Regional Properties Popular as COVID-19 City Exodus Continues

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Escaping to the country is certainly not a new fad – in fact, there are many TV shows centred on just that – however, during the COVID-19 pandemic ‘going regional’ has become more than just a pipe dream for many Australians.


Since March, property sales and rental enquiries in regional centres have skyrocketed, leaving real estate agents struggling to keep up with demand as city dwellers opt to trade life in the big smoke for something more sedentary. At the same time, dwelling values in regional NSW have been on the up.

While August saw a 0.5% decline in Sydney dwelling values, regional New South Wales saw a 0.4% increase, according to data from CoreLogic.

Elsewhere, values in regional Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory all saw a decline while regional Queensland and Tasmania values held firm. Despite this, combined capitals saw a 0.5% drop while combined regional values remained consistent.

Change in dwelling values
Source: CoreLogic Home Value Index Released 1 September 2020

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CoreLogic’s head of research, Tim Lawless, said there were a variety of factors impacting the regional housing market.

“Unlike their capital city counterparts, which usually receive 85% of net overseas migration, most regional markets have avoided the drop in demand caused by the pause in migration,” he said.

“Regional markets may also be appealing for their relatively low density and lower price points. The normalisation of remote work through the pandemic could make proximity to major cities less of a factor in home purchasing decisions.”

The small town of Orange, a 4-hour drive west of Sydney in the Central Tablelands region of New South Wales has been no stranger to the growing popularity of regional Australia.

Domain data showed a 7.7% increase in the region for the June quarter, year on year, with the median dwelling price now $447,000.

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Resplendent Orange

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Simone Fogarty, property manager at Younique Property Group in Orange says the town has been proving popular to both owner-occupiers and investors alike.

“During this time the market has seen an influx in both people moving to Orange from larger cities and also investors looking to purchase here,” she said.

“At the moment there is a huge shortage of property for both sale and for lease. Many properties that use to be in the rental market have been changed to Air BNB accommodation. So, the amount of properties available to renters is very limited and this has pushed up the price of properties.”

Further away from Sydney and two hours north-west of Orange, the city of Dubbo has seen prices remain comparatively stable, the region’s prices increasing by 1.8% year on year. Despite this, local and managing director of SJ Shooter Real Estate in Dubbo, Laura Shooter, says the market is the busiest she’s seen it, also noting the return of investors to the market.

“The level of buyer activity is the highest we’ve seen in 5 years since starting our business,” she said.

“All agents are reporting strong enquiry and an increase in pre-marketing sales.”

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For those looking to buy or invest in the area, she recommends having your finances ready, noting that due to high demand and competition vendors have been continuing to accept offers where there have been cases of delays with the bank.

“It is a good time to be selling in Dubbo, and if you are looking to rent or buy, be prepared with all paperwork and finances to do the deal to avoid the disappointment of missing out,” she said.

“… there’s been a lot more ‘gazumping’ going on than we’ve seen in a long time – ie owners have accepted an offer but due to the time waiting on the banks to reach exchange, vendors are looking to keep receiving offers in the meantime – this is a very challenging situation for buyers, vendors and agents.”

Top 15 regions for growth NSW

When it came to the top performing NSW regions for median price growth over the last 12-months, the town of Leeton, in the Riverina region of southern New South Wales scored the top spot, according to data from Domain. Here, the median dwelling price increased from $260,000 to $320,000 for the period ending June 2020.

In second place was the infamous Byron region, where prices increased by 21.0%, followed by Parkes in the Central West which experienced an 18.3% surge.

Beachside city Wollongong New South Wales

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Not enough homes for demand

It’s not just regional NSW struggling to keep up with buyer demand. Chief Executive Officer at Stockdale & Leggo, Charlotte Pascoe, says the increased interest from city buyers has led to supply issues in their regional Victoria offices.

“The issue the regional offices are facing is stock,” she said.

