Stamp duty changes helping but buying a home still proving a struggle for some

FRUSTRATED: Jess McPherson wants to be able to buy her first home but says there are still many hurdles to ovecome. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

FRUSTRATED: Jess McPherson wants to be able to buy her first home but says there are still many hurdles to ovecome. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

New changes to stamp duty exemptions introduced this financial year have reportedly helped more people enter the property market, but Wickham’s Jess McPherson said there were still many struggling to secure their first home.

The Wickham 27-year-old has wanted to buy her own home for a number of years but has been frustrated by rising house prices and the struggle to save a deposit while also paying high rents.

The occupational therapist lives with two other professional women in Wickham, paying a combined total of $480 per week in rent, and said it was “not ideal” to be 27 and living in a shared house but she would not get ahead living alone.

She is now considering buying a first home with her brother.

“It’s especially hard for a single person who doesn’t have two incomes and two savings going into it, it’s almost nearly impossible,” Ms McPherson said.

“I’m having to connect with someone else to actually get into the market to start with, then hopefully do some renovations to make money so we can have our own houses.”

Figures released from Revenue NSW last week showed an increase in people securing their first homes with the help of the First Home Buyers Assistance Scheme introduced in July.

Under the scheme, stamp duty is eliminated altogether for properties up to $650,000 while concessions are available for between $650,000 and $800,000.

Both apply to new and existing homes.

Previously in NSW there was a stamp duty exemption for first home buyers of new homes valued up to $550,000 and vacant land up to $350,000 plus concessions for new properties between $550,000 and $650,000 and for vacant land between $350,000 and $450,000.

New figures showed in the Hunter there had been 1476 stamp duty exemptions granted between July and October this year compared to a total of 1030 granted exemptions in the region for the whole of the 2016-17 financial year.

“It’s the deposit I’m struggling with,” Ms McPherson said.

“A couple of years ago I was living in Sydney and was paying $500 a week in rent. I would think to myself I could be paying off a mortgage but I don’t have a deposit and it’s so hard to get ahead.

“Once I’m in there I could confidently pay a mortgage, it’s just that first step of getting a deposit.”

Alana Stoeger and partner Isaac Lowe got so “fed up” trying to buy their first home they channeled their first deposit into a round the world trip.

END TO HOUSE WORRY: Isaac Lowe and Alana Stoeger have just bought their first home after several years of saving. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

END TO HOUSE WORRY: Isaac Lowe and Alana Stoeger have just bought their first home after several years of saving. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

They questioned the move when they returned two years ago and started the saving and house-hunting process again.

But the professional couple described it as “the biggest weight off our shoulders” to finally have entered the property market after securing a two-bedroom home in Islington last month.

It was relief because for a period of time they wondered if they would ever be able to buy.

“Every weekend we were going to open homes and in the last six months or so there’s been three or four houses that we were really keen on that have gone for way more than what they were worth and what we could afford,” Ms Stoeger said.

Ms Stoeger, 28, and Mr Lowe, 29, lived with family while they saved a deposit and said the state government’s housing affordability package announced as part of the June budget helped the process.

The package removes stamp duty for first home buyers for both new and existing homes for properties up to $650,000 and reduces duty for first homes between $650,000 and $800,000. 

“We waited for the stamp duty exemption so we could buy something a bit more expensive in a suburb that we wanted,” Ms Stoeger said.

“It was not a complete exemption but it still helped us bump up our budget a little.”

Human resources advisor Karly Curtis also lived with family to save a deposit for her first home and was able to take advantage of the stamp duty relief to buy a two-bedroom apartment in Merewether in August.

It meant an overall saving of around “20,000-odd dollars” for the 29-year-old.

“I ended up spending more than I had intended, so having that extra bit up my sleeve and not having to worry about stamp duty after the fact certainly helped,” Ms Curtis said.

Ms Curtis had originally hoped to buy a house but “readjusted my expectations” about the type of dwelling she wanted.

Overall she was glad to be in the market because she knew plenty of people her age who were still struggling.

“I don’t know how people can rent for years and save up for a house deposit, it’s impossible,” she said. 

“I have friends who are trying to do it and they are coming to the conclusion that it’s just not going to happen.”