The First Home Owner Grants in Australia

William Jolly By on August 7, 2019
transactional
 
First Home Owner Grants

Photo by Gus Ruballo on Unsplash

If you’re looking to buy your first home, you should be aware of First Home Owner Grants, which exist to assist new homeowners in buying their dream home. See what grants are available in each state and territory. 

First home buyers in Australia

Despite what you might have heard on Twitter or from your co-workers, things are starting to look a bit better for first home buyers in Australia. According to ABS Household Lending statistics for April 2019, lending to first home buyers rose to a six and a half year high, occupying a market share of 28.2%. 

Recent falls to house prices and extremely low interest rates are likely to have caused this gain, but boosts to various first home buyer grants and concessions around the country in the past few years may have also had something to do with it. 

Australian First Home Owner Grants (FHOG) were first introduced in July 2000 through a national scheme separately legislated, funded and administrated by the different states and territories. The purpose? To provide a one-off payment to prospective first home buyers to help them break into the property market.

Is it really that easy? Let’s explore. 

How much is the first home owners grant?

At the time of writing, every state and territory in Australia offers some form of a FHOG. Read on to see how much you can get from the grant and any eligibility criteria that may apply:

First home owners grant NSW

In New South Wales, the First Home Owner Grant (New Homes) Scheme was amended on 1 July 2017 to cap the grant at new home purchases worth $600,000 and new home buildings at $750,000. The grant here is worth $10,000, provided you meet the eligibility criteria (see eligibility section below). 

To apply for the New South Wales New Homes Scheme or to learn more, visit the NSW Government’s site

First home owners grant VIC

In Metropolitan Victoria (aka Melbourne), first home buyers buying or building a new home can be eligible for a $10,000 First Home Owner Grant, while buying or building a new property in regional Victoria can qualify you for a $20,000 bonus. In both regions, the grants are only available on properties that are valued at $750,000 or less.

Visit the State Revenue Office of Victoria for more information. 

Melbourne Laneway

Could $10,000 help you buy a new property down this trendy Melbourne laneway? Probably not. Source: Unsplash.

First home owners grant QLD

The Queensland First Home Owners’ Grant provides $15,000 towards a potential first home owner’s deposit if they’re buying or building a new house, unit or townhouse worth less than $750,000. Contracts dated from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2018 can receive a grant of $20,000. 

Visit the Queensland Government for more information on the First Home Owner’s Grant and how you can apply.

First home owners grant WA

In WA, first home buyers can receive up to $10,000 towards buying or building new homes – it is no longer available for established properties. The maximum value of the property that can be purchased with the grant depends on the property’s location. For example, homes in the Perth metropolitan area (south of the 26th parallel) must not be valued at more than $750,000, while houses north of the 26th parallel can be valued at up to $1 million.

Visit the Western Australian Government’s Department of Finance site for more information on how to apply. 

First home owners grant SA 

Since January 2014, South Australia has offered a $15,000 grant to first home buyers building or purchasing new homes with a market value of $575,000 or less. 

The South Australian Department of Revenue and Finance has more details on how you can apply. 

First home owners grant TAS

The Tasmanian Government announced in the 2019-20 State Budget that the current $20,000 FHOG for buying or building a new home would be extended for another year, but after 1 July 2020, this will drop to $10,000. Unlike other states, Tasmania does not place a limit on the purchase price of the property. 

The State Revenue Office of Tasmania provides more detailed information. 

First home owners grant ACT

The Australian Capital Territory’s FHOG offers $7,000 to new homeowners buying or building a new home, ending 30 June 2019. As with some other states, this is only available to purchased homes worth $750,000 or less.

Visit the ACT Revenue Office for more information.

First home owners grant NT

The Northern Territory offers a grant of $10,000 towards buying or building a new home. It used to offer the largest grant of $26,000, but this has since been reduced as at May 7 2019. As in Tasmania and the ACT, your income and house value does not affect your eligibility for the grant, but you should check out nt.gov.au for more information.  

First home owners stamp duty concessions

It’s not just property prices that have skyrocketed in recent years. Stamp duty costs – aka the transfer tax you pay when purchasing a property or vacant land – has also increased significantly. For example, a $750,000 owner-occupied dwelling in New South Wales will set you back approximately $29,500 in stamp duty fees, based on current regulations. 

