Top tips for first home buyers

Buying your first home can be a challenging and daunting process, with so many things to consider.

But don’t fret – we’re here to help. I canvassed experts in the field and first home owners for some of their top tips to help first home buyers navigate the process.

  1. 01

    Manage your money

    First thing to do is to get your savings and spending under control. Lenders ask for three months’ bank statements and are looking for proof that you can service a loan.

    If your mortgage repayments are going to be more than your rent, you need to show you can afford it.

    Dustin Lindale from the First Home Buyers Club says your bank statements should demonstrate:

    • Consistent deposits from income
    • A monthly surplus after expenses
    • No unarranged overdraft fees or bounced automatic payments

    Let’s Talk Mortgages director Sarah Bloxham says first home buyers should be mindful of how much they spend on food, especially takeaways and dining out.

    “Download your bank statements, mark everything that you actually spent on food and then breathe – and fix it! Own it…show the bank you aren’t a spender.”

  2. 02

    Pay off debt

    Lenders don’t like debt, especially if you’re borrowing more than 80 percent. Get a side hustle, put your hand up for that promotion, or try to cut down on your expenses in order to pay off debt faster.

    Lindale says $10,000 of personal debt reduces your borrowing potential by about $46,000.

  3. 03

    Do your research

    Read up online, visit different lenders’ websites and get to know the market. If you know where you want to live and the budget you have, start visiting open homes and auctions – not necessarily to buy, but to understand the process, how much they’re going for and to have a good understanding of what to expect when your time comes.

  4. 04

    Move back home, to save for your own

    It’s not always easy to move back home after years out of the nest, but if you’ve got the opportunity it could be worth taking it, as you’ll likely save a deposit much faster than if you are renting.

    Hollie and Opeti Yavunisautu and their two children moved in with her parents in 2016 to help save for a house, after struggling to get ahead while renting.

    “Three and a half years later, a baby in between and a lockdown, we finally were able to buy our first home,” Hollie says.

    “It was not always roses for either party, we certainly had our moments but ultimately we achieved our goal of owning a house, and in the process my children developed a closeness with their grandparents and created memories they will never forget.”

  5. 05

    Allow for extra costs

    There are often hidden costs in the home-buying process, from Lim and builder reports, to valuations and lawyers. It’s typically advised buyers have about $5000 aside to cover these costs.

    Also watch out for extra expenses if building as I know plenty of people who have been stung with costs for retainer walls or water connections that weren’t included in the contract, and if you’re buying a doer-upper you’re going to want some spare money for renovations.

  6. 06

    Get a good lawyer

    It’s a big cost to engage a lawyer but a necessary one in the house-buying process. Lawyers can help explain tricky documents or complicated purchases, such as subdividing, cross-leases and unit titles. They’ll read over the sale and purchase agreement, help you access your Kiwisaver and manage the transfer of funds.

  7. 07

    Get help with buying

    First home buyers can access their Kiwisaver to buy their homes, and are also eligible for the First Home Grant if they’ve contributed for more than three years.

    You can get a family member to be a guarantor, consider buying with a sibling or a trusted friend, or getting a flatmate or boarder to help pay the mortgage.

    Co-ownership arrangements also exist, where you own a portion of the property and the organisation owns the rest. When you’re ready you purchase their share off them.

  8. 08

    Inspect the property

    If it’s an older home, you’ll probably want to get a builder’s inspection. But Auckland homeowner Paul Hinds says buyers shouldn’t solely rely on a builder’s advice.

    “If it’s an older house spend time in it, go up in the roof and underneath if possible. Are your timbers dry and solid? Does it smell damp? Are there tell-tale signs of water ingress?” Paul says.

    “Pump the neighbours for info on how the area fairs in heavy rains. Don't put all your faith in a builder’s report… Look for yourself.”

  9. 09

    Expand your horizons

    Know what you want, but be willing to compromise. The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) suggests keeping an open mind about location and the type of property you want by making a list with your ‘must have’, ‘should have’ and ‘nice to have’ conditions.

    “Understand what and where you want to buy, be willing to compromise but stand strong in what you aren’t willing to negotiate on,” REINZ chief executive Bindi Norwell says.

    “Go to lots of open homes, do plenty of research, do your due diligence and be ready to act when you find the perfect home.”

  10. 10

    Use a mortgage broker

    The number one advice people shared with me for this list was to engage a broker or adviser. They work for you, but are paid by the lenders, and advise on everything from how much you can borrow, how to navigate the process and help you with settlement.