If you can rent, you can buy: How to make the leap

Finish school, get a job and then buy a house. If only it was that straightforward.

Today, a more realistic scenario would be: Finish school, get a job, rent a room, rent a unit, rent a better property and then, buy a house.

Buying your first home can be both exciting and nerve-racking. There's no wonder that many prefer to wait. According to research, average borrowers wait until their 30s before making the biggest financial commitment in their life -- buying the first home.

In fact, the average age of first home buyers has increased to 31 years, up from 25 years in the 1970s as revealed in a survey by Mortgage insurance provider Genworth. Australia's first-home buyers are now six years older compared to 40 years ago.

"I bought my first home when I was 33," said Alena Whitman, a marketing manager in Brisbane. "My parents actually forced me into buying my first home."

"Initially, I was against the idea. I felt so unready for such a big commitment."

"But then Dad said that if I can rent, I can definitely buy," said Alena who had been renting for eight years at that point.

"That statement made me take a second look at my finances." 

How do you make the leap from renter to home owner?

Alena reprioritised her weekly expenses and was able to have enough money for repayments and out-of-pocket.

"I did the maths - I said goodbye to my daily coffee ($100/month), reduced dining out and revaluated my extra spending and ended up with at least $350/pw extra. That was enough to convince me."

Are you ready to buy?

You are ready to become a homeowner if you have the following things in place:

A substantial deposit - The bigger the better when you're saving for a home. Some banks allow 5% deposits while a deposit of 20% of the purchase price means you don't need home repayment insurance.

A regular savings habit - A history of regular savings in your bank account and a solid track record of employment will make it easier for you to get a home loan.

Pre-approval for a loan - Compare a few different loans before you decide. Ask your lender for a key facts sheet on each home loan so you can compare more easily. Once you choose the loan and have been pre-approved you'll know what the repayments will be and how much you can afford to spend on a property.

Enough funds for repayments - Do the maths. If you can commit to your repayments without any hiccups, you are close to buying your first home.

Some additional savings - These will act as a buffer if interest rates rise and your repayments increase. Alternatively choose a loan that allows extra repayments so you can build a buffer early on. You also need these for home maintenance, taxes, and bills.

Stamp duty - One of the bigger upfront costs you may have to pay is stamp duty or transfer duty on your property. If you are a first-home buyer, check what stamp duty concessions you are entitled to in your state. In Queensland, you can claim a first home concession if you are buying a home valued less than $550,000. In New South Wales, eligible purchasers are provided with exemptions from transfer duty on new homes valued up to $550,000 and concessions for new homes valued between $550,000 and $650,000. Find out how much you will need to pay using calculators on the websites below.

NSW - Office of State Revenue: Calculator - for land and property transfers

QLD - Office of State Revenue: Transfer duty calculator


Start looking

Once you've done your homework, you can start looking for your first home. To get you started, here are some of our top picks for regional properties under $500,000.


Top Ipswich properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. This home has beautiful covered outdoor living areas, a heated pool and spa, an outdoor pizza oven, and separate building with toilet, sink and kitchen bench which overlooks the pool.


Top Ipswich properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. If you like traditional homes with well-maintained interiors, this property might be perfect for you. Wait until you see the artful pillars, wooden frames, windows and gorgeous bathrooms.


Top Ipswich properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. This home is located in one of Ipswich's fastest growing estates “Sovereign Pocket”. The modern design house has three spacious bedrooms, a good sized master bedroom complete with ensuite, walk-in robe and air-conditioning.



Top Tweed properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. This modern home has three large bedrooms and a massive home office for your home business, a 4th bedroom, yoga room or even a media room. What would you do?



Top Tweed properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. Want to walk to the beach from your own home? This architecturally designed timber home is just a stone's throw from Koala Beach and has a large timber wrap around deck that provides a perfect place to entertain or hang a hammock. Entertain downstairs at a separate BBQ area that unites with the great Aussie back yard.



Top Tweed properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. Tucked away in a private hilltop location, this home has an open plan living area with vaulted ceilings and Australian hardwood timber floors. You’ll love the private leafy outlook from the timber deck with river glimpses.



Top Sunshine Coast properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. Imagine living on this property. It has a gymnasium, swimming pool with lounge spaces all around, treatment rooms and a playground for children.



