JUST say you won the Lotto or a kindly relative left you a sizeable inheritance and, hooray, you have a deposit for a bedsit in a far-flung corner of Sydney.
It’s time to hit the listings with your chequebook and your shock-and-awe auction tactics.
What could go wrong?
Lots, in fact.
‘First homebuyers are often at a disadvantage because you have inexperience combined with the intense emotion of buying your first home,’ said co-founder of Cohen Handler buyers’ agents, Simon Cohen.
‘It’s a recipe for disaster.’
Here are some of the most common traps to avoid.
TELLING THE AGENT TOO MUCH
The agent may be a great person, charming to boot, and you really like the way they spare you the hard sell. But it’s important to remember their loyalty is not to you.
‘The selling agent works in the interests of their seller and it is their job to sell their house for the absolute maximum the market is willing to pay,’ buyers’ agent at Property Mavens, Miriam Sandkuhler, said.
In order to work out your budget, they will either ask you how much you think the property is worth, gauge whether you have missed out at nearby auctions to determine your ceiling price or even inspect your cheque on auction day.
‘They might take a look at your cheque to see if it’s all correct and they can then gauge from your 10 per cent deposit what you maximum is,’ Ms Sandkuhler said.
‘At home viewings the selling agents will ask you seemingly innocent questions about your likes and dislikes, what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to spend.
‘This is done to see how much money you have and work out if you are a serious buyer, but they are also gleaning information should they need to use it during the negotiation phase.’
So the less information given to an agent, the better.
NOT KNOWING THE VALUE OF A PROPERTY
First homebuyers waste months – sometimes years – attending auctions and missing out to other buyers. Meanwhile, property prices are increasing at a rate they cannot possible keep track with through saving.
‘If you have never done it before then you won’t know how to price property properly and that can cost you a lot of money,’ said Ms Sandkuhler.
‘The quote range of property often does not relate at all to the buyer’s budget.’
Not only is the market going up while first home buyers miss out at auctions, but they’re also having to paying hundreds of dollars on pest and building inspection fees for each auction they wish to bid at.
Mr Cohen recommended first home buyers research what similar properties have sold for (not listed for) in a particular area before buying – and that doesn’t mean relying on what the agent says.
‘Go to auctions in the area you’re hoping to buy in and look at what homes are selling for and search for similar properties online,’ Mr Cohen said.
‘You want to get a good understanding of what a bargain would look like in those suburbs and then, eventually, what the home you want to buy is worth and why it’s worth that amount.’
BUYING THE MONEY PIT
Sometimes first homebuyers think they need to buy a rundown house and tart it up to get into the market. The kind of home the agent refers to as a ‘renovator’s delight’, but are, in fact, only delightful if money pits bring you joy.
Financial comparison website Mozo.com.au’s property and lending expert, Steve Jovcevski, cautioned against falling blindly for the DIY fantasy.
‘If you’re going DIY, don’t forget that there are certain things, such as electrical wiring, that you need to hire a licensed contractor for,’ Mr Jovcevski said.
‘Make sure you get property inspections done to find out the extent of the work that needs to be completed, and get quotes from contractors so you can budget properly for them.’
Furthermore, banks often won’t lend on a property that is deemed uninhabitable.
‘So if your lender inspects the house and finds that it’s unlivable, they may not agree to give you a mortgage, or only lend you a fraction of what you ask for,’ Mr Jovcevski said.
‘While some banks will lend going off the contract price of a property, you can’t rely on that.
‘It’s important to be upfront with your bank about the property you’re looking to purchase, so you can be sure you’ll secure the loan you need.’
NOT UNDERSTANDING MORTGAGES AND MONEY
We get it. Securing a mortgage and filling out paperwork is burdensome, but if you don’t pay attention to the details you can end up big trouble.
First homebuyers often forget to factor in additional expenses, such as stamp duty, mortgage and solicitor fees and mortgage insurance.
While it may be tempting to cut back on professional advice to save money, Mr Cohen said this was a bad idea.
‘Make sure you get a solicitor to look at your contract because they can pick up all sorts of things that turn a good property into a bad one, such as heritage overlays or problems with the body corporate,’ Mr Cohen said.
Mr Cohen said first homebuyers desperate to get a foothold after years of feeling locked out of the market, shouldn’t feel grateful for just any old property.
‘They should remember that their money is as good as anyone else’s,’ Mr Cohen said.
‘The first property you own really is a stepping stone for your life and it’s so important to get that right.’