Compare home loan options for first home buyers
What’s the best home loan for a first time home buyer? Every first home buyer is different, and may need a different type of mortgage. Compare first home loan options from a variety of lenders and find one that suits your needs.
Smart Booster Home Loan Discounted Variable - 1yr
special1.99% variable rate for 12 months then 2.48% variable rate
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based on $300,000 loan amount for 25 years at 1.99%
p.a Intro 12 months
Borrow up to 80%
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p.a Fixed - 3 years
Borrow up to 70%
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Owner occupiers with deposits of 30% or more can lock in a low fixed rate for three years, with no ongoing fees.
p.a Fixed - 3 years
Borrow up to 80%
Fix the interest rate on your owner occupier home loan for up to three years and pay no ongoing fees.
p.a Fixed - 2 years
Borrow up to 80%
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Homeowners may lock in a competitive interest rate for two years and enjoy access to features like a 100% offset account.
Borrow up to 60%
Winner of Best refinance home loan, RateCity Gold Awards 2021
Buying your first home can be a stressful experience. Becoming a first home buyer a big step, especially if you’re used to living with your parents, or renting while studying or working. Plus, getting a mortgage can seem incredibly complex at first glance.
However, the benefits of buying property are often worth the hassle and expense of getting a mortgage, whether you’re a first time home buyer or looking at an investment property.
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What is a first mortgage?
Your first mortgage is simply the first home loan you successfully apply for, whether you’re buying your principal place of residence or an investment property.
Much like other home loans, you'll usually need to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident to successfully apply for your first mortgage.
While your first mortgage should be affordable and suited to your needs, you may not be able to get the lowest interest rates or the most flexible features as a first time home buyer. Once you’ve taken some time to pay your mortgage and build up some equity in your new home, you may be in a position to refinance and get a home loan that better suits your needs.
What type of mortgage is ideal for first time buyers?
Most first mortgages are similar to other standard home loans, though some banks and mortgage lenders offer home loan deals specifically for first time home buyers. These mortgages may offer features and benefits that are useful to first time buyers, such as discounted introductory rates (aka “honeymoon rates”), or the option to borrow with a lower deposit. They may also offer eligibility requirements that are easier for first time home buyers to fulfil.
What is the difference between a first mortgage and second mortgage?
If you take out your second mortgage because you’re refinancing your current home loan, or have sold your first home and are moving to a second home, the process is likely broadly similar to when you applied for your first home loan. Work out what you can afford, compare mortgage options from different lenders, and choose both a home loan that you can comfortably afford and offers useful features and benefits.
If you’re taking out a second mortgage to buy a second property as an investment, there may be extra considerations involved. Investment mortgages typically have different features and benefits than owner occupier home loans, and may charge higher interest rates. You may be able to use the equity in your first property to apply for your second mortgage, though there are risks involved in this strategy. Consider contacting a mortgage broker for personalised advice.
How do I buy my first home?
There are two main methods for buying property – at auction, and via private treaty.
An auction is typically a public affair, where potential buyers bid to purchase a property from a vendor. The bidder with the highest offer when the auctioneer’s hammer falls is the winner, and gets to purchase the property. If the bidding doesn’t reach the vendor’s preferred minimum selling price (the ‘reserve’), the highest bidder gets to exclusively negotiate with the vendor.
Auctions can be fast-paced and exciting, but sometimes stressful too. Also, it’s important to remember that if you’re the winner at an auction, the deal is final – there’s no cooling-off period, and you’ll need to pay a deposit on the property (often 10 per cent – find out if the vendors prefer cheques, banks transfers, or other options) right then and there. Be prepared, check the contract, keep your maximum budget in mind when bidding, and make sure your first mortgage is pre-approved and ready to go!
A private treaty is a negotiation between a buyer and a vendor to purchase the vendor’s property. Private treaties are often conducted through real estate agents, and mortgage brokers, solicitors and/or conveyancers are often also involved to help organise the paperwork.
