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First Home Buyer Help: Unlocking Government Assistance

First Home Buyer Help: Unlocking Government Assistance

Penelope
February 11, 2021

If you follow us on Instagram, you might have seen our recent post full of tips on how to save your first home deposit. One of our top tips is to check whether you are eligible for any government assistance.

There are various different possibilities, each with its own criteria and thresholds, so it can be confusing. We’ve broken it down to give you a snapshot of what might be available if you’re looking to purchase a property in NSW. (To our interstate friends, the HomeBuilder and Super Saver sections below will be relevant to you too, as they are federal government schemes. For more details on other first home buyer assistance in your state, check the appropriate government or revenue office website, or contact us to put you in touch with a solicitor or conveyancer in your state.)

What’s on offer?

There are broadly four kinds of assistance currently available to NSW first home buyers:

  1. A $10,000 grant towards buying a property
  2. A $15,000 or $25,000 grant towards the cost of building, renovating or purchasing an off the plan home or new home
  3. A reduction in the transfer duty payable on your purchase
  4. A savings scheme to help build a deposit using voluntary superannuation contributions

Let’s start with the cash grants first, because they’re the most straightforward.

$10,000 First Home Owners Grant (New Homes)

If the property you’re interested in is a new home, or vacant land on which you’ll be constructing a new home, then you may be able to access the $10,000 First Home Owner Grant (New Homes).

A ‘new home’ is one that hasn’t been occupied or sold before as a residence, and can include a substantially renovated home or a replacement home (if you’ve demolished what was there before).

This grant is available for:

  • new homes where the purchase price is $600,000 or less, and
  • vacant land where the total price (that is, the cost of the land plus the cost of building a new home) is $750,000 or less.

You can apply for the grant through your bank or financial institution when you’re arranging finance to buy your property.

HomeBuilder

The HomeBuilder program gives certain owner-occupiers (including eligible first home buyers) a grant to build a new home, carry out substantial renovation to an existing home or buy an off the plan home/new home.

The grants available are:

  • $25,000 for eligible contracts entered from 4 June 2020to 31 December 2020.
  • $15,000for eligible contracts entered from 1 January 2021 to31 March 2021.

HomeBuilder is a relatively short termCovid-19 response measure (it’s only in place until the end of March 2021) and it’s super broad in terms of what it covers (new builds, renovations and property purchases throughout the entire country). This means the conditions and requirements are complex and might change quickly depending on what 2021 has instore for us, but some of the key things to keep in mind are:

  • grants are only available to those who fall under the income caps of $125,000 (for an individual) and $200,000 (for a couple)
  • the value of the house and land can’t be more than $750,000 (if you’re building a new home)
  • the value of your existing house can’t be more than $1.5 million, and the cost of the renovations must be between $150,000 and $750,000 (if you’re going to renovate)
  • the value of the new home / off the plan apartment can’t be more than $750,000 (if you’re purchasing)

You can apply for HomeBuilder through the NSW Revenue website by completing and lodging the application form.

Now that we understand the grants that are available, let’s move on to the third kind of government assistance NSW first home buyers can tap into – a reduction in the transfer duty payable on the purchase.

We get it. A saving in transfer duty doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as a grant of cold, hard cash. But think about it this way – if you buy a new home in NSW for $800,000, the transfer duty concessions available for a first home owner will save you a whopping $31,335 of transfer duty. That’s right – $31,335. That’s a car in the garage of your new home, over21 years’ worth of your daily $4 almond latte from the bougie café down stairs at work, or 237 years of Netflix.

Interested? Thought so. OK, let’s get into Transfer Duty 101…

What is transfer duty?

Transfer duty used to be called, and is often still referred to as, ‘stamp duty’. It’s a state government tax on certain transactions, including buying property, but you might also have come across it if you’ve bought a second hand car, for example.

The amount you need to pay is calculated at a rate based on the purchase price for the transaction, so generally it’s a case of the higher the purchase price, the higher the transfer duty.  