“They have seen an increase in buyers coming from Melbourne and Sydney (retirees finally making the choice to leave the city, families moving back to the country) along with a strong local transactional market.”

However, Ms Pascoe also noted that in their experience interest appeared to be coming from owner-occupiers looking for a lifestyle change, rather than investors.

“The holiday areas have not seen as much of a push as it seems to be people moving for a lifestyle change rather than capitalising on the opportunity to purchase a holiday home,” she said.

“… they want space, land and lifestyle. Most importantly, they want a low-risk lifestyle and to escape the city. There hasn’t been a spike in investors despite brilliant returns. Owner-occupiers are the ones looking to move.”

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Will the regional trend last?

Ms Pascoe believes the trend towards regional living will continue for years to come.

“As work requirements shift off the back of what we are experiencing and people can work from home, the idea and benefit of moving to the country or the coast will be too appealing to overlook,” she said.

“I think there will be a fundamental shift in how people choose to live and gaining more space between themselves and their neighbours will be a driving force for some time.”

As for its impact on regional communities, Ms Pascoe says it is positive.

“Outside of Metro Melbourne, the townships are doing well across the board. I think their communities are staying put and not moving closer to the city, and the increase of interest from Metro Melbourne to move out will increase their populations and local economies,” she said.

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Words by Kathryn Lee

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Australia’s housing market has weathered the anticipated coronavirus storm much better than expected, with the Aussie property market still ranking 19th worldwide. 

The forecast for the Australian housing market was bleak, with a study by the University of Melbourne warning of a decline in property prices that would last months, if not years.


Predictions VS. reality 

The market has experienced some weakening, but the numbers are considerably more optimistic than the originally forecast of 4.4% by the University of Melbourne’s study. 

According to CoreLogic’s latest data, the June quarter only saw a 1.6% drop Australia wide, with regional prices barely impacted. 

Due to Melbourne’s prolonged lockdowns, it was unsurprisingly the worst affected city seeing a 3.2% drop, which was still less than the predicted numbers for the quarter. 

Despite the Australia-wide decline, in the same period, Canberra’s property prices increased by 1.3%.

Degraves St Melbourne during Stage 4 lockdown restrictions

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A snapshot of Australian house prices 

The latest numbers from the Australian Bureau of Statistics have revealed that Australia’s total housing stock lost a whopping $98.2 billion in the June quarter but has been restored to the numbers seen in the 2019 September quarter. 

The bureau reported that even with this steady climb to normalcy, New South Wales buyers experienced a near $20,000 reduction in prices, with Victoria seeing similar numbers. 

Those looking to purchase in Western Australia found the lowest housing prices since 2011. 

Andrew Tomadini, Head of Prices Statistics at the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), said: “All capital cities apart from Canberra had recorded falls in property prices in the June quarter 2020”.

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Auction activity and housing demand

Previous concerns over real estate supply and demand have been dampened, with an increase in real estate activity around Australia. 

CoreLogic’s July index results outlined how coronavirus related restrictions and buyer trepidation led to a major dive in activity beginning in March, reaching a low of 60% by Easter.

In the months since, activity levels have increased steadily, returning to near-normal levels, with the number of new listings higher than this time last year.

The number of auctions also increased through May and June, but in recent months the national average was dragged down by Melbourne’s lockdown.

Despite Melbourne’s lag, Sydney’s minimal restrictions and steady market recovery have seen a 64% auction clearance rate in recent weeks.

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No two properties are the same 

The effects of the coronavirus downturn have not been universal across different regions and kinds of dwellings, with some faring better than others. 

PRD’S 2020 Economic and Property Report revealed that housing prices have declined further than detached dwellings, but it is expected that high rise and inner-city apartments will ultimately feel the brunt of the downturn as buyers look to move out of the city. 

The shift to working remotely is changing Australian ownership goals, seeing large numbers migrating to regional suburbs to find a work-life balance. 