To alleviate this cost, the different states and territories also offer stamp duty concessions to prospective new home buyers. At the time of writing, these are the available concessions: 

  • New South Wales: no stamp duty on properties up to $650,000 and vacant land up to $350,000. Discounted stamp duty for properties between $650,000-$800,000 and vacant land between $350,000 and $450,000
  • Victoria: no stamp duty on properties under $600,000 and discounted stamp duty on properties between $600,000-$750,000
  • Queensland: no stamp duty on properties under $500,000 and vacant land under $400,000. Discounted stamp duty on properties under $550,000
  • Western Australia: no stamp duty on properties up to $430,000 and land up to $300,000. Discounted stamp duty on properties between $430,000-$530,000 and vacant land between $300,000 and $400,000
  • South Australia: no stamp duty concessions
  • Tasmania: 50% discount on stamp duty on established homes up to $400,000
  • ACT: Under the new Home Buyer Concession Scheme, full stamp duty concessions are available for applicants who earn below a certain amount for properties up to $585,000 – see the link above for more detailed information.
  • Northern Territory: no stamp duty on new or established properties up to $500,000 and discounted stamp duty on properties between $500,000-$650,000. According to the Northern Territory State Government website, this discount no longer applies to properties bought after May 6 2019.

Of course, these reductions and discounts assume you already meet the eligibility criteria, which we’ll discuss below. 

First Home Owner Grant eligibility 

Although the eligibility criteria for each state and territory will be slightly different, you will typically need to meet the following requirements:

  • You are over 18
  • You or your spouse must never have owned a property in Australia prior to 1 July 2000
  • You have not received a first home owner grant in any State or Territory
  • You need to live in the home (as an owner-occupier) for a continuous period of at least 6 months
  • At least one applicant is a permanent resident or Australian citizen

You also need to be an actual human person and not a company or trust, so make sure you aren’t one of those before applying.  

What is the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme?

The First Home Loan Deposit Scheme is an initiative that was announced by the Morrison Government just prior to the 2019 election. According to the official announcement by the Liberal Party, the scheme is designed “help eligible first home buyers purchase a house with a deposit as low as 5%”.

Under the scheme, first home buyers who earn a maximum household income of $200,000 will only require a deposit of 5% in order to waive Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI) on their purchase, something that could save them as much as $10,000. 

Low variable home loan rates

Provider Ad rate
p.a.
Comp rate*
p.a.
Monthly
repayments
 
Purchase or Refi, P&I 80% Smart Home Loan 2.88% 2.90% $1,660 More details
Discount Variable 80% 3.07% 3.09% $1,702 More details
Base Variable Rate Special P&I 3.20% 3.20% $1,730 More details
Ad rate
p.a.
Comp rate*
p.a.
Monthly
repayments
Purchase or Refi, P&I 80% Smart Home Loan
2.88% 2.90% $1,660
More details
Discount Variable 80%
3.07% 3.09% $1,702
More details
Base Variable Rate Special P&I
3.20% 3.20% $1,730
More details

Base criteria of: a $400,000 loan amount, variable, principal and interest (P&I) home loans with an LVR (loan-to-value) ratio of at least 80%. Introductory rate products were not considered for selection. Monthly repayments were calculated based on the selected products’ advertised rates, applied to a $400,000 loan with a 30-year loan term. Rates correct as at 1 November 2019. View disclaimer.

Details of the scheme are still relatively scarce, but we do know:

  • It will be available on January 1 2020
  • It will be capped to 10,000 loans a year on a first-come, first-served basis
  • Smaller lenders will be prioritised to help boost competition
  • It will offer up to $500 million in the form of equity through the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation, who will act as guarantors 

“It can take nine to 10 years for an average household to save a deposit. We want to help Australians realise the goal of buying their first home by cutting years off the time it takes to save up,” The Prime Minister said in his announcement in May. 

Source: Liberal Party of Australia

Not everyone was appreciative of the move. Vice-chancellor research fellow at the University of Tasmania Saul Eslake said it could encourage people to take out 95% loan-to-value ratio (LVR) loans, which aren’t always good things. 

“In a market where prices appear to be falling, there’s a risk that someone who enters this scheme may find themselves in a negative equity position,” he said. 

On the other hand, Head of Property Market Research at Propertyology Simon Pressley told Savings.com.au the scheme is a “wonderful initiative to help first home buyers”.

“I’ve always been critical of the so-called ‘First Home Owners Grant‘, which is really just a construction grant for new homes and mainly benefits developers.”

“This is a genuine first home owners grant, and someone contemplating that life-changing decision now has a genuine date and call to action to break themselves into the property market.”

And this is the main criticism of the FHOG. In certain states, it’s very limited in who can apply and how much they can get, and with today’s rather high house prices, a small cash bonus could often fail to make much of a difference…  

Using first home owners grant as deposit

If you are eligible for the grant, then this injection of cash can potentially make a difference to your ability to buy a home a home.

