Renting vs buying: How much do Australians spend on housing?

Couple and real estate agent in kitchen at home inspection, looking at the cost of renting or buying a house.

There’s no way to skirt around it – housing affordability in Australia has been declining for decades, with both homeowners and renters facing greater housing stress.

When considering what proportion of your income should be dedicated to housing, a rough figure of 30% is usually the benchmark. If a larger proportion of your paycheck goes towards keeping a roof over your head, you’re likely to feel financial strain. This doesn’t necessarily include higher-income households with more wiggle room in their budget, and is usually applied to those earning in the lower half of national incomes.

But whether you’re paying down a home loan or have just signed a new rental lease, it can be a useful measure to compare against your own spending as property and rental prices shift.

While statistics vary depending on housing types and locations, a joint ANZ CoreLogic report has found Australians are often dedicating a greater percentage of their income to housing. The report considers median dwelling values and rents against median income through to the June 2021 quarter. 

It found the portion of household income required to service a new mortgage (excluding home loan deposits) sits at an average of 37.2% across Australia. This smashes the decade average of 34.7% and surpasses the peak of March 2012, when the cash rate was elevated at 4.25% compared to the now record-low rate of 0.10%.

Only 29.4% of an average renter’s income was dedicated to their lease, but this marks the highest percentage on record according to ANZ and CoreLogic. 

And for now, both rent and property prices are still growing. In September, Domain recorded house purchase price growth in seven out of the eight capital cities, with the majority of house and unit rentals in these areas also increasing.

So, it may be a good time to reflect on what you’re looking for in a home, as well as the costs that come alongside the choice to rent or buy. 

Renting pros and cons

On the positive side of things, renting gives you greater flexibility both in where you live and what you dedicate your money towards. This is largely because it’s much easier and cheaper to jump between rentals than it is to buy and sell a home. Plus, not funnelling all your savings into a single investment (your property and the costs associated with it) means you can spread out your cash to potentially reap greater rewards from things like share trading or investing in your education.

But of course, the main catch of renting is that it’s always going to be there. While it may take decades to pay off a mortgage, by the end of that road you’ll likely be left with a much smaller housing bill than ongoing rental payments. And while property can be an asset, as a renter you’ll usually be juggling some level of instability as you don’t have control over some aspects of your living situation.

Home ownership pros and cons

As you’d imagine, the positives of home ownership are generally the flipside to renting. Since you own the place, you have greater stability and freedom in how you use and change the space you live in. As you pay down your mortgage you’re also building equity in an asset which could be sold for a profit or used to fund something like an investment property purchase or to kick-start a small business.

But beyond the costs involved in purchasing a home – from legal fees to land taxes and the massive task of saving for a home loan deposit – there are plenty of ongoing costs involved in owning property. You’ll probably want your home and belongings covered by home and contents insurance, it’s likely that maintenance and repairs will be required over the years, and you’ll of course be paying interest on the mortgage. 

Saving for a home deposit in 2021

According to ANZ and CoreLogic, it now takes the average buyer who can put away 15% of their income 10.2 years to save up a 20% deposit on a median-value home in Australia. While there are a bunch of home buyer support schemes available which may help you save a deposit or access financing, this savings schedule is another record-high.

If putting down that deposit is on your horizon, you’ll want to find a home loan that’s low on fees and has handy features that suit your personal finance habits. To find your mortgage match, figure out what’s ideal for you and start comparing these factors in the home loan options below.

Compare home loans - last updated 9 December 2023

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* WARNING: This comparison rate applies only to the example or examples given. Different amounts and terms will result in different comparison rates. Costs such as redraw fees or early repayment fees, and cost savings such as fee waivers, are not included in the comparison rate but may influence the cost of the loan. The comparison rate displayed is for a secured loan with monthly principal and interest repayments for $150,000 over 25 years.

** Initial monthly repayment figures are estimates only, based on the advertised rate. You can change the loan amount and term in the input boxes at the top of this table. Rates, fees and charges and therefore the total cost of the loan may vary depending on your loan amount, loan term, and credit history. Actual repayments will depend on your individual circumstances and interest rate changes.

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