As a result, PRD reported regional prices tripled the growth of capital cities in the first half of the year. 

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What’s next for buyers? 

According to Tim Lawless, CoreLogic’s head of research, as coronavirus supplements dry up over the coming months and home loan deferments come to an end, an increase in urgent sales is expected, placing further pressure on the market, possibly driving prices even lower. 

“The longer-term outlook for the housing market is largely dependent on how well the economy is tracking when these support measures are removed,” he said. 

Due to a glut in inner-city rentals and a decline in investor activity, the market is currently geared toward homebuyers looking in regional suburbs and investors with a long-term outlook.

The increase in auction clearance rates means that buyers need to act quickly, but can better their chance of success by being aware of all buying costs and gaining pre-approval.

With interest rates predicted to remain at record lows for the next few years, a slight dip in property prices, and financial incentives for first home buyers, this may be an excellent time to buy a house.

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We’re committed to making your home loan journey go smoothly! Our eChoice brokers can help get you a credit report to see if your expenses will affect your application and discuss any unnecessary debts that might jeopardise your chances of a home loan approval.

Are you looking to purchase a property or refinance?

A second mortgage is a loan that uses the equity in the borrower’s home as collateral. When you apply for a second mortgage you are putting another loan on a property with an existing loan. These home loans then discharge in the order of lodgement at the time of property sale. For instance, you secured one mortgage in 2014, and another in 2017, so the 2014 mortgage receives pay-out first. Any remaining funds then pay off the second mortgage.


What is a Second Mortgage?

Simply put, a second mortgage is another home loan on the same property. While you can borrow more money, often lenders restrict the amount lent due to the property having another mortgage. This is beneficial as it allows you to:

  • Tap into your home equity – If you’ve had your mortgage for years, then your home value is probably more and the amount owed on your loan less. Therefore, a second mortgage enables you to access this capital.
  • Acquire a lump sum – You can borrow larger sums as the loan securing is against your property. Plus, the interest you’ll pay is less than other forms of borrowing. Therefore, you save more long-term.

Why do you need a second mortgage?

There are many reasons why someone takes out a second mortgage. The most common are:

  • Fixed rates – If your first mortgage is fixed and you need funds, then sometimes it’s cheaper to acquire a second mortgage. Why? Well, the fixed rate may attract a break fee if you decide to refinance your first mortgage. Therefore, by leaving this mortgage alone and taking out a second mortgage, you avoid incurring any break fees.
  • Equity – a second mortgage allows you to access the equity in your home which can help free up your cash flow. Accessing the equity in your home means you can work towards paying down and consolidating your debts.
  • Guarantor support – If you’re looking to help your children buy a home, then a second mortgage enables you to finance your guarantee.

Can you qualify for a second mortgage?

Most Australian lenders are reluctant to approve an application for a second mortgage. This is usually because second mortgages are seen as a high-risk borrowing option due to the lower priority placed on the second mortgage.

Before anything, you must first have enough equity in your home to satisfy your lender.

If you want to take out a second mortgage, you’ll need to get approval from the lender that financed your first mortgage. You’ll typically need to pay a fee or a few hundred dollars to get the first lender to assess your request.

If you’re taking out a second mortgage with the same lender that offered your first mortgage, you may be able to borrow up to 95% LVR (loan to value ratio). Whilst, borrowers taking out a second mortgage with a different lender may be able to access a loan with up to 85% LVR allowed.

Get home loan ready with a conditional pre-approval

eChoice can help you estimate what you can afford to borrow, giving you the confidence to make an offer on the property of your dreams. Applying for conditional pre-approval could help you:

  • Know how much you could potentially afford to borrow
  • Plan your budget
  • Be confident to make an offer
  • Be seen by real estate agents as a serious buyer

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What are the advantages of a second mortgage?

