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First home buyers locked in new battle with investors

The number of first home buyers entering the property market has fallen as the return of cashed-up investors, reduced government incentives and higher property prices make it harder for young people to get a foot on the property ladder.

Those who do press ahead and decide to purchase their first home often have to take out a larger mortgage or tap the bank of mum and dad for assistance to access a hot property market.

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the number of new loans approved for first home buyers in May was 7.4 per cent less, seasonally adjusted, than in January of this year.

And new buyers are taking out larger loans. The average loan size approved in May was $455,375, almost 5 per cent higher than recorded in May last year.

The larger loans are a reflection of booming property prices.

Figures from property researcher CoreLogic show national home values in the year to June 30 soared 13.5 per cent. House prices rocketed 15.6 per cent and units by 6.8 per cent.

Sydney dwelling prices were up 15 per cent in 2020-21 and 7.7 per cent in Melbourne.

However, there are some early signs that relief against the seemingly endless advance in prices may be on the way.

Fewer first home buyers, but larger loans
New entrants face higher prices and cashed-up investors
home buyers

The rate of price rises is slowing, with national home values advancing 1.9 per cent in June, compared to 2.8 per cent in March this year.

Price growth is slowing the most at the top end of the property market, says Eliza Owen, CoreLogic’s head of research for Australia.

“The rest of the market tends to follow movements at the high end,” she says.

Although first home buyer activity has decreased each month since January, it is still much higher than before the coronavirus pandemic first hit, largely supported by record-low mortgage interest rates and the resulting increase in borrowing power.

“[First home buyer activity] remains elevated and second only to the record results reported through the autumn of 2009,” says Andrew Wilson, chief economist at MyHousingMarket.

First home buyer activity was 65.4 per cent higher over the first five months of this year compared to the same period a year ago, Dr Wilson says.

Affordability for first home buyers, as measured in an index compiled by Dr Wilson, deteriorated 3.3 per cent in New South Wales in the three months ended May 31, compared to the previous quarter. Even though the measure is for the entire state, Sydney dominates the index.

The affordability measure primarily tracks the ability of borrowers to repay their mortgages – the ratio of income to the size of their loan.

National first home buyer housing affordability dipped 2.2 per cent over the three months to May 31.

Victoria fared relatively better, with affordability deteriorating 1.9 per cent. Dr Wilson says this is because although incomes are only slightly lower in Victoria than in NSW, property prices in the southern state are significantly lower. This provides Victorians with more buying power.

First home buyers are facing increasing competition as more investors return to the property market in the hope of eventually being able to cash-in on rapidly advancing prices, while money continues to be cheap to borrow.

New lending to investors in May was more than double the value of lending in the same month of last year and is at its highest level since June, 2015.

Dr Wilson expects rising prices and the return of investors will continue to dampen first home buyer activity over coming months, particularly in Sydney.

The average size of investor loans approved in NSW in May was about $713,000, compared to $560,000 for first home buyers, Dr Wilson says.

However, partly because of access to the bank of mum and dad, an extension of first home buyer deposit schemes and the fear of missing out, first home buyers numbers are unlikely to collapse altogether, Dr Wilson says.

A further 10,000 First Home Loan Deposit Scheme places were allocated by the federal government from July 1. Under the scheme, the government goes guarantor for a loan, so that the home buyer only needs to put down a deposit of 5 per cent, instead of the usual 20 per cent, thereby avoiding expensive lenders’ mortgage insurance.

Thousands of places have also been provided under the New Home Guarantee for the current financial year. That scheme allows buyers to build a new home, buy off the plan, snap up a house-and-land package or buy land with a separate contract to build a home with a deposit of 5 per cent.


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Regional Queensland

Queensland Unlocks Land to Meet Demand


The Queensland government has unlocked nearly 50,000 lots between the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast as population growth pushes up demand.

Land supply was part of the state’s Covid economic recovery plan to provide jobs as property prices continue to surge across the region.

Funding was also allocated for infrastructure including roads, sewage works and schools for the new lots near Redland, Moreton Bay, Logan and out to Ripley Valley.

