derail your financial goals. Don’t start building an emergency fund once you’ve bought a home; get on that now. A good rule of thumb is saving a month’s worth of living expenses in a separate account to hold you over.
(4) Decide how much house you can actually afford
Early in the game, before you’ve started talking to lenders, decide how much you feel comfortable dropping on a mortgage. To be financially savvy, don’t just consider the maximum you can afford. What would you be genuinely comfortable spending? Is there a way to leave a bit extra room in your budget?
(5) Start your saving plan early on
When you feel ready to kickstart the homeownership journey, it’s time to start saving. Your house deposit (or down payment) will typically be around 20% of the purchase price. There are great ways to save up for that deposit, but remember to set aside money for other expenses associated with your new house.
(6) Make a must-have list
What do you need in a home? Do you need extra space to work from home or another bedroom to accommodate a baby? Before you start shopping, consider the different types of homes (apartments versus houses) and decide if you are fixed on one over the other. Having a firm list will help you filter out the places that don’t meet your needs.
(7) Find the right suburb for you
There are many factors to consider before finding your next home, but don’t fall in love with a house and then realise it’s an hour from your work. Think about what best suits your lifestyle. Do you want to be within walking distance of shops and restaurants? How far are you willing to commute?
(8) Don’t buy at the very top of your budget
If you think you could afford $2,000 a month on a mortgage repayment, that doesn’t mean you need to buy a house where your loan payment is $2k. Shoot for something slightly under that amount, so you don’t end up paying more than planned when you account for added costs.
(9) Trial run your budget with your new monthly expenses
Once you have a house under your name, your budget will look pretty different. You’ll have to account for a mortgage payment, but other new expenses as well. Before you get too far in, practice assigning money for those items in your budget each month. It’ll give you a feel for how big of an adjustment your new expenses will take.
Rent.com.au is Australia's largest company dedicated to renters and is owned and operated by ASX-listed Rent.com.au Limited (RNT:ASX). For over 15 years, Rent.com.au has exclusively focused on making renters' lives easier by making it easier to find a property, secure it, move in and pay rent.