Despite the havoc wreaked by COVID-19, 2020 could be seen as a bumper year for first home buyers. The rapid increase in house prices has slowed – although it hasn’t stopped in Canberra – and according to recent lending indicators from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, for the first time in years the total value of loans given to first home buyers has outstripped the value of loans to investors.
So with things apparently looking up, what are the hurdles still preventing first home buyers from getting their foot on the property ladder? According to Independent’s managing director, John Minns, the biggest factor is a lack of understanding.
“Many people have a misconception that you need a 20 per cent deposit in order to purchase a home,” he says. “That’s just not true. Potential home buyers don’t realise there are easier ways to get into the market than the traditional method of trotting along to open homes.
“We have a number of team members [at Independent] who purchased their homes in their early 20s because they had a better understanding of the process and opportunities than their peers who don’t work in real estate.”
For a lot of buyers, the biggest hurdle is getting the deposit together. But even once that feat has been achieved, the actual process of purchasing a home can be difficult and confusing, something that first home buyer, Samara Thorn, knows too well.
“I was genuinely shocked at how complex the process of buying a home was,” she says. “It felt like every day I had another question. And I’m lucky, I work in real estate so when I found myself lost or not understanding something, I had plenty of agents I could call to help me out.
“I seriously don’t know how first home buyers who don’t work in property do it.”
Frustrated by how difficult the process was, Samara decided to start collecting the many questions she had in a video diary. The responses she got helped smooth the path for her.
“There is information out there for the big things, such as what I should look for at an open home,” she says. “It wasn’t as easy to find information for questions such as, ‘How do I know the agent isn’t lying to me?’
“What I really wanted to do was collect that information and put it somewhere all first home buyers could access. I’ve asked all the crazy, neurotic questions so they don’t have to.”
But while Samara’s video journey could help many Canberrans in her position, it does have its drawbacks.
“You basically see me going from a happy, optimistic potential home buyer to someone who chooses not to go to work one afternoon so I can stay in bed with my cat because it just gets too much,” she says. “So, yeah, I’m not sure this isn’t going to end up in my performance review next year.
“But it does have a happy ending. I’ve been in the home I bought for a while now and I’m loving it. I think most property stories do end well. It’s just a real process to get there.”
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