Buying your first home as a doctor can be overwhelming. The process involves lots of jargon, countless options, differing opinions and heaps of under-the-table doctor specials.
Similar to medical decisions, the wrong decision can set you back years!
That’s why we at Mortgage Pros created this guide with doctors in mind, addressing the typical questions when purchasing your first home.
Let’s go through each process, from setting your budget, exploring grants, and landing your first loan to choosing the right property and dealing with settlement.
Step 1: Knowing Your Budget
When planning your first home, you might want to live in your favourite city and base your budget on available properties in that suburb.
However, our mortgage specialists recommend that you first consider your available deposit and financial capacity to take up a loan.
Speaking with a mortgage broker from the start will help you determine how much deposit you need to save for the type of house you want to purchase.
How much can I borrow?
You can go straight to a bank to make a loan inquiry or inquire with a mortgage broker to determine your maximum borrowing capacity with all lenders across Australia.
Typically, the lender or mortgage broker will take your income, savings, expenses, assets, and credit history into account to calculate your borrowing limit. It’s important to note that while you may be given the max amount you can borrow, it doesn’t mean you can necessarily borrow up to your limit.
Each borrower is unique; we can help you estimate your borrowing power with this guide.
A quick tip to estimate your borrowing power:
First, determine your after-tax income and compare it with your expenses. Deduct known and trackable expenses such as ownership cost and household expenses such as:
- Transportation costs
- School fees
Don’t forget to account for your luxury expenses, such as your recent holiday trips and dine-out. Spending on rare occasions often takes up a portion of your income that you could use to pay for your loan.
With this data on hand, you can estimate whether you’re financially ready to take up a loan or cut back on some expenses as a homeowner. If you want a more detailed estimate and get curated advice moving forward, speak with our mortgage specialists today.
How much deposit do I need?
Typically, your lender will ask for 20% of the property price as a deposit. But we can negotiate as low as a 5% deposit for doctors and medical professionals!
Having a large deposit means you’ll owe the bank less and make smaller repayments. A low loan-to-value ratio (LVR) also gets you better interest rates as there is less risk to the lender.
On the other hand, borrowing higher than 80% of the property value (or having less than a 20% deposit) means you’ll need to pay lenders’ mortgage insurance (LMI). In a nutshell, LMI is a third-party insurance premium that you pay to protect your lender from higher financial risk exposed by borrowing at a higher LVR.
Depending on your financial situation, your mortgage broker may advise paying for LMI premiums than waiting months to cover the 20% deposit. Property prices may increase faster than you can keep up. If you don’t lock in while you still can (with LMI), you may get locked out of your desired property market.
Expert tips on saving for a home deposit
The first step is to set a goal. Transfer your deposit savings to a separate account with the highest interest rate. Diversifying your money makes it a bit harder to access so you won’t spend it unconsciously.
Next is to establish what percent of your salary goes to your home loan deposit. Saving up a portion regularly will reduce the urge to go shopping and use all your money.
Finally, look for ways to boost your deposit. As a first-home buyer, you are entitled to several government grants and incentives unique to your state and location. We’ll look more into this in the next chapter.
Step 2: Seeking Government Grants & Schemes
With the price of property prices, first-home buyers typically end up short of their savings to make the required deposit.
Before you postpone your plan and save up for a few more years, speak with our mortgage brokers to help you seek government grants and incentives and boost your application!
But note that most grants are designed for homeowners only. That means you must live in the purchased property 12 months after settlement and cannot rent it out for profit.
Each incentive differs from state to state. Let’s compare their first-home grants so you know whether you can access great discounts for your dream suburb.
Please note that all offers below are as of 11th September 2023.
- Stamp Duty waiver for vacant land under $281,200 and newly-built properties under $470,000
- Get a stamp duty discount for vacant land between $281,201 and $239,500
- Apply for a $7,500 grant for any newly-built properties within ACT.
- Waive your stamp duty when purchasing a house and lot from a building contractor
- Up to $10,000 grant for eligible properties
- Apply for up to $10,000 to buy household goods
- Waived stamp duty on vacant land under $350,000 and properties under $800,000.
- Apply for stamp duty discounts on new properties between $800,000 and $1,000,000.
- Up to $10,000 grant for new properties below $600,000 and owner-builder contracts below $750,000.
When buying in NSW, you can also use the First Home Buyers Assistance calculator to know your stamp duty fees.
- Get a stamp duty waiver for vacant land below $250,000 and existing properties below $500,000.
