Escalated property prices across Australia make it more difficult for first home buyers to enter the market.But with government assistance the dream of owning a home can become a reality.The First Home Owner Grant offers a chance to get a foot in the door earlier.
Almost 20 years ago, Australia launched a national scheme to assist first timers to get into a home of their own.
Under the scheme, first home buyers who purchase or build a residential property to live in, receive a one-off grant which is not means-tested.
Stacy Yoro who came to Australia from the Philippines says, the grant is important for her plans to buy a family home.
“Yes, we have thought about it and we read about it as well we researched about it and we know that there is a First Home Owner Grant that the government provides.”
The First Home Owner Grants - differ between states with amounts varying from $5,000 in some states to $26,000 in the Northern Territory.
It’s a welcome subsidy, says Guarav Vaishnava who migrated from India.
"We were on a tight budget, and we were looking for a house we could get with a buyer grant. We were paying over two-thousand dollars per month in rent so we were lucky that we got a house near Rooty Hill and it was a town house and it was nicely built.”
The First Home Owner Grant - or short FHOG - applies to new homes and apartments only, explains Sonia Akra from a legal firm in Parramatta.
“Absolutely brand new, never lived-in previously. And generally the builder or developer will give you a certificate to that effect.”
To be eligible for the grant, applicants have to be over the age of 18 and Australian citizens or permanent residents.
If the property is bought jointly by two people, one of them must meet these criteria, says Raghad Misho, a Melbourne real estate agent.
“You have to be a resident, OK. You have to be a citizen or permanent in Australia to get that grant. If you are a foreigner you cannot get it. You have to be an Australian resident.”
While the First Home Owner Grants differs in each state and territory, generally, recipients of the assistance are required to live in the property for a period of at least six consecutive months after the purchase.
However, says, Sonia Akra, the new home can also be rented out.
“You have to live in it for a period of 6 months within 12 months. So, you can rent it out for the first 6 month after settlement and then you have to live in in for 6 month after that, all within the 12 month after settlement.”
There are different ways of applying for the FHOG: either by lodging the application personally through a relevant state authority or by asking the home loan provider to lodge the application.
The grant is usually paid to the lender at the time of settlement and can be used to reduce the home loan or added to the deposit which has to be saved up to purchase a property in the first place.
But in the light of recent steep increases of house prices across Australia, Raghad Misho admits that the FHOG has lost some of its appeal.
“Given by the government to first home buyers to help them and support them to buy their first home, even though it’s not a large amount of money, it does help a bit.”
Stacy Yoro agrees. However, she says a small grant is still better than nothing.
“It is a good start and it is a good help – you know, better than nothing – but it will hardly make a dent. You still have to go a long way, really, to find that house that you want or to find the flat that you want.”
That’s little consolation for Guarav Vaishnava who supports a wife and two children.
He missed out on receiving the government assistance because the value of his new home rose in a short time above the NSW price limit to qualify for a First Home Owner Grant.
But, Guarav says, he still got other benefits.
“We missed out but we got stamp duty exemption because the property was less than six-hundred-and-fifty-thousand dollars.”
Real estate agent Raghad Misho acknowledges that some financially stressed first home buyers are breaking conditions of the grant by never living in their new property but renting it out instead.
He warns that those who do not comply with the rules will have to pay the grant back.
The First Home Owner Grant varies across Australia.
In New South Wales you can apply fora $10,000 First Home Owner Grant for purchases of new homes up to $600,000.
In Queensland it’s $15,000 for eligible first home buyers who are buying or building a new home up to the value of $750,000.
In the Northern Territorya whopping $26,000 is offered for first home buyers, buying or building a new home or an established home. And no purchase price limit applies.
In Western Australia, eligible first home buyers can receive a First Home Owner Grant of up to $10,000 for buying or building a new home valued up to $1 million.
In South Australia a $15,000 grant is on offer for new residential dwellings only, up to the value of $575,000.
In Victoria first home buyers buying a new home in regional Victoria are eligible for a grant of up to $20,000, or up to $10,000 for homes in cities. The maximum purchase price of eligible new homes is $750,000.
In Tasmania, the First Home Owner Grant is $20,000 for buying a new home.
And in the ACT, first home buyers in our national capital are offered a $7,000 First Home Owner Grant for a property valued at up to $750,000.