First homebuyer left with buyer's remorse as affordability pressures hit home

By Julia Corderoy

Diana Sayed, 32, recently saved up a 20 per cent deposit to buy her first two bedroom, two bathroom home. Photo / Tim Carrafa, News Corp Australia
Diana Sayed, 32, recently saved up a 20 per cent deposit to buy her first two bedroom, two bathroom home. Photo / Tim Carrafa, News Corp Australia

The dream of homeownership is slipping for many Australians. But for one group it's almost impossible.

If you are trying to break into the property market by yourself - with no partner, family or friends - you are facing an even tougher battle.

A Bankwest report released last year revealed the average Australian couple spent 4.4 years saving up for a 20 per cent deposit to buy a median-priced house in 2016. In Sydney and Victoria, this shot up to 8.4 years and 6.2 years, respectively. Again, that is for a couple.

Even in Hobart, which had the shortest wait, the average pair spent 3.8 years putting money away for that 20 per cent deposit.

Now, data released by non-major bank, ME, on single homeownership shows how difficult it is to set yourself up if you aren't paired up.

The number of single home loan applications with the home loan lender fell by 9 per cent to 35 per cent of all loans in the past two years.

Meanwhile, the average loan size for single-mortgage applications increased by 9 per cent to $355,000.

And if you are single and female it's even worse. The home loan data revealed single females were "significantly worse off" than men. The number of single female loan applications fell by 14 per cent compared to a 5 per cent drop among single men.

Unsurprisingly, New South Wales-based singles experienced the greatest jump in the average loan amount, rising by 16 per cent to $422,000, followed by Victorian singles by 11 per cent to $348,000.

"Even as part of a couple, east coast property prices are out of reach for many Australians," ME Head of Home Loans, Patrick Nolan, admitted.

BUYER'S REMORSE

Diana Sayed, a 32-year-old human rights lawyer from Melbourne, managed, against the overwhelming odds, to purchase her first home - a two-bedroom apartment in Brunswick - on her own.

She purchased the unit late last year for $590,000. This was after a year of attending open inspections, including three months of doing the rounds every weekend, as well as spending hundreds on car-sharing to get to the inspections after she sold her car to boost her savings.

A feat worthy of a parade in the current Melbourne housing market, but Sayed admitted to news.com.au that despite how lucky she is and proud she is, she sometimes feels it isn't worth celebrating at all.

"When I moved in, I had nothing and my mum had to help me. She gave me $5,000 to actually buy myself a fridge, washing machine and dryer. I had no leftover money. I was so broke. I still am extremely broke right now. To make ends meet at the moment is quite hard," she said.

"Sometimes I wonder if it was worth it. I feel uncomfortable saying that and I do like coming home every night to my own place ... [but] I did get massive buyer's remorse."

But Sayed shouldn't feel uncomfortable by her internal struggle. Australia's housing affordability problem is a growing issue and it don't stop once you purchase a home.

Sayed certainly isn't alone. It is a secret struggle affecting thousands of first home buyers because it often isn't adequately communicated or addressed.

According to a report released by Westpac last year, more than a quarter (27 per cent) of current homeowners said they were unprepared for general home owning costs in the first two years.

And that figure ballooned to almost half (40 per cent) when it came to current first home buyers, indicating that the focus is so intensely on breaking into the property market that homeowners are ill-equipped for what comes after.

"There isn't any type of policy or procedure in place to budget post-settlement," Vache Vartanian, a former banker turned mortgage broker and founder of MR LEND, previously told news.com.au, when speaking about the results of the Westpac research.

"Banks only stress-test the loan. As long as [the first homebuyer] can afford the loan then it is OK."

Sayed said she estimates her monthly expenses, once she has settled in, will be around $2,000, including mortgage repayments. A much more significant amount than when she was in a sharehouse. And that's even after her kind neighbour offered to share her Wi-Fi.

On top of not being able to split the costs of bills, furniture or homewares now she is on her own, Sayed said there is a big cost coming from the emotional investment and pride you have in your own home.

"I'm more invested in the furnishings of my house now because it's my own place," she said.

SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE

After experiencing the struggle of doing it alone, Sayed said there urgently needs to be something done to improve affordability for younger generations. She told news.com.au that auctions were flooded with older buyers and investors sparking bidding wars.

"There is so much that needs to be done. At every auction I went to there were Baby Boomers bidding and they had the biggest pockets. It is really, really hard for young first home buyers to actually have a chance."

When asked what she would like to see the government do to address the problem, she said the tax treatment of property investment would be a good place to start.

"We really need to regulate negative gearing for investors," Sayed said, so younger generations can feel secure in their financial future, as she does now, despite the initial uphill battle.

- news.com.au

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