The First Home Owners Grant is back, so are you eligible?

If you’re like me and have had a very long term dream of owning your own home, the idea of the First Home Owners Grant (FHOG) may have fallen off your radar when federal funding for it was gradually reduced in the late noughties.

Luckily however, state funding picked up where the Commonwealth left off. It’s been back for a while and it’s looking more tempting than ever. Although the breakdown from State to State can seem complicated, there’s plenty of information out there if you know where to look.

Who Is Able To Get It?

Below are all the states with a basic outline on what they each offer and who is eligible for what. If you want even more details then head over to the First Home Owner Grant government info page. Otherwise, click on the link to your state and delve a little deeper into what’s available for your particular situation.

First Home Owners Grant NSW

  • NSW offers a $10,000 First Home Owner Grant for builders of new homes up to $750,000, and for purchases of new homes up to $600,000
  • No stamp duty for all homes up to $650,000
  • Stamp duty reductions on homes up to $800,000
  • No insurance duty on lender’s mortgage insurance

First Home Owners Grant ACT

  • ACT currently offers a $7,000 First Home Owner Grant. This applies to first home buyers of new, substantially renovated, or off-the-plan properties valued at up to $750,000. You must live in the property for at least 1 year within the first year of owning it.
  • ACT first home buyers may also be eligible to defer payment of duty

First Home Owners Grant QLD

  • Depending on the date of their contract, Queensland offers a $15,000 or $20,000  First Home Owner Grant towards buying or building a new house, unit or townhouse valued at less than $750,000

First Home Owners Grant VIC

  • Victoria offers a First Home Owner Grant of up to $20,000 for first home buyers buying a new home in regional Victoria, or up to $10,000 for homes in cities. Capped at $750,000.
  • In addition, first home buyers may be eligible for various concessions on their stamp duty. See the link for more details on this

First Home Owners Grant SA

  • South Australia offers a First Home Owner Grant of $15,000 for new residential dwellings only, capped at $575,000.
  • If you are buying an off-the-plan apartment then you may also be eligible for an Off-the-plan Concession on stamp duty, capped at $21,330 or grants of up to $7,000 for established homes, depending on the area and buyer.

First Home Owners Grant WA

  • Western Australia offers a First Home Owner Grant of up to $10,000 for buying or building a new home.
  • Some metropolitan areas can have a purchase price of up to $750,000, whereas homes located north of the 26th parallel can be valued up to $1 million.
  • In addition to this, eligible first home buyers who entered into a contract between 1 January and 30 June 2017 to purchase or construct a new home will receive this temporarily available $5,000 boost to the FHOG. That is a total of $15,000.
  • If the home purchase price is below $400,000 they can also apply for the Home Buyers Assistance Account, giving them an extra $2,000 to cover the incidental expenses of purchasing an established or partially built home through a licensed real estate agent.

First Home Owners Grant NT

  • The Northern Territory offers a First Home Owner Grant of $26,000 for first home buyers buying or building a new home or an established home (from 24 May 2016). No purchase price limit applies to new homes bought after 1 January 2015.
  • They can also apply for a First Home Owner Discount on stamp duty of up to $23,928.60, for first home buyers purchasing an established home valued up to $650,000.
  • A Home Renovation Grant of up to $10,000 for eligible recipients of the above First Home Owner Discount.
  • A Household Goods Grant of up to $2,000 for purchase of household goods, granted to eligible recipients of the First Home Owner Grant.

First Home Owners Grant Tasmania

  • After the 30th June 2018 the Tasmanian government offers a First Home Owners Grant of $10,000 for buying a new home, “spec” home, off-the-plan home, or owner/builder home.
  • However if you’re lucky enough to have signed between January 2016 to 30 June 2018, the First Home Owner Grant is $20,000!

A Patchwork Of Grants

As you can see, grant amounts do differ from state to state, and it can be very confusing to decide what your best choice should be, but as a quick guide for eligibility you’ll need to be able to clear the following checklist:

  • You must be buying or building your first home
  • You can’t apply under a trust or company name
  • You must be a Permanent Resident of Australia
  • You must be over 18 years old
  • You’ll need to use the property as your primary place of residence for 6 continuous months within 12 months of settlement, purchase or construction
  • No applicant can have owned a residential property in Australia before 1 July 2000
  • No applicant can have owned a residential property in Australia after 1 July 2000, if you’ve occupied it for 6 months or longer
  • The contract to buy or construct must have been signed after July 2000
  • The total value of the home cannot exceed the cap (which varies between states)

How does this look in the real world?

Let’s say you’re in Victoria and you signed a contract on the 1st July 2013. If you’re building a home valued up to $750,000 and you’re building or buying in the suburbs, bam! You get $10,000.

If your house is in regional Victoria you get $20,000.

You can try the State Revenue of Victoria’s FHOG eligibility tester to find out more details.

Simple right?

Well sort of. There are a few pitfalls to be wary of.

  • Don’t assume your lender will inform you of your eligibility or otherwise for the grant – do your own research. It’s also highly recommended you enlist the help of a solicitor at some point.
  • You won’t receive the FHOG as a direct payment – it’s only available on settlement, or when the slab is laid if you’re building, and will be directed to the builder or other involved parties, so don’t expect to be able to spend it where you please.
  • If you are buying with a partner/spouse then neither of you can have received a FHOG before (even in another state).
  • The date you sign the form must be after the date on your contract of sale or building contract. Sounds simple, but there are times when being too organised will come back to haunt you!
  • Be careful if you’re buying off the plan. If your house is eventually valued at more than the FHOG cutoff then you’ll miss out

And that’s another problem. While Queensland and the Northern Territory are very generous indeed, other states are not so forthcoming. In addition, the cutoff rates for purchase price are fairly low for some of the more expensive cities like Melbourne and Sydney where the median house price is between $900,000 and $1 million+

There’s a fascinating/depressing tool by CoreLogic called Mapping the Market if you’d like to see just how far outside either of these cities you’d have to move to utilise the FHOG right now.

The laws and rules in regards to the FHOG and how it relates to stamp duty do make the grant difficult for many FHBs to understand, but I always think more information is better than too little. Just take your time, and take advantage of anyone you can ask for advice.

How do I apply for the First Home Owner’s Grant?

You can either lodge the application yourself through your state/territory authority

OR

Ask your home loan provider to lodge the application for you.

Perhaps your particular set of circumstances don’t quite fit within the guidelines. You might be an owner builder (which in some states may reduce your grant, or cut you off from duty exemptions), or you may have applied for the FHOG before but never actually followed through with it and are not sure if you’re still eligible.

With any sticky questions it really is best to try contacting the revenue office in your state directly for the most up to date information.

For example, I was wondering whether a relocatable home or cabin would be considered a “new build”.

(source: Atlas House Removers)

I emailed the State Revenue Office of Victoria through the link at their FHOG website and got a very helpful answer within 24 hours.

(For those who are wondering, the answer was yes, a relocatable home is treated the same way as any other home).

Or if you’re interested in putting together all the documentation and paperwork you might need, try this exhaustive list from the Home Loan Experts website. They also have links to revenue offices and application forms for every Australian state.

It would be a lot simpler if there were one rule only Australia wide, but unfortunately a lot of the funding for First Home Buyers is at a state level. This means the rules rely on elections and therefore the policies can change regularly.

Queensland even notes this on their revenue website, as state elections are coming up in July 2018. So when in doubt go straight to the source for your answers.

With that caveat out of the way, I still believe the grant is quite attainable and it’s well worth investing some time in applying for it. After all, it’s anything up to $30,000 you’re talking about here – not including duty exemptions. That’s worth a little research, don’t you think?

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