Minister for state development Steven Miles said the team were focusing on Brisbane, Redland, Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast for other future sites.

Residential lots unlocked since November 2020

Location Lots Additional funding
Greater Flagstone 27,000 lots $31 million from Catalyst Infrastructure Fund for critical road infrastructure
Ripley Valley 5,600 lots $5.91 million from Catalyst Infrastructure Fund for critical road infrastructure
Southern Redland Bay 5,000 lots $15 million from Building Acceleration Fund for a new wastewater management plant
Caloundra South 3,091 lots
Caboolture West 3,000 lots $10.5 million from Building Acceleration Fund for water supply and sewage infrastructure
Yarrabilba 2,000 lots $15 million from Building Acceleration Fund for infrastructure for primary school site and roads
Bahr’s Scrub 1,700 lots $15 million from Building Acceleration Fund to improve access and transport efficiency

^Source: Queensland Government

“Our strong health response to the Covid-19 pandemic has created a spike in interstate migration which has put pressure on land supply across the state,” Miles said.

“Greater Flagstone and Ripley Valley are both expected to be home to around 120,000 people so it’s important we have the right infrastructure in place to support that growth. ”

The Growth Areas Team announced a pilot site for land supply in March, identifying Caboolture West as Queensland’s newest suburb.

The 2032 Olympics and Paralympic Games in Brisbane is expected to further stimulate population growth and property demand.

Pacific International Development Corporation director Stephen Harrison said they were working on the Flinders Lakes development at Greater Flagstone.

“It will also result in the acceleration of significant investment by the private sector to complement the road construction works,” Harrison said.

“We’re keen to continue to work with the Queensland Government and Logan City Council to deliver world-class master-planned communities that will promote Queensland’s lifestyle nationally and internationally.”

The development includes 21,450 homes in the foothills of Flinders Peak along with schools, colleges and university campuses.



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Property sale raises downsizer super contribution quandary


Recently, you wrote that if a property was a principal place of residence for some of the time of ownership, one is eligible to contribute up to $300,000 as a downsizer contribution to superannuation after its sale. At the end of 2019, my super fund told me that I was ineligible to contribute some of the money to super from my proposed house sale because it was not my current principal place of residence. There was no discussion about it having been my principal residence from 2004-2012. It was a “Yes/No” scenario. Is it possible that the rules have changed since then and I am following incorrect advice? I sold the property in 2020 and am preparing to pay Capital Gains Tax on the sale this financial year. However, the money is sitting in my bank account when it seems that I might be able to put it into super. Could you please clarify?

The rules have not changed but there is no simple answer.

You could lodge a complaint against the advice provided by the super fund but this may be a drawn-out process and would not guarantee that you could make the downsizer contribution now.

You could, through a tax adviser, apply to the Australian Taxation Office for an “extension of time” to make the downsizer contribution and lodge the required form, on the basis of the incorrect advice received from the super fund. Again, there is no guarantee here.

A third option may be more palatable.

If the federal government’s proposed change to remove the work test for non-concessional super contributions from July 1, 2022, is passed, then you could make a non-concessional contribution of up to $330,000 from that date – if you are aged 67 or more and under 75.

I am aged 70 and receive an account-based pension from a government pension fund. If I was to roll over this fund into another super fund with higher returns, would I have to pay tax on the untaxed portion of my funds?

It is my understanding that any untaxed component would be taxed at 15 per cent in the receiving fund on rollover.

You may also be subject to tax on any excess untaxed rollover amount – that is, any amount that exceeds the relevant cap. This is a minefield area, so proceed with caution.

You should ask both your current super fund and your destination fund to advise you what their position is if you adopt the strategy you mention. Also, beware of choosing a fund purely on last year’s returns.

Past short-term performance is no guarantee on future performance and returns should be assessed on five-year or 10-year fund performance.

We own two properties – one our main home and the other a rental. We want to move into the rental. To minimise CGT, do we sell the main house and move into the rental, or do we move to the rental and rent out the main home?

