7 Top Tips For First Home Buyers

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Buying a home has always been difficult for first home buyers but with COVID-19, getting a home loan is much harder.  In the past, first home buyers face hurdles such as rising house prices, lack of deposit and strict lending policies. But in this pandemic times, buyers face more challenges and risks.

Property economists are forecasting prices to fall by 10% as mortgage stress and unemployment slowly rise.  The declining prices of homes is an opportunity for first home buyers to get into the market but banks have tightened lending because of the Royal Commission enquiry last year.  Recent changes from lenders include decreased borrowing capacity and more scrutiny into applicants’ living expenses and ongoing debts. 

Now more than ever is it important for those wishing to purchase their first home to speak to a broker a year ahead to prepare them for the tumultuous journey ahead in this uncertain times.

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1. The importance of genuine savings

What banks want to see is that you are able to save. The rule of thumb is 5% genuine savings, meaning saving at least 5% of the purchase price of the property. That 5% savings has to be sitting in your account for at least 3 months. Before putting down that 5% deposit for a block of land and another 5% to the builder, keep the 3 months statements in your file showing that you have had that 5% deposit prior to entering into the contract. Banks will surely ask for this.

What Counts as Genuine Savings in a Loan Application?

2. Save more than 5% for the deposit

Saving just 5% and borrowing 95% of the purchase price of the property will limit you with the number of lenders you can go to. There are a few but expect high interest rates above 4% and more scrutiny into your living expense, ongoing debts (credit cards and personal loans), your employment and residential history. Lending at 95% of the property’s purchase price is already a risk for lenders so they want to make sure that all other risk factors such as income, employment and credit history are kept to a minimum. If you are able to save more than the 5%, then you will have more lenders to choose from and more competitive interest rates. 

Smart ways to save for a deposit

3. Show capacity to repay

Lets say you are living with your parents and your mum an dad provide you with a 10% deposit as a gift. Banks want to see that you have the capacity to pay the monthly repayment for the loan you will be applying for.  As an example, a first home buyer couple would like to purchase an established home for $500,000. They have the 10% deposit of $50,000 gifted by mum and dad. They still have to show that they are capable to pay the monthly repayment for the mortgage of $450,000.  The repayment for a $450,000 loan at 4% is around $2,184 monthly. The first home buyer couple will need to show that they are able to save $2,184 monthly in their savings account for at least 3 months prior to applying for a loan.  Banks want to see that you are able to afford the loan.

4. Spend less in the 3 months before you apply for a loan

If you are one of those first home buyers who enjoy eating out, going to movies and shopping and are looking at applying for a loan in 3 to 6 months’ time, its time for you to gradually reduce these activities or stop them altogether. There is further scrutiny into applicants’ living expense. Expenses such as eating out, clothing, recreation, insurances and HECS or HELP FEE debts are now factored in and lenders will see these when they go through your bank statements. Finance brokers will have to itemise these expenses and present them to the banks. A high discretionary spending can reduce your borrowing capacity. Having the discipline to reduce these expenses will also help you once you have the loan and start paying the mortgage.

How do your living expenses affect your borrowing capacity?

5. What to do with credit cards and personal loans?

If possible, reduce the credit card limits. For credit cards that you don’t use at all, best to close them down.  I can never emphasise the importance of not taking out personal loans, car loans or credit card debts if you have plans of purchasing a home.  These credit facilities will greatly reduce your borrowing capacity. At the way lenders are changing their policies and calculators, your borrowing capacity today may not be the same 6 months down the track when you apply for the home loan. To avoid unnecessary risks in your loan application especially if you already have made a deposit for the block of land a year ago, don’t take out new credit facilities.  

6. Keep your bank statements for transaction accounts and ongoing liabilities in order

It is important that your credit card statements, personal loans and and all statements relating to ongoing liabilities are in order.  By this I mean there are no late payment fees or defaults. Keep at least 6 months bank statements clean.

7. Employment and income stability

Don’t switch employers when you are applying for a loan.Banks require that you have been with your employer for at least 2 years. This shows employment stability.  If less than that, you have to  prove that your new job is similar to the previous role you had or is in a similar industry. If you are one of those who consistently receives bonuses and commissions, keep the letters from employers relating to your bonus incomes.  For sales people receiving commissions, have your group certificates for 2 years ready as proof that you are consistently receiving the same or more commissions yearly. The same rule applies for those who consistently work overtime.

How Do Lenders Assess Your Home Loan Application?

It's a buyer's market, thus an opportunity to get into the property market if you have the income, employment stability and the deposit that banks require to get you into your first loan.

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