People choose to take out a second mortgage for a wide range of reasons. Here are some of the advantages that people look at getting from a second mortgage:

  • Access equity – a second mortgage allows you to access the equity in your home.
  • Debt consolidation – accessing this equity means you can work towards paying off and consolidating your debts.
  • Alternative to refinancing – a second mortgage also provides and alternative to refinancing, which may involve break costs, exit fees and other legal fees.
  • Home renovations or repairs – accessing your home equity can also allow you to make needed home renovations or repairs, which can increase the value of your property.
  • Going guarantor – if you are going guarantor on a loan for a family member or friend, then you can use a second mortgage over your property as additional security for the bank or lender.
  • Interest rates – interest rates on second mortgages are generally lower than rates on credit cards or personal loans. Because your home pays back the loan, you reduce the risk for the lender.

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You could use your equity to access additional funds

If you have equity in your existing home or investment property, you could apply for a supplementary loan. Our home loan consultants can estimate for you how much you might be able to borrow using that equity. If approved, you could then be able to use that money for a variety of different purposes according to your needs.

You might also like: What is a debt consolidation home loan – and how can it help you manage your debts?

What are the drawbacks of a second mortgage?

Apart from strict second mortgage lending criterion, other problems you may encounter are a lack of experience and fees. Let’s look at these in greater detail now.

  • Strict lending criterion – A second mortgage attracts added risk. Therefore, a lender will want to know who holds your first mortgage, and the amount They also need proof of income, assets and liabilities. Plus, they may ask to see several other documents.
  • Lending inexperience – A second mortgage is not common, so banking staff may be unfamiliar with the process. This lack of knowledge can lead to longer waiting times and sometimes even errors.
  • Fees – Before you opt for a second mortgage, ask about the charges as these can add up. As a result, you may find it cheaper to refinance your first mortgage.
  • Risk of foreclosure – the highest risk of taking out a second mortgage is losing your home if you fail to make the necessary repayments. The lender can take your home through foreclosure.

Speak to one of our home loan consultants to get your free personalised property report for your preferred suburb or property. They’ll also estimate your upfront buying costs (e.g. stamp duty, legal fees).

Updated by Ece Demir on 01 September 2020

Do you want to know more about a second mortgage? Then contact eChoice, we can help you find out your eligibility. Our brokers also have access to 100s of home loan products. So, we’ll find you the right mortgage.

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The bedroom can often be seen as someone’s sanctuary and a place to go when escaping the outside world. Decorating this sanctuary can be an outlet for creativity and personal expression when time is taken to personalise the space and give it a more homely feel.

Many of our favourite TV characters have interesting designs to their bedrooms that can often influence that of our own. From the colour of the walls to the furnishings that fill out the room, there are so many features of these rooms that can be both iconic and eye catching.

Here are some of our favourite TV bedrooms:


Sabrina’s Room – Sabrina, the Teenage Witch

She’s everyone’s favourite teenage witch, but can that 90’s style bedroom be less iconic? The mysterious purple wallpaper combined with decorative draping and sun and moon decor give off some very fitting mystic vibes while her vintage furnishings complete the look.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch in Bedroom
ABC /via https://bit.ly/3aDeMXj

Kelly Taylor’s Room – 90210

We wouldn’t expect anything less than a lush atmosphere from the wealthy Kelly Taylor. The colourful Warlow-style artwork and posh accessories perfectly match the rich lifestyle this high class teen is sure to lead.

Kelly Taylor Bedroom 90210
Source: Fox/ via https://bzfd.it/2Ye2Bve

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Carly’s Room – iCarly

Bright and full of so much detail, it’s difficult to know where to start when gushing about Carly’s bedroom. The unbelievably large space looks like the perfect place to hang out with beanbags, an ice cream sandwich bench, an eames lounge, a bright pink storage unit and an elevated bed – that’s if we were going to name only some of the details of this epic explosion of a room. 

iCarly bedroom
Source: Nickelodeon/ via https://bit.ly/3ggKJpS

Clarissa Darling’s Room – Clarissa Explains It All

Considering her wild 80’s fashion sense, we’re not at all surprised by Clarissa’s bright and highly detailed bedroom. With license plates and car parts on the walls, wall-to-wall carpeting, wall-to-wall carpeting and a multi-coloured desk and matching chair, her bedroom would be the ultimate design for a teenage girl at the time.

