Getting a foot on the first rung of the property ladder might seem impossible in the current market, but there’s one Canberra real estate agency that’s giving middle-income earners a much-needed leg-up.
HomeGround Real Estate matches generous landlords with reliable tenants who are working towards buying their home but may be struggling to save a deposit because they are completing an apprenticeship or undergoing further studies at university.
HomeGround Business Development and Property Manager Maria Edwards says landlords can offer reduced rent to tenants that can demonstrate they have the potential to purchase their own home a year or two down the track.
“Twelve months of reduced rent can make a huge difference to someone’s life,” she said.
The need for affordable housing has never been greater in Canberra, now the most expensive city in Australia to rent a house and the second most expensive to rent a unit.
Maria said many households in the private rental market are in a state of housing stress, especially middle-income families with one parent studying or at home with a young child, as well as older single women and victims of domestic violence.
“These people have the potential to own their own home; they just need an opportunity to get ahead,” she added.
Not only does the HomeGround scheme help tenants get off the rental roundabout, it also offers financial incentives for landlords.
“If a property is being offered for rent with a discount to market rent of more than 25 per cent, and the tenant meets income eligibility requirements, the landlord may fit the ACT Government’s criteria for a full land tax exemption,” Maria explained.
“With market rents so high at the moment, the landlord might be able to afford a reduced rent and know they are helping a family in need while also saving on their land tax.”
Landlords who sign up with HomeGround are also eligible for a tax-deductible donation receipt for rent foregone through offering their property at below-market rent along with Capital Gains Tax discounts if they stay in the scheme for three years.
Maria said all potential HomeGround tenants are fully qualified, including their income and rental history, and matched to suitable properties. Each landlord has the final choice about who they would like to assist.
“We take into consideration the tenant’s potential to purchase a home, which may be after they complete industry training and enter fully paid work, or once they graduate from university and enter the workforce,” she said.
While HomeGround has a long list of potential tenants, they’re putting the call out for landlords across Canberra to get on board.
“We have really great tenants, but we desperately need more landlords,” Maria said.
She added that the COVID-19 pandemic has made people more empathetic to the plight of others, and there may be property owners who have come through unscathed and want to spread kindness to others that may be struggling.
“We are seeking landlords who have the capacity and desire to make a real difference to the lives of one or more Canberran households,” she said.
One HomeGround landlord was pleased to help a young family escape a desperate situation two years ago after their neighbours verbally and physically harassed them in a government housing area.
“The husband was an apprentice and the wife was studying nursing, and their stress levels were going through the roof where they were living,” Maria said.
“We secured them a three-bedroom rental property in Fraser until they got on their feet.
“Upon finishing his apprenticeship, he started his own business, and she graduated from nursing and started working full-time.
“After two years in the scheme, they were able to buy their own home.
“The difference, from when I first saw them to when they bought their home, was amazing.
“They said there is no way, given the emotional and financial pressures they were dealing with, that they could have entered the property market without HomeGround. Now they’re living, not just surviving.”
The organisation can provide property owners with a free, no-obligation rental appraisal, including potential land tax savings and a comparison to the regular rental market.
“We can give them all the numbers in advance, which they can take to their financial advisor before signing up with us,” Maria said.
Landlords are also helping the wider community, with all profits from the residential property management services reinvested into affordable housing in Canberra.