Buying your first home via private treaty may take longer than buying at auction, and you risk being ‘gazumped’ by other interested buyers that may also be negotiating with the vendor behind the scenes. However, you may also be able to make a conditional offer while you’re still getting your home loan sorted out, and you may have the option to back out of the deal by exercising a cooling-off period in the contract.
Can I build my first home?
Sometimes it’s more affordable to buy a vacant block of land to build a house, or to buy a unit or townhouse off the plan, than to buy an established property as your first home.
However, borrowing money to build a home may require a specialist mortgage, such as a construction loan. Unlike a standard home loan, where you receive your money in one lump sum, a construction loan involves drawing down money in stages as each phase of construction is completed.
If you choose to build your first home, you may be eligible for extra government support, on top of the usual first home owner grant (FHOG) in your state or territory.
What is the best first home loan?
Because everyone’s financial situation is different, the best first home loan for you may not be the best option for somebody else. It’s important to compare different home loans and look at all the options, including:
- Interest rate: The lower the rate, the lower your mortgage payments. Some banks offer special discounted interest rates for first home buyers, but once the introductory “honeymoon” period ends, you’ll revert to a higher rate, which could put pressure on your budget.
- Fees: May be charged annually, or when you use certain loan features.
- Comparison rate: Combines a loan’s interest rate and standard fees and charges. This can give you a better idea of its overall cost, such as when a mortgage offers a low interest rate but charges high fees that may cost more in total.
It's also worth comparing the features and benefits of different home loans, to work out which ones may help you better manage your repayments and enjoy extra value.
Some popular home loan features and benefits include:
- Extra repayments: Pay off your loan faster, so you’re charged less interest.
- Redraw facility: Take extra repayments back out of your loan if you need the cash.
- Offset account: A separate savings or transaction account linked to your home loan, included when calculating your home loan’s interest charges to help you save some money. For example, if you have a $350,000 mortgage and $10,000 in your offset account, you’ll be charged interest as if you only owed $340,000.
How much can I afford to borrow for my first home loan?
To estimate if you can afford your first home loan, you can use a mortgage repayment calculator. Try entering different borrowing amounts and loan terms, and see how the repayments would fit into your household budget.
Remember, choosing a longer home loan term means your monthly repayments will be smaller, but you’ll likely pay more interest in total, while a shorter loan term will cost more from month to month, but the loan may cost less overall.
It’s important to work out if your first home loan would likely put your finances under stress, where a change in circumstances could leave you unable to afford your repayments. If a home loan may put you into mortgage stress, a lender may decline your application.
Lenders calculate mortgage stress in different ways. One commonly-accepted benchmark is that if more than one third of your household's income would go towards home loan repayments, the loan may put you into mortgage stress. You can use our mortgage stress calculator to estimate your risk.
How much do I need to save for a deposit?
Before you can buy your first property, you’ll need to pay a percentage of its value as an upfront deposit to secure your home loan. The more you can afford to pay as a deposit, the more comfortable the lender will feel about lending you money. This may let you enjoy lower interest rates or fees, or more useful home loan features and benefits.
Most lenders prefer that you pay a home loan deposit of at least 20 per cent of the property’s value. That’s a lot of money, especially if you’re buying in an Australian capital city. It can take years of dedicated saving to get a 20 per cent deposit together, and during this time the purchase price for property may rise higher!
What if my deposit is a gift?
Generous friends or family may offer to help you with your home loan deposit. However, many lenders will want your deposit to be made up of “genuine savings” – that is, income earned from your job – to show that you’re a financially responsible borrower.
If part or all of your deposit will be a gift, consider holding the money for 6 months or more in a savings account to demonstrate your financial discipline, or organise a plan to pay back the gifted money in the future. Contact your lender to learn more about its requirements.
Some lenders will let you apply for a home loan with a smaller deposit of 10, 5 or even 2 per cent of the property’s value. However, this means the lender will need to take out a Lender’s Mortgage Insurance (LMI) policy to cover the risk that you’ll default on your loan. LMI protects the bank, not the borrower, and most lenders pass on the cost of LMI to you. The lower your deposit, the more the LMI may cost, which can reach tens of thousands of dollars. Our LMI Calculator can help you plan your budget in advance.