Rory’s Room – Gilmore Girls

Although it’s not the most iconic place in Stars Hollow, Rory’s bedroom is undeniably perfect for the young overachiever. Harvard paraphernalia covers the bulletin board – which would later be replaced with Yale merch – while plenty of books crowd her shelves. The large window above her bed is framed with pretty lace curtains perfectly complimenting her pink bedding. It’s also located just next to the kitchen, meaning it’s in a prime location if a midnight snack is in order.

Rory and Logan in Rory Gilmore's childhood bedroom
Source: The WB via/ https://bit.ly/3aGOWlh

Dan’s Room – Gossip Girl

Although Dan was supposed to be the poor one of the group, his Brooklyn apartment certainly didn’t show it. The intellectual scholarship student’s bookshelf is something any book lover would envy while the dark exposed brick walls create a cool basement-like effect. 

Dan and Serena in Dan's childhood bedroom on Gossip Girl
Source: The CW /via https://bit.ly/3g5B7xP

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Monica’s Room – Friends

Although we saw more of her living room than her bedroom, Monica’s room is still a lovely feature of her famous apartment. The floral quilt and pink walls work perfectly with the antique decor that fills the space.

Monica's Room Friends
Source: NBC /via https://bit.ly/3hb7mgC

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Hanna’s Room – Pretty Little Liars

All of the Liars’ rooms seem to perfectly match their personalities so they could all be on this list. However, we will settle for two of the main four girls. Hanna is fashion-forward and bold, and her room definitely shows this. Its modern style and bright pops of colour create a glamorous and chic look.

Hanna's bedroom Pretty Little Liar's
Source: ABC Family/Freeform /via https://bit.ly/329btTU

Spencer’s Room – Pretty Little Liars

Best friend Spencer, on the other hand, is the clever perfectionist so while her bedroom is also modern, it has a more minimalist style. That being said, it does have a little bit of colour with her pink headboard and bedspread, as well as a little gallery of beach prints.

Spencer sitting on bed in bedroom Pretty Little Liars
Source: ABC Family/Freeform /via https://bit.ly/2Q7FmhP

Clarie Underwood’s Loft – House of Cards

We have yet another incredible New York apartment to envy over in Carrie Underwood’s loft. The spacious loft gets plenty of natural light from the various windows, while the exposed brick walls and lofted ceilings elevate its look.

Claire Underwood's bedroom from House of Cards
Source: Netflix / via https://bit.ly/3l0rUuk

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Mindy’s Room – The Mindy Project

As an obstetrician, you wouldn’t expect anything less than a clean and organised room. You’re in luck. Mindy’s crisp white walls and furnishing create a bright space while her cute printed linen and French doors create a classy, feminine vibe that is to die for. Being a smart woman, her book shelf is packed with books that are just begging to catch your eye.

Mindy sitting on bed in her bedroom
Source: Fox via / https://bit.ly/3l0rUuk

Hannah’s Room – Girls

We have another set of best friends with rooms we just have to talk about. Firstly, Girls’ main character Hannah has a room that could be seen as a hot mess, just like its owner, but there are just so many lovely aspects of the space. The rose-coloured walls to the intricate headboard are perfect features that would make any bedroom look sophisticated and cool.

Hannah Horvath from Girls sitting in bedroom
Source: HBO /via https://bit.ly/3l0rUuk

Shoshanna’s Room – Girls

Shoshanna’s room has more of a feminine vibe with hues of cream, blue and pink. The fairy lights in the shape of a heart above her wooden desk is a sweet touch while her vision board is a feature any millennial would have to keep their goals in mind.

