Ease the squeeze: Three winning weapons for first home buyers

Article by Mozo

Attention first home buyers: the squeeze is on. You’re in danger of borrowing too much for an over-priced home. But don’t despair. Mozo’s money experts give you three weapons that never fail to bust through market hype and deliver happy home ownership.

‘Don’t have ants in your pants’. That’s the message from Australia’s Reserve Bank to anyone hopping around town madly shopping for their first mortgage and first home. Wait… Hold off… Be patient… Just not the words you want to hear when you’re hell-bent on pursuing that great Aussie dream of home ownership.

House prices are hot at the moment, especially in our major cities. Price hikes are being fuelled by investors and trade-up buyers (those moving from their humble first home to bigger, better digs). Lenders are fanning the flames by being soft on investors and trade ups when approving loans.

Should you accept the Reserve Bank’s advice and keep renting until conditions improve or should you just cross all your fingers and toes and go for it? Fortunately there’s a third option. It’s more like taking the stairs into the shallow end of the Olympic pool than diving off the 10-metre board, but we’re confident it will give you the desired outcome without stretching your budget to the point of snapping.

Just use our Mozo money experts’ three weapons for first home buyers and you’ll be sure to win the fight against market hype and price hikes:

Weapon #1: Keep your head so you don’t lose your shirt

If you simply cannot wait, if that hard-saved deposit is burning a hole in your wallet, or you really have found the perfect property, then make CALM your mantra. Be Zen, practice mindfulness meditation, do whatever you need to do to make sure you don’t get sucked into the hype of the boom.

Don’t believe what the first mortgage broker or banker says you can afford to borrow. Yes, they’ll add a buffer to make sure you could cope with a 2% rate rise, but can you really believe their numbers? Our experts say “No!” Go straight to Weapon #2 and learn how to do your own calculations and set realistic limits.

Avoid auctions. When property is hot, auctions will be popular. Send someone else to do your bidding – someone whose heart is not set on that post-Federation California bungalow like the one next door to Gatsby’s. Eliminate all emotion from the transaction so you don’t end up with more debt than you can realistically manage.

Weapon #2: Can you afford it? Really?

Lenders reassure us that very few Australian home buyers are in debt over their heads. Most, say the lenders, are managing their mortgages comfortably and even have healthy redraws, which means they are paying back their homes at more than the minimum the bank/lender expects them to pay each month.

The trick is to make sure you join the ranks of the clever borrowers and that means taking extra special care when rates are really low (like they are now) and prices are a bit on the high side (like they are now)!

“Oh yawn,” we hear you say. “They’re going to tell me I need a budget.” Yep, too right, but if you’ve managed to save a deposit, you’re already savvy enough to know what you earn and exactly what it costs to live. Now separate needs and wants, and decide what you could live without. How much more than what you currently pay out in rent could you afford to pay off a mortgage without feeling financially stressed?

Let’s say a couple is paying $650 per week rent for an inner Sydney one-bedroom house. That’s $2817 per month. Without making any lifestyle changes they could afford to borrow around $420,000 over 25 years at an interest rate of 6.5%. The median house price in Australia is around $460,000, so with a $40,000 deposit, this couple looks ready to buy.

That’s a very different way to look at how much you can afford to borrow from the method lenders will use to give home loan pre-approval. However, it gives you a street-smart ballpark figure to keep in mind before you start talking to brokers, applying for pre-approval or looking for properties.

Weapon #3: Shop (around) til you drop

Save the biggest deposit you possibly can before you start shopping for a home loan. It’s the best way to impress lenders. Then shop around to beat the lenders at their own game. Use Mozo's home loan comparison hub, don’t just talk to one bank like your parents probably did.

Do your research to make sure you find the most competitive rate with no upfront or ongoing fees. Interest rates won’t stay at 50 year lows forever. Make sure you get the very best deal today to take advantage of cheap rates for as long as they last. So long as you keep your head and stay within your borrowing comfort zone, you’ll be a careful and happy home owner before you know it.

First time buyer guides