A First Home Buyer's Guide to the Melbourne Market

Lauren Powell
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Much like Sydney, the Melbourne property market has skyrocketed in recent years, making it difficult for first-time buyers to break into the competitive market. Considering the Victorian capital has previously been hailed as the world’s most liveable city—thanks to its cutting-edge culture and evolving infrastructure—it comes as no surprise that it has become a challenge to call a piece of real estate in the country’s second largest city home.

But, it certainly is possible, says Renee Kiley, director of leading Melbourne property investment company, Property Way. All you need is to be properly prepared, well-researched, and have a strategy. Read on for Kiley’s first-home buyers' guide and increase your chances of securing the keys to your dream home in the competitive Melbourne market.

Get your finance sorted first

Get a recommendation for a good mortgage broker and get your finance application submitted and pre-approved before you even start looking. You will be devastated if you spend weeks or even months searching for a property you love only to be told you are unable to obtain finance approval. Even worse, if you purchase at auction and your finance application is declined, you will lose your 10% deposit.

Consider surrounding suburbs

When we push some of our clients to understand why they want to buy in a particular suburb, the answer is generally because of proximity to certain infrastructure or lifestyle features they desire. For example, a client wanting to buy in Elwood might say proximity to both the beach and a village style shopping strip are amongst their top priorities. Therefore, they are not necessarily connected to Elwood, they are just looking for these features. Suburbs like Hampton or Sandringham both offer these attributes and you’ll get more bang for your buck.

Be realistic —it’s your first property!

Your first home does not need to be your dream home. Our parents started small and manageable and worked their way up by upgrading and upsizing their property as household sizes grew and when their finances permitted. Compromise, make sacrifices, and start on the modest side. If you do this, you will have some surplus cash and be able to maintain a social life as opposed to living on baked beans because you have a whopping mortgage to pay each week.

Location, location, location

You can never pick up your property and move it! Location is everything. If one property is aesthetically more pleasing and the other is a tad on the shabby side but in a great location—I would choose the latter—every single time.

Buying off the plan

Be cautious purchasing off the plan for your first home particularly in Melbourne. We have a potential over supply of units on our hands and our market is strong so you will be paying top dollar. If the property falls in value by the time it’s completed and you don’t have the funds to pay the shortfall, it’s highly likely you will lose your 10% deposit.

Check (and double check) expenses and outgoings

For units, check the annual body corporate fees, sinking fund balance, and the last body corporate annual general meeting minutes. This will give you an idea of what money is being spent on or raised for. For units, houses, and townhouses check what the council rates are each year. Understand what outgoings you will have to pay over and above your mortgage repayment.

Building and pest inspection

Get an independent building and pest inspection done prior to making an offer or attending auction. $500 well spent to give you peace of mind that the property is structurally sound and doesn’t require any major immediate maintenance.

Contract review

Ask the agent for a copy of the contract of sale and forward it to your conveyancer or solicitor to review prior to making an offer or attending auction—they can check the conditions and make sure there are no title issues affecting the property.

Know what the property is worth

There are plenty of resources out there now to help you research what your chosen property is worth—Realestate.com.au now lists many recent sales in the area. Pick five to six properties that have sold within a 1-1.5km radius and compare them to the one you are looking at. Is the land bigger? How do the quality of fittings compare? How old is your property compared to ones that have sold recently? Comparing these features will allow you to add or subtract value and will give you a pretty good indication of what you should be paying. Don’t just take the agents list price as gospel.

Try to offer the best terms possible

In Melbourne, we still have the luxury of a good percentage of sales being offered by private sale or negotiation. If this is the case, try to find out what the vendors situation is. Have they already bought a new home? Are they under financial stress? Are they moving interstate? Are they about to have a baby? All of these factors can affect what terms will be appealing to them. We have been successful with many of our purchases not by offering the highest price, but by offering the most attractive terms (short settlement, no finance clause etc.).

Don’t get caught up in “the game”

Everyone has a different opinion on this, however, I believe that every bidder turns up with a limit in mind. Most of the time it doesn’t really affect the result whether you bid first or last. Relax, be confident, and be prepared to pay up to $10k more than your budget or limit, it won’t affect the numbers in the long run.

Offer prior to auction

In my experience, around 30% of vendors in Melbourne will consider offers prior to auction—always ask the question. If you are buying in a high demand area or the property has just come onto the market, you may be able to secure the property without having to deal with the stresses of auction day.

For more information and expert advice contact Property Way and shop Profit from Property ($27).

Have you recently bought property in Melbourne?

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