If you sell your home after you move out it should be free of CGT but, if you rent it out, you would be liable for CGT on any increase in value from the date it was rented.

When you move into the rental it will become your principal place of residence and CGT, when sold, will be apportioned on a time living there basis, so keep receipts even while you are living there.

However, there is a lot more to this discission than just minimising your tax.

You also need to think about the potential of your current home. It may be better to take a tax-free capital gain now, use the proceeds to buy a new home debt-free and then borrow to buy another investment property.

I am about to turn 72 and still working. I want to retire soon and am about to sell my mother’s unit, which should fetch about $340,000. I will use some of this money to carry out repairs and updates (kitchen and bathroom) in my own home. My question is, will I be assessed on the selling price of the unit, or what is left after repairs to my home?

Once you receive the money you will need to advise Centrelink of a change in circumstances.

However, any money spent on improving your own home is not assessable, so once you have spent the money on your property, just advise Centrelink of the reduction in your assets and the situation should be restored.

  • Advice given in this article is general in nature and is not intended to influence readers’ decisions about investing or financial products. They should always seek their own professional advice that takes into account their own personal circumstances before making any financial decisions.


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Market Place

Mortgage Stability Attracting New Buyers

Taking on a new mortgage is becoming an increasingly attractive option for Australians as mortgage stability hits a near-record high.

Around 3 million people were expected to buy a new home in the next six months, while more than 256,000 refinanced, according to a number of reports.

Australia’s ability to keep up with these mortgage repayments was continuing to improve despite property prices skyrocketing.

One-in-six mortgagors said they were considered at risk of mortgage stress in the three months to May, compared to nearly one-in-five at the same time last year.

The data from Roy Morgan revealed low community transmission and increased full-time employment were contributing to improved conditions.

Meanwhile, property prices nationally have increased by more than 10 per cent in the first half of the year, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia, who decided to maintain the cash rate this week.

“Demand over the preceding year had been led by owner-occupiers, although investors had become more active in recent months,” the board said.

“As had been the case for some time, the flow of new listings for sale remained similar to pre-pandemic levels but total listings were much lower, implying that dwellings were being sold at a rapid pace.”

Low interest rates and new buyers could further boost the property prices with three million people looking to buy in the next six months, according to Finder.

The research revealed 7 per cent of Australians were looking to buy as an investment, while 7 per cent plan to live in the home they buy.

A further 10 per cent of people would buy a property in the next six months if they could afford to do so.

However, rents were also on the rise increasing between 8.9 and 21.6 per cent across Australia with the exception of Melbourne and Sydney where there was little change.

Mortgage stress hits near record low 


^Source: Roy Morgan 

Roy Morgan chief executive Michele Levine said support from the government and banks was helping people continue to service their mortgages.

“Many years of research into mortgage stress has shown that the biggest driver of increased mortgage stress is the reduction in income caused by the loss of a job which causes an immediate jump into a ‘risk’ category,” Levine said.

“Over two-in-three mortgages rely on more than one income and our analysis shows losing even the lower of these two incomes causes an immediate four-fold increase in the likelihood of those mortgage holders becoming ‘at risk’ or ‘extremely at risk’.”

Refinancing is also on the up with more than 256,000 refinance settlements occurring across the 2020-21 financial year, according to PEXA.

PEXA senior research manager Mike Gill said mortgage holders were taking advantage of the low interest rates.

“We witnessed a significant spike in refinances in June 2020 following the Reserve Bank of Australia’s rare double rate cut in March of that year,” Gill said.

“We have seen elevated levels of refinancing activity since then across all eastern states.

“The recent records set in June 2021 within NSW and Queensland coincide with public commentary of a potential interest rate rise sooner than previously forecast by the Reserve Bank.”

The report found refinance activity in NSW had the steepest rise, up 15 per cent year-on-year to over 101,000, while Queensland volumes also increased by 12 per cent year-on-year, with more than 48,000 refinances settled.

Victoria recorded the most refinances of any other state with more than 106,000, just surpassing its northern neighbour, however witnessed lower year-on-year growth, under 4 per cent.


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