Girls Shoshanna's Room
Source: HBO

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Dawson’s Room – Dawson’s Creek

Any movie buff would love to have Dawson’s bedroom with all of his movie memorabilia on the walls and wardrobe door. The wool blankets and dark wood furnishing also make it look super warm. The best part of the room, however, isn’t an interior feature. The large window has a ladder leading up to the porch, allowing the perfect way to sneak in or out. 

Dawson Leery Bedroom Dawson's Creek
Source: The WB

Abbi’s Room – Broad City

She’s one of the comedic queens of television, but Abbi’s bedroom is definitely one that would inspire any young woman to redecorate. Her boho bedding matches her bright walls perfectly, but it’s her collage of Oprah, as well as some of her own art, hanging from the walls that really sets it apart from the rest.

Bedroom Broad City
Source: Comedy Central

Issa’s Room – Insecure

With a mix of modern and vintage elements, Issa’s room is perfectly balanced to create a warm atmosphere. She has features including her cool printed quilt and shag rug on the wall to decorate her space. With her full length mirror, which is often a feature that can revamp your home, Issa has a full length view as she gets ready to conquer her day in LA.

Jess’ Room – New Girl

Our favourite quirky girl, Jess Day has the perfect brightly coloured room that matches her personality to a tee. Her floral print quilt and blue-green walls gives it a sweet feminine look, while her eye-catching bedhead and framed artwork is just enough detail without overpowering the bold features.

Jess's Bedroom The New Girl
Source: Fox /via https://bit.ly/3l0rUuk

Zack’s Room – Saved By The Bell

Our Saved By The Bell hero Zach also has a room that is fit to hang out in all day. With a bright coloured bean bag and bedding to match the room has the pop of colour it needs to elevate it. The framed posters and Dodgers flag on the walls are also great details.

Zack room Saved by the bell
Source: NBC

Buffy’s Room – Buffy The Vampire Slayer

When she’s ready for a good night’s rest after kicking supernatural butt, Buffy retires to her gorgeous bedroom. While her bed takes up a lot of the space, Buffy implements great storage solutions by placing her hats on a hook on above her bed, which is one of the details that can be taken on in our real life bedrooms to make the most of our space. 

Buffy in bedroom
Source: The WP/ UPN

Lying in bed at night and wondering whether you are getting enough sleep? Here’s how you can figure out how much sleep you really need. 

Words by Jessica Testa

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While some of Australia may still be stuck inside for a little while longer, many people may be struggling to find stuff to do to help pass the time. You’ve tried hosting virtual dinner parties and you’ve baked as much banana bread as you can possibly eat, so now you’re in the mood for something completely different.

Video games could be the perfect antidote for isolation boredom. Whether you are on your own or have roommates or family members to play with, there’s a wide variety of games that could keep you entertained for hours.

So grab your blanket and some pillows to keep you warm and comfortable as the temperature drops and immerse yourself into some of the top video games.

You might also like: Declutter your digital space

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time

It’s the first original game for the franchise in over 10 years, and with a brand new art style, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time could be your new latest obsession.

In this new edition of the game, Neo Cortex, Dr N Tropy and Uka Uka have escaped after being stranded on a far away planet. After years of failed attempts, their success has come with another problem — a hole in the fabric of space-time, fit for an evil scientist ready to dominate the multiverse. Now, it’s up to these two marsupials to stop them.

You can play as Crash or Coco, as well as new playable characters, such as Neo Cortex, to provide an alternative perspective during the quest.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time game cover
Source: This Gen Gaming/ via https://bit.ly/34GS4gg

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

You may have already heard your friend rave about it during lockdown, and we’re not surprised. After having one of the most successful Nintendo Switch launches ever, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has become the second best-selling game ever in Japan.