- Get stamp duty discounts for vacant land below $399,999 and existing properties under $549,999.
- Apply for a $15,000 grant when buying properties below $750,000.
- Apply for a stamp duty waiver on newly-built properties under $650,000 or when buying vacant lots under $400,000.
- Get stamp duty discounts for newly-built properties between
- Apply for a $15,000 grant when buying or constructing a residential property under $650,000.
- Apply for a $30,000 grant when buying newly built properties within Tasmania.
- Waive stamp duty when buying properties under $600,000.
- Get stamp duty discounts when buying newly-built houses between $650,000 and $750,000.
- Apply for off-the-plan duty concession for houses under $1,000,000.
- Apply for a $10,000 grant for newly built properties under $750,000.
- Apply for a $10,000 grant when purchasing properties up to $750,000 in locations south of the 26th parallel, and up to $1,000,000 for houses north of the 26th parallel.
- Buy vacant lots under $300,000 or houses under $430,000 without stamp duty
- Apply for stamp duty discounts for vacant land between $300,000 and $400,000 or houses from $430,000 to $530,000.
Discover if you Qualify for First-Home Guarantee
Aside from stamp duty discounts and waivers, first-time home buyers can apply for the First Home Guarantee. This government scheme is designed to help you purchase a property for the first time if you can’t make the 20% deposit.
As discussed, you will need to pay LMI if you can’t provide the required 20% deposit. But under the First Home Guarantee, qualified borrowers can skip LMI fees entirely with at least a 5% deposit.
Here are a few things you need to know about the First Home Guarantee:
- The National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation will guarantee a portion of your first home loan
- This guarantee applies to existing and newly built homes
- First-time home buyers should apply through an accredited bank/lender. Discuss your options with our senior mortgage specialist
- Certain cities and regions may have property price caps.
- Earning a maximum of $125,000 for single applicants and $200,000 for joint applicants. You need to submit a Notice of Assessment issued by the ATO.
- Accepts individual and joint applicants from 1st July 2023
- Investment properties not eligible
Contact our mortgage specialists at Mortgage Pros for more questions about the First Home Guarantee and whether you qualify as a doctor.
First Home Super Saver (FHSS) Scheme
If you contribute to your super fund, we can help you apply for the First Home Super Saver (FHSS) scheme. The FHSS scheme is managed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and allows qualified buyers to save money faster in voluntary contributions of up to $30,000.
Eligible applicants may avail of the scheme across Australia. Depending on your goals, income, and current borrowing power, you may also combine this with additional grants or schemes.
Speak with us to learn more about the FHSS scheme.
At this point, you’re ready to scout and land your first home loan!
Step 3: Finding the Right Home Loan
People often assume that doctors are among the wealthiest professionals in Australia. However, having reliable job security doesn’t necessarily mean having tons of money in the bank.
So, if you’re like many doctors who can’t afford a property in cash, you’ll need a home loan.
Moreover, each bank and non-bank lender has unique criteria on who they lend to and how much, so you’ll need a mortgage broker to know your options before moving forward.
Pre-approval vs Unconditional Approval
You may encounter the word pre-approval early in the loan application. This determines how much you can borrow from your pre-approving lender based on several factors, including:
- Your income
- Existing assets & liabilities
- Property value
- Other additional documentation
Note that pre-approval doesn’t mean your application is 100% approved. But it helps you establish your budget before finding the perfect property in that budget range.
Typically, pre-approvals are granted for borrowers who ar eon the market for a property but have not yet decided on one.
On the other hand, unconditional approval is your lender’s final approval to give you the indicated loan amount. That means they have evaluated your details and will happily lend you the approved amount to buy your first home.
An unconditionally typically means that, as a borrower, you have found the property you intend to purchase and that the bank has completed and agreed on the valuation of the property.
You will receive unconditional approval as an offer letter with the fine print or terms and conditions. It should cover important details of your loan, such as:
- Your approved loan amount
- Annual interest rate
- Repayment amount and schedule on a monthly, fortnightly, or weekly basis
Typically, the offer letter will be a few sheets of paper. But your terms and conditions can range from a 5-page document or a 100+ page booklet. You should clearly understand these documents and policies to make the most out of your loan.
Your mortgage broker will be notified once you get unconditional approval and will help you comb through the fine print and clear out any confusion. Once everything is clear, your loan application and home purchase can proceed.
Contact one of our brokers today to discuss your home loan goals and financial situation and find you the right loan for your needs.