What other upfront costs are involved when buying property?
As well as budgeting for paying your first home loan’s deposit and LMI, there are other upfront costs you may need to consider:
- Stamp duty (or transfer duty): A state or territory government tax on the sale of land. As a first home buyer, you may qualify for a duty exemption or discount on stamp duty. Our stamp duty calculator can help you estimate the cost.
- Conveyancing fees: Hiring a solicitor to manage the legal transfer of a property’s ownership.
- Application fees: Covers the admin cost of processing your home loan application and setting up your mortgage.
- Valuation fee: Covers the cost of confirming the value of the property you’re buying, as part of the home loan application process.
First home owner grants (FHOG) and other concessions in each state and territory
General FHOG information
First home owner grants began in 2000 but are increasingly hard to come by due the continued tightening of eligibility criteria.
To start with, you need to be over 18 and an Australian citizen or a permanent resident. The grants are only for newly-built or substantially renovated properties, or properties that have never been occupied before. You can’t have owned a property prior to 2000 or applied for a first home owners grant previously, and you need to live in it for a minimum of six months, within the first 12 months of owning it.
The size of the grant varies from state-to-state, as does the cap on how much the property costs. It’s worth reading your state-specific grant information carefully.
Australian Capital Territory: N/A
New South Wales: Up to $10,000
First home buyers in NSW can apply for both the First Home Owner Grant and the First Home Buyer Assistance Scheme (FHBAS). The FHBAS applies to new homes, existing homes and vacant land on which you intend to build a home – and can provide a concessional rate or an exemption on your transfer duty (previously known as stamp duty).
Northern Territory: Up to $10,000
As well as the $10,000 FHOG, Territorians may be able to claim a BuildBonus Grant ($20,000 for contracts signed before 31 December 2020; $12,000 for contracts signed between 1 January and 31 March 2021), a Territory Home Owner Discount (up to $18,601 off stamp duty), a Household Goods Grant (up to $2,000 to buy household goods) and a Home Renovation Grant (up to $10,000 to renovate your home).
Queensland: Up to $15,000
The QLD government provides a range of transfer duty concessions for people buying either their first home, their principal place of residence or a vacant block on which they intend to build. The first home concession only applies to a home valued under $550,000 and can save you up to $15,925. If you do not meet the first home concession eligibility criteria, you may still be entitled to a concession, via the home concession which could save you up to $7,175.
South Australia: Up to $15,000
Concessions are not available to first home buyers in South Australia, they can only apply for the First Home Owners Grant. The previously available concession allowing home owners to claim a concession for off-the-plan apartments ended on 30th June 2018.
Tasmania: Up to $20,000
First home buyers of established homes and pensioners downsizing to new homes may be eligible for concessions, depending on their settlement dates and other factors. The Tasmanian government has a handy tool online called PropertyBuyer, where you can check your eligibility for any concession or grant that may apply to your intended purchase of property.
Victoria: Up to $20,000
First home buyers in Victoria may be eligible for a duty exemption (for properties with a dutiable value of $600,000 or less) or a duty concession on stamp duty based on a sliding scale according to property value, provided buyers meet the eligibility criteria.
Western Australia: Up to $10,000
When a home buyer is eligible for the First Home Owner Grant, a concessional rate of transfer duty WA will apply if the value of the dutiable property is below certain thresholds.
How can I get help with my first mortgage?
Finding, applying, and paying for your first home loan can sound intimidating, but you don’t have to go it alone.
You may be able to get help from the following:
If you’re not sure which bank offers the best first home loan deal for you, you could consider getting in touch with a mortgage broker.
These home loan experts can:
- recommend specific home loans to you, based on your financial situation;
- negotiate with banks on your behalf to help you secure better deals, and;
- tell you about special mortgage offers that aren’t typically advertised.
Using a mortgage broker to apply for mortgage pre-approval is usually free, as the broker is paid a commission by the bank or lender if the loan application is successful.