Transfer duty is a big financial hurdle to first homeownership for two reasons. Firstly, because it’s a one off payment when you take ownership of the property, the amount of transfer duty significantly increases the funds a first home buyer needs to have available up front to buy a property.

Secondly, because it is payable on every property purchase, those already on the property ladder can be reluctant to upgrade (and ‘make room’ for first home buyers in the more affordable sectors of the market)because of the transfer duty that they will have to pay on the price of their upgraded (and likely, more expensive) home.

The NSW Government is considering a proposal to abolish transfer duty (and implement an alternative tax regime for property in NSW), but for now, it still applies.

First home buyer transfer duty concessions

The ‘First Home Buyers Assistance Scheme’ is a NSW government scheme that either exempts first home buyers from paying transfer duty, or reduces the amount they are required to pay by calculating the transfer duty payable at a lower rate.

The amount of the transfer duty concession will depend on the type and value (based on the purchase price) of the property being purchased.

For contracts dated between 1 August 2020 and 31 July 2021, this table gives a snapshot of the transfer duty concessions for first homebuyers:

Property type Value Transfer duty
Existing home    
Less than $650,000   

Full exemption – you pay no transfer duty at all
   
$650,000-$800,000   

Concessional (or lower) transfer duty rate
New home    
Less than $800,000   

Full exemption – you pay no transfer duty at all
   
$800,000-$1,000,000   

Concessional (or lower) transfer duty rate
Vacant land    
Less than $400,000   

Full exemption – you pay no transfer duty at all
   
$400,000-$500,000   

Concessional (or lower) transfer duty rate

There are some helpful calculators online (you can start at the NSW Revenue website) where you can input a purchase price for a property you’re interested in and see in dollar terms the impact of these concessional rates for first home buyers.

To apply for the transfer duty concessions, you’ll need to complete an application form and a declaration form, and lodge them with your solicitor or conveyancer.

First Home Super Saver Scheme

This is a federal scheme administered by the ATO to help first home buyers save a deposit faster, possibly also reducing the tax they pay. First home buyers can make voluntary contributions to their superannuation of up to $15,000 a year, and $30,000 in total (for an individual). Super is taxed at the reduced rate of 15%.

When you’re ready to enter the housing market, you can withdraw the deposit and buy a property within 12 months (this can be extended to 24 months on request to the ATO). If you don’t buy a property, you can either put the deposit back into your super or repay amount of the tax benefit you received by using the Super Saver scheme in the first place.

Securing first home buyer assistance

It might seem strange, but not everyone buying a property for the first time necessarily qualifies as a ‘first home buyer’ for these grants or schemes (and it is possible you might qualify for some, but not others). There are personal requirements you’ll need to satisfy in the application process, and after you’ve bought the property there may be other requirements you’ll need to satisfy.

While it might mean you need to put a bit of time into understanding the various requirements, at the end of the day these aim to ensure that the first home buyer measures are available for those who genuinely need (and use) the assistance to get on the property ladder.

For example, some of the requirements of the various schemes are that recipients must:

  • be buying property as an individual, not a company or trust
  • be over 18 years of age
  • be an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • move in within 12 months after buying the property and live there for at least 6 continuous months
  • not have a spouse who has owned or co-owned a home in Australia or received a first home owner grant in Australia

If you’re going to be relying on any of the assistance we’ve mentioned above, it’s important to make sure you satisfy all the relevant eligibility requirements in advance to avoid any unexpected shortfall in funding your purchase (or having to repay assistance that has been given to you, if it turns out you were ineligible or haven’t satisfied one of the conditions). Check the government websites for detailed requirements, or get in touch with us if you’d like personalised advice.

Where to from here?

As a first home buyer, the type and amount of government assistance available will depend on the type of property you’re purchasing and the price. This can make it tricky if you’re trying to organise your finances before you head out to inspections or have a particular type of property in mind.

The best thing you can do is make yourself aware of what’s available, so that when the right property comes up, you’re in a position to act swiftly and secure your dream home (using Contrax, of course!).

It’s important to note that the information above is current at the time we publish it, but may have changed since then. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.