A total of $373,000 has been paid out to 54 local first-home buyers to give them a helping hand into the property market.

In the first three months of the KiwiSaver HomeStart grants scheme, 100 applications were approved across Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty.

Figures from Housing New Zealand show 46 local applications were yet to be paid out.

HomeStart gives first-home buyers grants of up to $20,000 and lets eligible KiwiSaver members use more of their funds on their first property.

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Despite the opportunity to get $20,000 grant money for a new build, as opposed to $10,000 for an existing home, grants for existing homes outweighed new builds three to one.

Eighty-two of the applications came from Tauranga " 60 for existing homes and 22 for new builds. The remaining 18 applications lodged from the Western Bay of Plenty were for 15 existing homes and three new builds. Stefan and Vicki Nogaj are among the new home buyers who have been aided by the grant. The extra money enabled them to buy their first home two weeks ago.

After 12 years of renting, the Nogaj family are excited to finally have their own home. 31-08-2015 10:30:00But it was not without struggle, Mr Nogaj said.

"The process is probably more complicated than it should be. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing. We had to extend our contract because it was dragging on and on," he said.

"Yeah, it's nice to have the extra money that goes toward our deposit but we almost lost the house because it took so long. That was our personal experience."

Despite the added stresses, Mr Nogaj said they were now really happy they will finally be able to call a house their home.

Rapson Loans and Finance owner Chris Rapson agrees that a $450,000 cap cuts out most three-bedroom or bigger new builds.
Rapson Loans and Finance owner Chris Rapson agrees that a $450,000 cap cuts out most three-bedroom or bigger new builds.

Mr Nogaj said their children had lived in the same rental all their lives, so moving into their new home in November would be "a big thing".

Jon O'Connor from Tauranga's Rothbury Insurance Brokers said his staff had noticed a recent increase in inquiries from people for the HomeStart scheme.

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"It's just about how long that $450,000 cap stays relevant in the Tauranga market.

"So 'get in now' would be the message. We don't see the prices going down anytime soon."

Rothbury brokers had dealt with more people applying for the grant for new builds because of the new subdivisions opening up in Tauranga and the opportunity for a bigger grant, Mr O'Connor said.

Rapson Loans and Finance owner Chris Rapson agreed that a $450,000 cap now cut out the possibility of most three-bedroom or bigger new builds.

"Now you'd be lucky to get a three-bedroom home build for $450,000 so that's probably why people are trying to stick to existing houses over new builds.

"There was a short window but not any more ... So it's probably only going to work on an existing house that needs a whole lot of work done."

He had worked with a number of clients who had made the most of the grant.

"I think people do see it as a reward for saving ... It's nice to get a little reward for your savings habit.

"Nobody should sneeze at a $20,000 gift, it certainly helps towards a deposit."

However, the criteria to qualify for the grant meant only a small percentage of people were eligible, he said.

HomeStart

* Applies to houses up to $450,000 in Tauranga
* Available to single people earning less than $80,000 or couples earning less than $120,000
* Grant ranges from $3000 to $20,000 depending on single/couple income, length of KiwiSaver contributions and whether house is existing or new build
* More info about eligibility at www.hnzc.co.nz