These legal specialists can manage the process of transferring the title of your first property from the seller to the buyer.
Because property sale contracts can be complex, and may include special terms and conditions depending on your state or territory, a conveyancer can help to minimise your risk of legal problems when buying your first home.
If you’re having trouble saving a home loan deposit, or if you’d like a home loan with no deposit, you may be able to get help from a guarantor. This is a close family member (usually a parent or grandparent) that uses the value of their own property to guarantee part or all of your home loan deposit. If you default on your home loan, your guarantor will become responsible for your mortgage payments.
Becoming a guarantor is a big commitment, so it’s important for everyone involved to be aware of the risks. However, once you’ve spent some time paying off your mortgage, it may be possible to refinance to a loan without a guarantor.
First Home Loan Deposit Scheme
First introduced in 2020, this Australian government initiative allows you to apply for a mortgage from selected lenders with a deposit of just 5 per cent, with the government guaranteeing the rest so you don’t need to pay LMI.
Only 10,000 spots are available in the scheme each financial year, and to be eligible your income must be under the maximum threshold ($125,000 per annum for singles, or $200,000 per annum for couples).
Lenders regularly include special deals and incentives with their mortgages to help attract new home loan customers.
You may be offered:
- Discounted interest rates for a limited time (sometimes called “honeymoon rates”)
- Waived fees
- Bundled credit cards or other financial products
- Discounted or waived LMI fees
Keep in mind that you’ll need to fulfil the lender’s eligibility criteria for its special offers. While some incentives are meant for first home buyers, others are intended for refinancers or investors. Be sure to read the terms and conditions before you apply.
Senior Financial Writer
Mark Bristow is a senior financial writer for RateCity and an experienced analyst, researcher, and producer. Working for over ten years, Mark previously wrote and researched commercial real estate at CoreLogic, and has seen articles published at Lifehacker and Business Insider, among others. Most recently, Mark has joined RateCity working across finance as a whole. Whatever the topic, Mark’s goal is always to provide simple solutions to complex problems.
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Frequently asked questions
Can first home buyers apply for an ING home loan?
First home buyers can apply for an ING home loan, but first, they need to select the most suitable home loan product and calculate the initial deposit on their home loan.
First-time buyers can also use ING’s online tool to estimate the amount they can borrow. ING offers home loan applicants a free property report to look up property value estimates.
First home loan applicants struggling to understand the terms used may consider looking up ING’s first home buyer guide. Once the home buyer is ready to apply for the loan, they can complete an online application or call ING at 1800 100 258 during regular business hours.
How can I apply for a first home buyers loan with Commonwealth Bank?
Getting a home loan requires planning and research. If you are considering a home loan with the Commonwealth Bank, you can find the information you need in the buying your first home section of the bank’s website.
You can see the steps you should take before applying for the loan and use the calculators to work out how much you can borrow, what your monthly repayments would be and the upfront costs you’d likely pay.
You can also book a time with a Commonwealth first home loan specialist by calling 13 2221.
CommBank publishes a property report that may help you understand the real estate market. The bank has also created a CommBank Property App that you can use to search for property. The link to download this app is available on the same webpage.
If you are eligible for the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, CommBank will help you process your application. The scheme helps first home buyers to purchase a home with a low deposit. You can read details about this scheme here and speak with a CommBank home lending specialist to understand your options.
Can I get a NAB first home loan?
The First Home Loan Deposit Scheme of NAB helps first home buyers purchase a property sooner by reducing the upfront costs required. This scheme is offered based on a Government-backed initiative, with10,000 available places announced in October 2020.
Suppose your application for the NAB first home buyer loan is successful. In that case, you’ll only need to pay a low deposit, between 5 and 20 per cent of the property value and won’t be asked to pay lender's mortgage insurance (LMI). You’ll also receive a limited guarantee from the Australian government to purchase the property.