Top Sunshine Coast properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. Only 120 meters walk from the iconic Kings Beach, this is coastal living at its best. This home has oak timber floors, designer custom kitchens with stone benches, stainless steel appliances, large decks positioned to take in the views and breezes, custom cabinetry to the bathroom with Carrara marble features, pool area with BBQ and sundeck and intelligent design to take advantage of cross flow breezes.



Top Sunshine Coast properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. This home has four generous sized bedrooms, an open plan kitchen, rumpus room, dining, and a lounge area perfect for a study or TV room. The focal point of this home is the view of the nearby coast and hinterland from the expansive deck set high above popular Brightwater estate.



Top Sunshine Coast properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. If you're looking for a home that can soothe the mind, this one looks out to the magnificent mountains. The house is modern on the inside and wait until you see the deck with breathtaking views.



Top Bundaberg properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. This home is located in the Belle Eden Estate, nestled amongst the natural bush setting and beautiful parklands. Enjoy the vast network of cycling and walking paths with your family.



Top Bundaberg properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. If you're looking for a stylish coastal residence that's not too far from the city, this home is ideally situated in the upmarket estate of Bargara and is only 20 minutes to the Bundaberg CBD. It's also near recreational parks, beautiful beaches, gym, local shopping and more.



Top Bundaberg properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. This brand new home has been tastefully finished with quality finishing and fittings. The property is beautiful from every angle, front to back, inside out. The backyard is absolutely wonderful you’d invite family and friends almost immediately.



Top Mackay properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. This outstanding Queenslander was originally built in the 1920s and has only recently been renovated by a builder. The classic master bedroom features an open ensuite with clawfoot bath.



Top Mackay properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. Do you love a resort inspired lifestyle? Then this property will inspire you with its in-ground swimming pool and alfresco dining area.



Top Mackay properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. Let’s chill by the bar which faces the sparkling in ground pool. If you want, there’s also landscaped gardens and green lawns to play ball with the kids or put up a giant trampoline.



Top Lismore properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. The design of this home allows for the master bedroom and alfresco areas to overlook a pool and gardens providing an everyday resort feel. What a great way to end a busy day, every day.



Top Lismore properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. This home has been designed with sophistication in mind, perfect for those looking for a modern place. The manicured front lawn gives you fantastic curb appeal. It is beautiful and new, inside out – perfect for a first home.



Top Lismore properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. Looking for an investment as your first property? Set on a riverfront block with direct access to the Richmond River, this home is currently leased to corporate tenants and returns in excess of $40,000 p/a. What do you think?



Top Gympie properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. Enjoy breakfast at the bar with views to the dam and bush land. The large north-east verandah offers marvelous views to the surrounding expansive gardens, Veteran hills and Mt Goomboorian. It is the idyllic location for entertaining family and friends.



Top Gympie properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. The huge verandah of this home captures the beautiful views surrounding the property. And if you have any hobbies, it has a three-bay shed with workshop too. It’s also just minutes to town.



Top Gympie properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. Here’s a stunningly renovated Queenslander. It comes with a formal lounge and formal dining room and a brand new chef’s style kitchen. Perfect for the entertainer in you.



Top Toowoomba properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. This historic Colonial has polished wooden floors, high pressed-tin ceilings, ornate fret work, a charming open fire place in the formal lounge and a back deck overlooking the pretty garden filled with star jasmine and a cumquat tree. These features read like a page from a classic romantic novel, right down to the white picket fence, and the next chapter awaits.


Top Toowoomba properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. Here’s a traditional home with an incredibly immaculate interior. It’ll suit you if you like the juxtaposition of old and new.


Top Toowoomba properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. This modern home comes with a great deck and huge backyard. Great for kids, BBQ parties or even yoga.



Top Grafton properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. This home comes with a beautiful sparkling pool and is located on 37 acres of land. You can run horses, start your own vegetable garden or sit back and relax. What would you do?



Top Coffs Coast properties under $500,000: CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW. This modern home is set in a beautifully landscaped area. The verandah is perfect for entertaining or just relaxing, your choice. Wait until you see the warm and cosy interior.



What's stopping you from buying your first home?

This poll ended on 25 September 2015.

I don't have enough funds for a deposit. - 58%

I've not been able to get pre-approval for a loan. - 8%

I don't like the ones I can afford so I am waiting to be able to buy a better property. - 8%

It's too expensive to buy anything now. - 25%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Topics:  housing mortgage property real estate rent

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