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9 questions to ask if you're looking to buy your first home, from people who've done it.

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Thanks to our brand partner, Lendlease

If the three little pigs had just done their research before buying or building their dream homes, they would have been far more equipped when that pesky wolf paid a visit.

We all know the story. Rushing in unprepared does not bode well – a huff and a puff and it all came crashing down for Pig 1 and Pig 2.

Choosing a barbecue and a Hills Hoist for the backyard is only the final flourish in the great Aussie dream of owning your own home. It’s ironic, really, that before you can host a dinner party under your own roof there can be years of baked beans on toast.

But millions of people do it. They get there and agree that popping the celebratory champagne when finally clutching that front door key is worth it. So, what do they wish they knew at the start?

Mamamia spoke to a handful of people who’ve bought homes over the past few years, and did some research of our own, to help prepare you for that big leap.

1. Do I know the lingo?

Section 32, conveyancing, equity, capital gains…it’s all fun and games until it comes time to sign a contract. Familiarise yourself with real estate terminology so there’s no surprises down the track.

New homeowner Joely Mitchell, 24, and her partner Zeb Walshe, 25, said they had no idea you needed a conveyancer to settle things. “The real estate agent asked for our conveyancer’s details and we had a massive freak out,” Joely said.

“Turns out your conveyancer needs to look over the Section 32 for you and then does absolutely everything for you afterwards. We had no idea where to look to find a good conveyancer and what a reasonable price for everything was.”

2. Am I serious about saving?

Joely and Zeb are living with his parents while they wait to move into their own home this month. “We were renting for about 18 months before we realised we needed to move back home to start seriously saving,” she said.

“We assumed that when they say you needed a 10 per cent deposit, that was legitimately just 10 per cent of the house’s purchase price. It was pretty depressing to find out all the other fees and charges and stamp duty that comes into the equation, which meant the saving took a bit longer.”

Joely said it’s been more than two years of “really hard saving” and budgeting. “We had weekly transfers into our savings accounts that were non-negotiable and untouchable,” she said. “But to finally be able to put a sold sticker on a sign has made all of that hard work so worth it.”

joely
Zeb and Joely navigated the tricky territory of first home ownership with planning and good advice. Image: Supplied.
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3. How’s the neighbourhood?

‘Stalk’ the neighbourhood or street you are looking to buy in at all times of the day or night.

“Check noise levels, traffic, comings and goings,” said Kellie Niepostyn, who recently built her dream home.

Another suggestion is if you know any police or paramedics to ask them if they know anything about the street you’re looking to buy in.

4. Can I afford it?

You take out a mortgage and think you’re on top of your budget, but new expenses come in and interest rates fluctuate. Can you cope with the change?

Mum-of-one Paula Burns said banks are happy to lend you large amounts, but you need to check if can you afford your mortgage on one wage if things go pear-shaped or if you want to start a family.

5. Can I take advantage of the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme?

Since January 1, the banks have registered 3000 potential first home buyers under the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme. Introduced to help first home buyers purchase a home sooner, there’s another 7000 places available for the current financial year, allowing singles or couples the opportunity to buy their own home with a deposit of as little as five per cent.

6. Is the property well-managed?

Buying an apartment or unit comes with an additional room-mate – the body corporate. It’s there to look after common property when there’s more than one owner but not all body corps are the same – in fact, some can completely let you down or fail to keep things up to scratch.

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Larissa Ham found out the hard way after buying a one-bedroom apartment in inner Melbourne.

“Reading the minutes of the body corporate meetings would have been a good place to start,” she said.

7. Should I buy existing or build new?

This can be one of the biggest considerations for first home buyers. But for Laura Robinson and her family, a new house in an estate in Melbourne’s north was the perfect way to start their life together.

“We weren’t keen on something that was once someone else’s,” said Laura. “And there were significant cost savings for us with grants and incentives, but also we knew there was no maintenance or repairs that had to be done for the foreseeable future.”

Simon Basheer, Lendlease Residential’s general manager of operations sales, says that when a buyer chooses to build, they select from a variety of home designs.

“That level of individuality makes it truly yours,” he said. “Renovation costs are well in advance of new build costs from a dollar per square metre viewpoint, so it is often more cost effective to build a new home rather than purchase an established home that needs a lot of work.”

8. What facilities are nearby?

Lend lease park
Parks, community centres and shopping centres are central to feeling like a part of a community. Image: Lendlease.

Familiarise yourself with what is nearby, because you won’t be spending all your time under your own roof.

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Parks, community centres and shopping centres are central to feeling like part of your community.

With green spaces and opportunities for social connection on your doorstep, more people are choosing to live in master-planned communities.

Lendlease has 10 new communities across four states in Australia, from urban villages in waterfront locations to large, fully planned areas with integrated town centres.

They've worked in consultation with the local community, businesses and councils to create landmark projects in each of the neighbourhoods, with a goal of creating sustainable communities.

In Western Australia, it’s premium coastal living on the sparkling north coast at Alkimos Beach and Alkimos Vista, close to future transport, retail, entertainment and education precincts.

In Queensland, have a look at  Springfield Rise at Spring Mountain, where a 45-home display village presents you with a unique opportunity to see a variety of design options in one place.

Yarrabilba is a 5-Star Green Star community surrounded by Plunkett National Park and on the doorstep of Mount Tamborine. Further north in Townsville is Elliot Springs, just 15 km south-east of the CBD and 10 minutes from Fairfield Central shopping centre.

Located in the growing Illawarra Region of New South Wales, 90 minutes south of Sydney and 30km south west of Wollongong, Calderwood Valley offers affordable living for nature lovers, while Bingara Gorge in Sydney’s south west is built on an 18-hole golf course.

In Victoria you’ll find the future town centre at Harpley will be a vibrant retail, recreation, business and education precinct alongside the waterfront. Aurora in Epping/Wollert has established charm and is only 25km from Melbourne. Atherstone in Cobblebank has numerous playgrounds, childcare, a kindergarten, community centre, athletics track and hockey centre surrounded by open space with trails for an active lifestyle.

9. Is location important?

Well, yes. Laura Robinson said moving into a new housing community meant she was surrounded by like-minded neighbours all willing to make the most of their new neighbourhood.

“My best friends live just around the corner and now our kids are friends, we’re really happy,” she said.

What's the best advice you've had about buying a home?

Feature image: Getty.

Lendlease

Lendlease has been creating communities for over 50 years. We are committed to creating beautiful and sustainable environments where people can live and work safely while engaging with their community.

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