If you’re applying for the NAB first home buyer home loan as an individual, you need to have earned less than $125,000 in the last financial year. Couples applying for the NAB first home loan need to have earned less than $200,000 to be eligible. To be considered a couple, you need to be married or in a de facto relationship. A parent and child, siblings or friends are not considered a couple when applying for a NAB first home loan.
The NAB First Home Loan Deposit Scheme is currently offered only to purchase a brand new property, rather than an established property.
Where can I get all the information about an ANZ first home buyer’s loan?
As a first home buyer, you may require help and hand-holding, and as such ANZ has the buying your first home section on its website full of important information. ANZ also has a form in this section you can fill out to get a free consultation from an ANZ First Home Coach and create your own plan for buying your first home. This coach will help you understand where your current income is being spent and plan for your home loan repayments. You’ll get a clear picture of the costs involved in purchasing a property and how to budget or save for these costs. The coach will help you understand different deposit options and manage your accounts to enhance your savings.
There are three types of ANZ first home loans - Standard Variable, Fixed, and Equity Manager. The features, interest rates, and terms for each are different, and you can compare them here.
When they apply for an ANZ home loan, first home buyers can also get guidance on applying for the First Home Owner Grant (FHOG). This is a one-off government grant that may be available to you when you’re buying your first home. The eligibility criteria for FHOG differs between the different states and territories, which is why it’s helpful to have expert advice when applying.
How do I apply for Westpac’s first home buyer loan?
If you’re a first home buyer looking to apply for a home loan with Westpac, they offer an online home loan application. They suggest the application can be completed in about 20 minutes. Based on the information you provide, Westpac will advise you the amount you can borrow and the costs associated with any possible home loan.
When applying for a home loan with Westpac, you’re assigned a home finance manager who can address your concerns and provide information. The manager will also offer guidance on any government grants you may be eligible for.
What is upfront fee?
An ‘upfront’ or ‘application’ fee is a one-off expense you are charged by your bank when you take out a loan. The average start-up fee is around $600 however there are over 1,000 loans on the market with none at all. If the loan you want does include an application fee, try and negotiate to have it waived. You’ll be surprised what your bank agrees to when they want your business.
What is a cooling-off period?
Once a home loan’s contracts are exchanged between the borrower and the lender, a five-day cooling-off period follows, during which the contracts may be cancelled if needed.
How much is the first home buyer's grant?
The first home buyer grant amount will vary depending on what state you’re in and the value of the property that you are purchasing. In general, they start around $10,000 but it is advisable to check your eligibility for the grant as well as how much you are entitled to with your state or territory’s revenue office.
What is stamp duty?
Stamp duty is the tax that must be paid when purchasing a property in Australia.
It is calculated by the state government based on the selling price of the property. These charges may differ for first homebuyers. You can calculate the stamp duty for your property using our stamp duty calculator.
What percentage of income should my mortgage repayments be?
As a general rule, mortgage repayments should be less than 30 per cent of your pre-tax income to avoid falling into mortgage stress. When mortgage repayments exceed this amount it becomes hard to budget for other living expenses and your lifestyle quality may be diminished.
What is a loan-to-value ratio (LVR)?
A loan-to-value ratio (otherwise known as a Loan to Valuation Ratio or LVR), is a calculation lenders make to work out the value of your loan versus the value of your property, expressed as a percentage. Lenders use this calculation to help assess your suitability for a home loan, and whether you need to pay lender’s mortgage insurance (LMI). As a general rule, most banks will require you to pay LMI if your loan-to-value ratio is 80 per cent or more. LVR is worked out by dividing the loan amount by the value of the property. If you are looking for a quick ball-park estimate of LVR, the size of your deposit is a good indicator as it is directly proportionate to your LVR. For instance, a loan with an LVR of 80 per cent requires a deposit of 20 per cent, while a 90 per cent LVR requires 10 per cent down payment.