How can I get pre-approved?
You can usually apply for pre-approval with a bank online or in person. Mortgage Pros can also help you compare rates and loan benefits across multiple options if you don’t have time to visit and speak with each lender.
Furthermore, a lender’s pre-approval isn’t binding, so they can always decline unconditional approval if your personal or lending circumstances change during the application or if the valuation is unsatisfactory.
What do lenders look for when evaluating my application?
Lenders often ask for financial information and assess your history to determine the risk involved by lending you money.
Information including your savings, income, debt, and credit history paints an overall picture of your financial health and ultimately impacts how much they’re willing to lend you.
Lenders will also pick up any loan defaults or missed repayments you’ve made. But fret not. Our mortgage brokers can help you thoroughly explain why they occurred in the past and why they won’t happen again.
To Visit the Bank or Seek a Mortgage Broker
Doctors looking to land their first home have a wider range of home loan options to choose from, making it a buyers’ market more than a lenders’ market.
This benefits borrowers as banks and non-bank lenders need to compete on rates and loan benefits. But consequently, doctors need to deal with many similar loan solutions and decide on the right lender to go with.
That’s where a mortgage broker comes into frame. We assess a broad range of lenders, provide a shortlist of recommended lenders, and then help you through pre-approval, unconditional approval, settlement, and beyond.
Step 4: Finding the Right Property
The first property you’ll buy builds the groundwork of your entire property journey; and as a busy medical professionals who is always on the go, you want to do it right the first time.
Let’s start your house-hunting strategy by establishing criteria of what you need in a property, including the number of bathrooms, beds, preferred living room area, and other features like parking spots, a yard, a porch, and other features that you think fall into your budget.
Then, check out the property market in your desired suburb to see if there are suitable properties. Searching in more affordable areas and suburbs is also ideal if you’re out of options from the first one.
A great tool to assist with your search is to browse through realestate.com.au and filter sold properties by suburb. This will provide an idea into how often different types of properties sell and what to expect in terms of pricing.
Choosing the right suburb can make a difference
Knowing whether a property is right or not will depend on your home goals. The right suburb and property will be different when looking for a place to live than an investment property.
Furthermore, location remains the biggest driver for value and price growth. We noticed that property prices are higher in suburbs closer to the CBD. Doctors and other home buyers are willing to pay a premium for convenience and facility access.
Besides, you get completely different property options from different suburbs on the same budget. You may afford a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house in an outer city suburb, but only afford a 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment in an inner city suburb for the same price.
Choosing the right property in the right suburb directly impacts your overall well-being and productivity as a doctor and medical professional.
While career is important in homebuying, let’s not overlook your personal aspects and family. When our mortgage brokers discuss homebuying options with our clients, we look at your lifestyle and consider areas close to relatives and friends.
We also let you choose whether living near in-laws is ideal so they can assist with childcare when starting a family. Nevertheless, each homebuyer will have unique preferences, and it’s wise to consider them and speak to a professional for guidance.
House or Apartment: What’s best for doctors?
Both property types offer unique perks and drawbacks that may or may not be helpful for doctors who are first-home buyers. As someone who’s just about to crack the market, price and location are typically your biggest deciding factors.
- Typically cheaper than houses in the same suburb with the same features. Great choice for many first-home buyers
- More supply in or near the CBD, where a quick drive/commute is crucial
- Mostly located near amenities (cafes, hospitals, restaurants, etc.)
- Requires less maintenance. You (as a homeowner) only need to maintain your unit, as the strata corporation will take care of building maintenance
- Apartment buildings are often more secure. Owners may have swipe keys to access parking, lobbies, and lifts.
- Apartment complexes usually have shared facilities for owners (gym, pool, communal terrace, etc.)
- Apartments have less space than houses and can impact your living area and storage space. Outdoor area is also limited.
- Raising a family can be harder in an apartment than in a house
- Annual strata fees can be steep (around a few thousand dollars per year)
- Some apartment buildings have certain restrictions on owning a pet, hanging clothes on balconies, and leasing it to a sub-tenant
- Significantly less privacy since you’re living next to your neighbours
- Apartments appreciate slower than a house, so it may take time to build significant equity.
- Bigger indoor and outdoor space
- More potential for renovation, expansion, and future rebuild
- Property has a higher value as the land component drives price growth along with the house itself
- A house is more expensive than an apartment unit.
