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Top tips for first home buyers

Buyers  |  18 February 2019  | By The settled.govt.nz team

Deco House

Struggling to get on the property ladder and feeling fed up? You’re not alone. Real Estate Authority (REA) research has found that more than half of all first home buyers – even the ones who successfully buy a property – find the process stressful and overwhelming.

Lots of people will give you advice on what to do and it can be hard to work out what’s useful and what’s not. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Sort out your finances

You’ll already know that saving is a big part of getting ready to buy, but do you know what else you need to do?

Getting financial advice from a qualified advisor could be a useful step in your planning. Owning a property means you’re responsible for all the maintenance and repairs – and for paying rates and insurance. Owning an apartment may also mean you need to pay body corporate fees. These costs can be a bit of a shock to the system if you’ve rented for a long time.

It’s also a good idea to get conditional pre-approved finance arranged so you can move quickly when you spot a property you really like. Having conditional pre-approval lets you know the price range you can buy in and it shows agents and sellers that you’re a serious buyer. It’s also crucial if you’re planning to bid on a property at auction.

Don’t forget to explore ways that you might be able to get help from the Government. There are various forms of financial assistance available if you’re a KiwiSaver member, buying in certain areas, want to buy a former Housing New Zealand property or are Māori and want to live on your ancestral land.

If you’re not sure how to work out your costs, our mortgage calculator can help.

2. Need vs wants

Many first home buyers discover a big gap between what they’d like to buy and what they can afford when they first start looking.

Write a tight list of what your absolute must-haves are, then work out what you’re willing to compromise on. If you’re thinking about pets and children arriving in the short-to-medium term, think about how these will change your needs. Will you need to be near to childcare or schools? Will you need a fenced property?

If you’re the sort of person who likes a good list, our ‘researching the property’ checklist will help you keep track of all the questions to ask. This is especially useful if you’re looking at more than one property at a time.

3. Do your homework 

Don’t let your desperation to find somewhere blind you to a property’s faults.

"Do as much research as you can about a property,” Lampen-Smith says. “That means getting a lawyer on board to make sure all the paperwork is in order and to help you understand if there are any issues. We also recommend getting a qualified building inspector who has professional indemnity insurance to prepare a comprehensive report on the property.”

If you’re worried about paying for this kind of report before you make an offer (due to a lack of time or funds), you can make them a condition of your offer. Remember that paying for good advice is an investment that will buy you more peace of mind than a quick once-over by a mate. 

4. Recognise your limits

Buying a ‘doer-upper’ is a Kiwi tradition, especially for first-home buyers, but we’re not all blessed with the right skills. Factor this in before you make an offer on a ‘renovator’s dream’. Be honest with yourselves about how much DIY you can really do, especially if you’ve got pets and kids. Getting professionals in to help will cost more, but it will also make the process faster. It may also be better in the long term when it comes to selling the property if any work has been done properly with the right consents.

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