The game allows users to enter a brand new landscape and craft the world from scratch. Although this may be confronting if you are used to the bustling world full of animals and it may take a lot more time, it could be much more rewarding in the long run.

During a period where free time is all you have, having the ability to be creative and accomplish something could be the thing you need to get through isolation.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons cover
Source: Nintendo/ via https://bit.ly/3b3C5d1

Overwatch

If a shooter game is what you fancy, Overwater could be the one for you.

This game is well and truly a product of modern times with heroes of many backgrounds and ethnicities roaming around this incredibly colourful world you can play as. As a team-based shooter game, you can rope your siblings, roommates or friends in and enter this world together. There are plenty of different modes to play in, so you can either get acquainted with the game or challenge yourself regardless of your experience level.

Its sequel is yet to be released unfortunately, however, the first game should hold you over during lockdown and have you reeling for the next one.

Overwatch cover
Source: Medium/ via https://bit.ly/3gJ8VS1

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Fans of the Zelda franchise may have already given this highly-rated game a go, however, if you haven’t, it’s definitely worth a play.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is different from its predecessors since, rather than forcing the player to find new items during certain points in the story, they have made most of the Hyrule available from the very beginning.

Every game is said to be completely different with players having the ability to change the game through emergent gameplay, which is always great for those who are looking to have more control over their game.

The legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild cover
Source: Nintendo/ via https://bit.ly/31ACuRm

Super Mario Maker 2

Even if you are not a seasoned gamer, we can almost guarantee that you’ve heard of Mario.

Players are able to not only design their own course and create their own levels to beat, but also upload their creation to the server so it can be played by others in the game as well. Players can also play as a single player learn all the basic platforming mechanics while following the interesting story.

Challenge your family and family and use your creative skills while you are looking for things to keep you stimulated. 

Super Mario Maker 2 cover
Source: CG Magazine/ via https://bit.ly/3jmuEAN

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

If you are looking for a game that will keep you occupied for as long as possible, Fire Emblem: Three Houses will keep you busy for the long haul.

With three branding storylines that continue changing and encourage the player to make decisions on the fly, as well as a fourth as premium downloadable content, you would need to take your time to explore them all. There are also seven levels of difficulty so you don’t need to come into the game as an expert.

If you are into tactical combat and ever-changing stories, this issue of the Fire Emblem series could be the one for you.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses cover
Source: Nintendo/ via https://bit.ly/3jmxmpX

Tetris Effect

It’s a classic game that many of us would know and love to play when we’re trying to kill time on the train or while you’re waiting for an appointment. So why not give it a go while you’re stuck at home with too much time on your hands?

Tetris Effect is this game you know, but with incredible visuals that are sure to keep you in awe of the colours and patterns on your screen and sounds flowing in through your ears. It is said to have ‘synaesthetic effects’, so this game could be more of an experience than most.

Give your mind a workout while you marvel at the beauty of this game that is typically incredibly addictive at the best of times.

Tetris Effect cover
Source: Upload VR/ via https://bit.ly/3b3CyMj

Related: How to balance life when working from home

The Last of Us

You might as well get acquainted with this game while the HBO series is in the works, which is said to enhance the story of the game.

The Last of Us and its sequel follows violent survivor Joel and fourteen-year-old Ellie as they set out on their journey to smuggle young Ellie out of an oppressive military quarantine zone during a post-pandemic zombie apocalypse. It’s also worth noting that the sequel has been praised for its inclusion of lesbian, minority, and transgender characters.

Although it might be a little eerie to play with all that’s going on in the world, it may be the thing you need to come to terms with our new reality.

Screenshot of gameplay in The Last of Us
Source: USA Today/ via https://bit.ly/31zRleD

Call of Duty: Warzone

Although lockdown can be a lonely time, some video games, like Call of Duty: Warzone, are a great way to connect with people from all over the world.

