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First home buyers are a group often spoken about but rarely understood.

They’re not all hipsters wanting to buy an inner-city apartment – though many are.

They include bankers, business people and designers who mainly want a roof over their head close to work.

And despite having a good job often with six-figure salaries, they still can’t afford a place to call their own.

Just 10 per cent of home loans were to first home buyers in December. Domain Group senior economist, Dr Andrew Wilson, says 20 years ago it was 17 per cent.

So what’s the answer to finding affordable homes for first home buyers?

Treasurer Joe Hockey says young people should be able to dip into their super, a suggestion criticised by some but welcomed by 33-year-old Edgar Pottumati and his peers.

NSW Labour leader Luke Foley says first home buyers should be able to pay off their stamp duty over five years.

The Domain team asked frustrated buyers what they think.

Emily Oak, 36, state operations manager

Oak had wanted to own her own house by the time she was 30 and was well on the way having saved a deposit. But when faced with the decision between investing in her career or a home, she decided to use her savings to buy a stake in the coffee-roasting business, Sensory Lab, she was working in.

Despite her budget of between $500,000 and $700,000, Oak says she wants to buy outside of Sydney.

“On top of having to pay rent where I live now and work, it’s more realistic to have an investment property that’s a smaller mortgage,” she says.

Oak says superannuation should be left for retirement and not used to buy property, but she also thinks she may never live in her own home.

A single mum to a nine-year-old boy, Oak says if she ever bought in Sydney she would want to buy something near where she is currently living on the northern beaches.

“My family is there, my son goes to school there, and obviously my family is integral to helping me look after my son so that I can also work full time, so it would be nice to be close to my support network,” Oak says.

“But it’s very, very far outside anything I can even think to afford anytime soon.”

Haydn Edward, 27, design engineer

Haydn Edwards wanted to buy his first home at the age of 22, about the age his parents entered the market. However, he says he’s good enough at maths to realise how unrealistic it is for him.

University educated with two degrees, he was recently working full time hours on a casual contract in Sydney CBD while living at home.

“This year though I hit the ‘abort’ button after running the numbers and realising that unless I were immediately hired as a CEO I was going to spend most of my life in transit and still not be able to save up a house deposit,” he said.

“So now I live less than three kilometres from the Perth CBD renting for less than half the equivalent in Sydney.”

When it comes the Treasurer’s proposal to allow young people to use super to buy property, he isn’t convinced.

“Burning down your future security for a few bricks is a bad idea. If you have no liquidity in your assets and you encounter a life hurdle – like cancer – then you’re properly screwed,” he said.

Yasmin Shahatet, 29, customer service

Full-time shift worker Yasmin Shahatet currently rents in Auburn and also studies part-time.

“I receive a reasonable fortnightly wage and I’ve been saving for a deposit on a home loan for a few years,” she says.

“I’ve looked into purchasing a home many times but loan repayments would be such a high proportion of my income, if I did take that leap it would mean not being able to afford things like private health care and my gym membership and ultimately living on very little after all the bills and tax.

“The only suburbs that I would be able to purchase a property in are further away from Sydney city where I work. This would impact my quality of life and increase my travel time from 40 minutes one way to up to 1.5 hours one way a day.”

Looking for properties up to $400,000, a 25-year loan would cost at least $2200 in repayments, with electricity, gas, internet and food considerations on top.

“Every time I save $10,000 towards a deposit prices rise again,” she said.

She is now looking at off-the-plan properties as they do work out cheaper.

“When you factor in a car loan/car insurance and petrol prices, the cost of living and all the monthly bills that come with owning a property in Sydney it almost feels like volunteering for a 25-year jail time.”

Currently, she said that owning a property seems unattainable but that if she were given the opportunity to access her super she probably would, but then look to balance it by contributing more each pay cycle.

Elizabeth Pickworth-Kamel, 27, training and events manager

Technically no longer a first home buyer, Elizabeth Pickworth-Kamel bought when she was 22 and working full time before selling shortly afterwards.

“I got the first home owner’s grant and my parents decided that instead of providing funds for a wedding or something like that they’d help me get into the property market,” she said.

She then went to work overseas and had to sell her Strathfield unit, partly because of her change in situation but also because strata fees doubled in the building due to issues with their strata manager and legal costs, moving from $3800 to over $6000, rendering it unaffordable for her to hold.

“This was in 2011 and the market was going down and so I didn’t sell to the extremes of the market.”

Now a mother with a one-year-old daughter, her husband stays at home to take care of their child and she has been looking to buy in an area suitable to raise their child.

She works two jobs, full time for a not-for-profit membership organisation and as a freelance business article writer.

However, Sydney is so unaffordable they plan to move to Melbourne within the next few years, hoping not to borrow to the maximum the bank will offer and instead have a sizeable deposit. With family members in the past having borrowed far beyond capacity and suffering financially as a result, she intends not to make the same mistake.

She has been considering houses in Melbourne’s Point Cook to a maximum of $450,000, looking to be near good schools.

Currently renting in St George where, if she could afford it, she would have liked to buy.

Gordon Hanzmann-Johnson, 24, apprentice railway worker

Currently looking to buy his home, he doesn’t believe it’s completely out of reach but has come to terms with the fact that to get on the ladder he will have to look for something more affordable.

“You’ve just got to accept you can’t have it all,” he said.

Working full-time, as well as doing overtime as much as possible, he is living at home to save as much as he can.

He is looking for an apartment in the upper north shore suburb of Lindfield. Domain Group data puts the median price in Lindfield for units at $685,000.

Saving his deposit was initially his biggest barrier, however he’s now also realising how time-consuming it is to find and purchase a home.

“I think I regret not buying two or so years ago,” Hanzmann-Johnson said.

He said that while he had never thought of using his superannuation to buy a home before, it would be a consideration if he had access to it.


Posted by Jennifer Duke & Rachel Clun – Domain (Fairfax) on 11th March, 2015