- First-home buyers may have fewer options in suburbs close to the CBD, most cheap options may need significant renovation
- Houses are typically located further from the metro, leading to longer work commute
- Houses require more maintenance than apartment units
- Homeowners are responsible for maintaining interior, exterior, and structure of the building
- Heating and cooling may cost more in a house than an apartment
Alternatives: Townhouses, Duplexes
Townhouses and duplexes offer a seamless blend of a house and an apartment. A unit is attached to its neighbours for these properties, but unlike multi-storey apartments, a townhouse or duplex has its own street entry.
Moreover, a townhouse will require less maintenance than a house, but more upkeep than an apartment. It’s also generally more affordable for first-home buyers, but some have strata fees and extension limitations.
Feel free to talk to our senior mortgage brokers and discover home loan solutions suited for your desired property type.
Doctors’ Guide to Pre-Purchase Property Inspection
Before you close your first deal and buy your first home, we strongly recommend visiting the actual home and inspecting it in person rather than online. Potential buyers may inspect a property upon schedule and during weekends.
An on-site property inspection ensures that your impression of the house or unit is not limited to pictures and written descriptions sent by the property seller or real estate agent. It only takes 30 minutes to almost an hour, so here’s how you can prepare to make the most of an inspection:
Write a complete inspection checklist
Don’t waste your time; write down all the features you look forward to in a property. Sort them out into wants and needs.
Making a checklist is very useful when inspecting several houses in one day. Not only does it establish a guideline and/or criteria, but it also helps jog your memory throughout the home shopping process.
Take notes and pictures!
Many real estate listings and brochures have limited photos because agents and sellers only show the best angles under excellent lighting. Advertised images often hide imperfections and issues in the property.
During a house inspection, take photos of every corner, room, fixture, and issue/damage you spot in the property. Use your notes app (or pen and paper) to take notes about what you like and don’t like about the property.
Keep an eye on key features
A property’s fundamental features can make or break your dream home goals. These features include:
- Amount of natural light indoors
- Nearby traffic
- Facade direction (which way the house faces)
- Area slope
- Neighbouring properties
- Age/condition of rooms and equipment (to predict the need for renovation)
Don’t hesitate to ask questions to the agent
You’re visiting the property briefly, so don’t hold your questions back and ask the agent while you’re still there. Ask relevant questions such as:
- When was the last renovation?
- Why is the homeowner selling their property?
- How long did the last owner live here?
- What furniture/benefits are included with the property?
- Are there known/unexplained issues with the property?
Call in a professional
You should acknowledge your limitations regarding properties and specific areas, such as utilities and structural integrity. We suggest calling a qualified professional to check for hidden problems in a property you plan to pay for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Strata Inspection Report: What is it, and do I need it?
A strata inspection report covers a comprehensive review of the corporation’s records. It’s a vital piece of document that tells you what kind of people and property issues you will deal with and helps you steer clear from properties that will cause financial and emotional distress in the future.
A copy of the strata inspection report will cost about $300. But it’s a small price to pay for knowing potential problems and expenses that may arise after buying the property. It should cover the following aspects:
- Information on the current property owner and their voting rights
- Building/structural defects and history of major works
- Quarterly levy fees (homeowner contributions to the strata for running/operating costs)
- Pet policies
- Resident disputes
- Legislation compliance
- Minutes from general and executive committee meetings
Never overlook your contract of sale
Med school isn’t the only habitat of pages upon pages of fine print, but so is homeownership. Before you close the transaction, have a solicitor or conveyancer look into the contract of sale and review everything it covers.
The contract of sale should include information such as:
- Property price
- Date of settlement
- Property zoning
- Other title-related conditions, covenants, easements, and restrictions.
Make sure to secure a copy when there’s still enough time to review it thoroughly. You can read through the fine print yourself and spot potential red flags. But when faced with a sense of urgency like when making an offer or bidding at an auction, we suggest seeking a professional to discuss it through with you.
Step 5: Buying the Property
Landing your first property is one thing, going through the buying process is another.
There’s no single rulebook when buying a property, and the process can be different when acquiring it at an auction or via private treaty. Besides, the rules differ between states and territories!
But you’ve come this far, future homeowner. It’s high time to culminate your knowledge (and deposit) and be ready to pay the real estate seller and get your loan pre-approved to proceed with settlement.
Making an offer on the property
If you find your dream home advertised for private treaty, there’s a good chance real estate agents offer a price 5-10% higher than the seller’s expected value. Agents and home sellers will review all offers and pick the most favourable one.