Domain’s House Price report for the July 2019 quarter found that the median house price across Australia is  $750,721 – not exactly pocket change. This rises and falls depending on where you live. Darwin, for example, has a median house price of roughly $502,521, whereas Sydney’s average house will set you back roughly $1 million. It used to be even higher but has suffered some pretty severe falls recently. 

While cutting down on eating out, coffee, electricity, breathing and other luxury items like food and clean water is seen as the best course of action by some of Australia’s more out-of-touch personalities, it isn’t always that easy for some.

Saving 20% for a house deposit (to avoid paying Lender’s Mortgage Insurance) can take the average young couple about eight years in Sydney, according to the ABC. While other capital cities might take half this time, we all know that house prices can change pretty significantly, so after five years that deposit you thought you needed might no longer be enough. 

This is where either the First Home Owner Grant or the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme can come in handy – if your 20% deposit on a $600,000 house is $120,000, then a $10,000 or $15,000 contribution you can get in certain states can seriously offset some of this cost. Likewise, reducing the deposit you need from $120,000 to $30,000 can also make it much easier to make that first step. 

It isn’t clear yet if you can use both schemes to buy your first home, but using even one of them can be the difference between securing the property or losing it to that annoying couple you hate. 

Does anyone actually use it? 

It would seem that yes, lots of aspiring first home buyers do use the First Home Owners Grant. 

Using State Revenue Office data and comparing it to the ABS’ Lending to Households data for First Home Buyers, we can see just how many people have actually used the grants across our three biggest states over the first five months of 2019 (January to May) to get a percentage.


New South WalesVictoria 
Number of First Home Buyer Commitments (January-May 2019)10,41312,818
Number of First Home Owner Grants (January-May 2019)3,3765,557
% of grants to home loan commitments~ 33%~ 43%

Source: ABS Household Lending data, Victoria State Revenue Office, Revenue NSW

The same data set doesn’t exist for Queensland – instead we have 6,214 First Home Owner Grants made across the 2018-19 financial year. Over the same time, there were about 19,500 home loans granted to first home buyers, which is about 32%. 

So based on this data the First Home Owners Grant is still pretty widely used, with about one-third of first home buyers receiving a grant in NSW and QLD. Victorian first home buyers appear to have a higher grant usage rate of over 40%, which may have something to do with the state government’s comparatively generous offering of up to $20,000 for properties in regional Victoria. 

Savings.com.au’s two cents

Don’t feel too helpless if you’re struggling to buy your dream first home. A first home buyer grant is one of several ways you can get help. Other options include the First Home Super Saver Scheme, using a guarantor, financial assistance programs and the new first-home buyer deposit scheme if it comes to fruition. 

But keep in mind that government grants and concessions are subject to the ever-changing nature of state budgets and legislation, so don’t hang your hat on them. You should aim to save enough to be able to buy property without a grant, so that it merely serves as an added bonus.    

While the information in this article is accurate at the time of writing, it is subject to change. Check your state government’s website to see what the grant requirements are and what changes are in the works. 


Disclaimers

The entire market was not considered in selecting the above products. Rather, a cut-down portion of the market has been considered which includes retail products from at least the big four banks, the top 10 customer-owned institutions and Australia’s larger non-banks:

  • The big four banks are: ANZ, CBA, NAB and Westpac
  • The top 10 customer-owned Institutions are the ten largest mutual banks, credit unions and building societies in Australia, ranked by assets under management in 2018. They are (in descending order): Credit Union Australia, Newcastle Permanent, Heritage Bank, Peoples’ Choice Credit Union, Teachers Mutual Bank, Greater Bank, IMB Bank, Beyond Bank, Bank Australia and P&N Bank.
  • The larger non-bank lenders are those who (in 2019) has more than $9 billion in Australian funded loans and advances. These groups are: Resimac, Pepper, Liberty and Firstmac.

In the interests of full disclosure, Savings.com.au and loans.com.au are part of the Firstmac Group. To read about how Savings.com.au manages potential conflicts of interest, along with how we get paid, please click through onto the web site links.

*Comparison rate includes both the interest rate and the fees and charges relating to a loan, combined into a single percentage figure. The interest rate per annum is based on a loan credit of $150,000 and a loan term of 25 years.

William Jolly
William Jolly joined Savings.com.au as a Financial Journalist in 2018, after spending two years at financial research firm Canstar. In William's articles, you're likely to find complex financial topics and products broken down into everyday language. He is deeply passionate about improving the financial literacy of Australians and providing them with resources on how to save money in their everyday lives.
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