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A guide to buying your first home in Sydney

Making your first foray into real estate is exciting, whether you’re moving out of home for the first time or you’re ready to take the leap from renting to owning. Follow these steps and you’re on your way to making a smart purchase.


1. Do your research

The first step is to get your priorities in order. If you’re a career-focused professional wanting to get a foot in the property door, an apartment or townhouse as close as possible to Sydney’s CBD could be right for you. Buying further out will be more affordable, but be sure public transport is easy to get to and that it suits your lifestyle before jumping in just for the sake of jumping in.

If you’re living the single life and love the freedom that comes with inner-city living, for example, moving out to the suburbs may not be the right move for you – no matter how badly you want to get into the property market. Investing in an affordable property and renting it out may be the way to go, rather than living somewhere you don’t really want to live.

If you’re part of a couple and are looking to purchase a house or townhouse, consider a home you can add value to over time with a renovation or extension. Is it pet-friendly? Can it accommodate children in the future? Is there room for a pool? Try to think about how your needs might change in the next few years rather than just what suits you right now. And be realistic about commute times. A 90-minute commute might seem doable, but spending so long getting to work and back can eat into valuable leisure time and get old fast.

2. Apply for pre-approval

You never know when you’re going to stumble on a house or apartment so perfect for you that you want to make an offer there and then. Without pre-approval for a mortgage, however, and you’re one step behind the competition. 

Apply for your loan as soon as you’ve saved your desired deposit. For some first homebuyers that will be 5 per cent of the purchase price. Others, who want to avoid paying mortgage insurance, will save a 20 per cent deposit before looking to buy. Lenders want details, so be prepared to hand over savings and credit card statements, as well as particulars on income and any debt you’re carrying. Once you have your pre-approval locked in, you can move forward with confidence.

3. Find out about grants

If you’re weighing up whether to build or buy a new home versus an established home, it will pay to know the ins and outs of the First Home Owner Grant. First homebuyers of newly constructed homes valued at less than $600,000 can be eligible for a $10,000 grant. The same grant applies if the land and dwelling you plan to build has a combined value of less than $750,000.

First homebuyers may also be exempt from paying transfer duty for properties costing $650,000-$800,000, or a vacant block valued at between $350,000 and $450,000.

4. Nail your inspection

You can fall in love with a property just by seeing the photos online, but unless you go into an inspection with a strategy, it’s easy to make decisions with your heart rather than your head.

Take any brochures, contracts of sale or inspection paperwork the agent has at hand, and take plenty of photos on your phone for future reference. If you’re seeing more than two properties in a day, they can all start to blur together. 

Try to look past the decor at the bones of the property. Is there potential to renovate or extend? Has it been well built and maintained? Are there any signs of water or structural damage? 

If you like what you see, arrange to visit the property at another time of day during the week. Pay attention to traffic noise, how much natural light the property has, and its distance to public transport. The second inspection is also a good chance to drill down and look at every detail so you can make sure it’s the property for you.

5. Make an offer

To avoid financial stress, it’s vital you don’t give in to temptation and overspend. If the property is going up for auction, you can make a pre-auction offer or wait until auction day to (hopefully) make the winning bid. 

If you’d rather wait until the auction, ask the selling agent to alert you if someone else makes a pre-auction offer. That way, although the agent can’t tell you how much the other offer was, you at least have the chance to make your own.

Keep in mind that if you’ve bought a house by private treaty in NSW, there is a five-day cooling off period. During this time, you can pull out of the sale without any financial penalties. If you’ve bought at auction, there is no cooling-off period. You’ve been warned!

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being handed the keys to your first home. If you’ve done your homework, organised your finances early, and given every property a thorough inspection before making a final decision, you shouldn’t have any regrets. Welcome home!

Want to find out what your home might be worth?

Our agents can provide a free appraisal of your home in person or online to give you an indication of what your home might be worth in the current market.

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