Making a price offer should largely depend on market conditions, property demand, and your own circumstances. You wouldn’t want to offer a very low price and risk losing your chance (or insulting the vendor), or being too steep and paying more than its worth.
After you decide on an offer, you must submit it in writing to the real estate agent to discuss it with the seller.
In your offer letter, make sure to specify how much you’re willing to pay and note any conditions and remarks you want included in the offer.
What is a cooling-off period?
Imagine if the home vendor chose your offer to buy the property. A few days after getting accepted, you suddenly felt an odd hesitation and wanted to cancel the sale. In this case, a cooling-off period gives home buyers enough time to decide.
A cooling-off period is the time post-purchase when buyers can return and cancel the house purchase. A typical cooling-off period takes between 2 to 5 business days depending on which state it’s located.
Of course, since cancelling the sale means time lost for real estate agents to find a sure buyer, home buyers who cancel their purchase will need to pay a termination fee, a small portion of the total sale price.
Additionally, bidding at an auction doesn’t entitle you to a cooling off period.
What is an Exchange of Contracts?
When you finally buy a property, whether at an auction or other sales method, both the buyer and vendor should sign and keep a copy of the contract of sales—in other words, an exchange.
An exchange of contracts takes place immediately after purchase.
When an offer is accepted or a property is bought at auction, the buyer and vendor each sign a copy of the contract and keep one copy each, known as exchange. At an auction, this occurs on the day immediately after purchase. The buyer will need to pay the deposit when the contracts are exchanged.
In case of an auction bid, the buyer signs the contract outlining the purchase’s terms and conditions, as well as the certificate giving up their rights to back out within a cooling-off period.
When does settlement occur?
When it comes to a property purchase, settlement is the stage when the property ownership is officially transferred from the seller to the home buyer. The settlement process typically occurs six weeks after exchanging contracts.
If you think post-purchase procedures will conflict with your duty hours as a doctor or other medical professional, then fret not. Your (and your vendor’s) solicitors/conveyancers will manage the settlement procedure and you don’t need to be present.
What happens in settlement?
Here’s a short breakdown of what typically happens during a home purchase settlement:
Verification of Documents
Both your legal representative and that the seller work to prepare, check, and verify all legal documents necessary to transfer ownership. That includes reviewing the contract, title deeds, and all other important documents.
Finalising Financial Arrangements
Your bank or home loan lender arranges the payment required to complete the purchase. The funds are typically transferred to a trust account, which is then paid for by the home vendor.
As soon as they confirm the process, the property title is transferred to your name, so you get handed over the keys and necessary documents for your new home.
Note that this is only a rough summary. Talk to our senior mortgage brokers and we’ll gladly walk you through the process.
What is stamp duty and do I need to pay it?
Stamp duty is a property purchase tax that you, as a home buyer pay to the state government when purchasing a property.
There is no fixed amount for stamp duty, as the amount you pay depends on purchase price. Moreover, the rate and payment due varies from state to state, but will usually amount to tens of thousands of dollars and is due up to a few months post-settlement.
Here’s a guide on when to settle stamp duty payments depending on where you’re at:
- ACT – pay within 14 days after receiving a Notice of Assessment
- NSW – pay within 3 months after exchange of contracts
- NT – pay at settlement or within 60 days
- QLD – pay within 1 month after exchange of contracts
- SA – pay at or before settlement
- TAS – pay within 3 months post-settlement
- VIC – pay within 1 month post-settlement
- WA – pay within 1 month after receiving a Duties Assessment Notice
As a first-home buyer, we may help you look for stamp duty exemptions or discounts. Feel free to speak with our senior mortgage brokers at Mortgage Pros.
What happens next depends on your next step?
Great! You’ve reached the bottom of our first home buyers’ guide! Now that you’re armed with the best home-buying guide straight from our mortgage experts, what’s next?
At this point, you are in a stronger and more favourable position to look around and buy your first property. But remember that the property market is an ever-changing landscape.
Stay up-to-speed with the latest market trends, news, and conditions so you know what’s happening in your area and how it’s affecting property prices and demand.
When you’re ready to step up and move in, you’re typically handed a blank canvas to turn into a home. Check out the latest interior design trends, motifs, expert tips on DIY projects, and reliable home advice from the experts.
Start Your Home Loan Journey With Mortgage Pros
At Mortgage Pros, we provide mortgage solutions for professionals, by professionals. Kickstart your home loan journey by partnering with our award-winning Sydney mortgage brokers!