LOAN AMOUNT / PROPERTY VALUE = LVR%
While this all sounds simple enough, it is worth doing a more accurate calculation of LVR before you commit to buying a place as there are some traps to be aware of. Firstly, the ‘loan amount’ is the price you paid for the property plus additional costs such as stamp duty and legal fees, minus your deposit amount. Secondly, the ‘property value’ is determined by your lender’s valuation of the property, not the price you paid for it, and sometimes these can differ so where possible, try and get your bank to evaluate the property before you put in an offer.
What happens when you default on your mortgage?
A mortgage default occurs when you are 90 days or more behind on your mortgage repayments. Late repayments will often incur a late fee on top of the amount owed which will continue to gather interest along with the remaining principal amount.
If you do default on a mortgage repayment you should try and catch up in next month’s payment. If this isn’t possible, and missing payments is going to become a regular issue, you need to contact your lender as soon as possible to organise an alternative payment schedule and discuss further options.
You may also want to talk to a financial counsellor.
What is a debt service ratio?
A method of gauging a borrower’s home loan serviceability (ability to afford home loan repayments), the debt service ratio (DSR) is the fraction of an applicant’s income that will need to go towards paying back a loan. The DSR is typically expressed as a percentage, and lenders may decline loans to borrowers with too high a DSR (often over 30 per cent).
What is an ongoing fee?
Ongoing fees are any regular payments charged by your lender in addition to the interest they apply including annual fees, monthly account keeping fees and offset fees. The average annual fee is close to $200 however there are almost 2,000 home loan products that don’t charge an annual fee at all. There’s plenty of extra costs when you’re buying a home, such as conveyancing, stamp duty, moving costs, so the more fees you can avoid on your home loan, the better. While $200 might not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, it adds up to $6,000 over the life of a 30 year loan – money which would be much better off either reinvested into your home loan or in your back pocket for the next rainy day.
Example: Anna is tossing up between two different mortgage products. Both have the same variable interest rate, but one has a monthly account keeping fee of $20. By picking the loan with no fees, and investing an extra $20 a month into her loan, Josie will end up shaving 6 months off her 30 year loan and saving over $9,000* in interest repayments.
What is a honeymoon rate and honeymoon period?
Also known as the ‘introductory rate’ or ‘bait rate’, a honeymoon rate is a special low interest rate applied to loans for an initial period to attract more borrowers. The honeymoon period when this lower rate applies usually varies from six months to one year. The rate can be fixed, capped or variable for the first 12 months of the loan. At the end of the term, the loan reverts to the standard variable rate.
What is a line of credit?
Equity is the value of your property, less any outstanding debt against it. For example, if you have a $500,000 property and a $300,000 mortgage against the property, then you have $200,000 equity. This is the portion of the property that you actually own.
This type of loan is a flexible mortgage that allows you to draw on funds when you need them, similar to a credit card.
What is the difference between offset and redraw?
The difference between an offset and redraw account is that an offset account is intended to work as a transaction account that can be accessed whenever you need. A redraw facility on the other hand is more like an “emergency fund” of money that you can draw on if needed but isn’t used for everyday expenses.
What is a comparison rate?
The comparison rate is a more inclusive way of comparing home loans that factors in not only on the interest rate but also the majority of upfront and ongoing charges that add to the total cost of a home loan.
The rate is calculated using an industry-wide formula based on a $150,000 loan over a 25-year period and includes things like revert rates after an introductory or fixed rate period, application fees and monthly account keeping fees.
In Australia, all lenders are required by law to publish the comparison rate alongside their advertised rate so people can compare products easily.
What is break fee?
Break fees are charged when a customer terminates a fixed-rate mortgage. The amount is determined at the time you decide to break the loan and is based on how much your bank stands to lose by you breaking the contract. As a general rule, the more the variable rate has dropped, the higher the fee will be.
How does an offset account work?
An offset account functions as a transaction account that is linked to your home loan. The balance of this account is offset daily against the loan amount and reduces the amount of principal that you pay interest on.
By using an offset account it’s possible to reduce the length of your loan and the total amount of interest payed by thousands of dollars.
Example: If you have a mortgage of $500,000 but holding an offset account with $50,000, you will only pay interest on $450,000 rather then $500,000.