This combat game is home to up to 150 players playing around the world. The story follows on from Special Ops, which is a game mode in the series, where Al-Qatala invaded the city of Verdansk. In Warzone, Al-Qatala is gone and has left a series of operators from different alliances, among whom tension has been building for years.

The game recently got a bit of an update where a new location has been opened up, a new mystery to solve, a loot train and the ability to play music in the game so it’s definitely worth checking out.

Call of Duty Warzone cover
Source: Call of Duty/ via https://bit.ly/2D6Llkj

Apex Legends

We’re rounding out this list with another battle royale game.

In Apex Legends, players can choose to play as one of 13 different outlaws, soldiers, misfits, and misanthropes and use their unique skills to survive in the game. Again, you can connect with and join forces with other players in the game to form a strong squad of powerful legends.

If you want to feel less alone while you’re in lockdown, jumping into the game and building your squad could be a great move for you.

Looking to break up your hours spent gaming with a little sunlight? Find out how you can give your garden a face-lift during isolation.

Apex Legenders Cover
Source: Venture Beat/ via https://bit.ly/2D64Ppb

Words by Jessica Testa

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You don’t need to leave your house to get an eChoice home loan consultation – As always we will discuss your options over the phone – we’re here to make your home loan journey easier.

This year’s lockdown as well as a new work and study from home lifestyle has radically changed what we want in our homes and where we want to live.

By the end of March 2020, most of us were in some form of lock down to try and contain the spread of coronavirus which had already wreaked havoc in countries across the globe. Aussies were encouraged to stay home to save lives, and for many of us, this meant vying for a semi-private place to get our work or study done at home. It bought a lot of unexpected positives, including no more daily grind commuting through heavy traffic, to a greatly relaxed pace to life and a lot more family time.

Couple sitting on couch watching kids play on the floor of their new home

The stay at home directives also impacted leisure time; at some stages we’ve been directed to only leave our homes for one of a few essential activities. Likewise, entertainment and hospitality venues were either closed or limited to take away only. Even after restrictions relaxed, there were limits on how many patrons venues could welcome at one time, making backyards barbies and dinner parties the social events of choice.

Related: The rules in place for working from home

We now want a home that allows space for professional and personal pursuits

In the past, being close to shops, restaurants, a decent nightlife and where we work was the Holy Grail of home ownership. Generally, this translated to densely populated inner-city suburbs and smaller homes with smaller blocks or apartment living.

However, the months of working and socialising from home combined with ongoing uncertainty around how long COVID-19 may affect our work and personal lives has drastically changed what we want from our abodes according to research conducted for Westpac.

Anthony Hughes, Westpac’s Managing Director of Mortgages said Australians have spent the last few months reflecting on their living space and how it will meet their future needs, which has spurred a fundamental behavioural shift in what Aussies want in a home. He says people are now prioritising outdoor space, proximity to parks and beaches, and enough space to cater to both our personal and professional lives.

“For many of us, staying home for an extended period has changed how we use the space we live in, whether that’s home schooling from the kitchen table or setting up a makeshift office in the lounge room,” he says.

The research highlighted several new ‘hot-spots’ in our homes. The garden, backyard, study, garage and outdoor areas have all risen in the ranks from underutilised to popular hangout spots as we prioritise outdoor entertaining spaces and more internal square meterage to make room for a comfortable work-and-study-from home lifestyle.

This is reiterated in the data which shows outdoor features including a backyard (27%) and entertainment areas (18%) has risen to the top of the must have list. Likewise, having a separate study area (20%) and large kitchen (15%) topped the list of interior ‘must-have’s’.

Woman sitting at laptop with coffee mug in hand while working from home

You might also like: 30 Ways to boost the value of your property

Unsurprisingly, where we want to live has also evolved

Much as you’d expect, the report indicates we are now looking to suburbs with bigger blocks and houses, in lower density suburbs. Being close to parks, shops and walking tracks, or closer to the coastline or beaches also rated highly with respondents.

The stats reveal a third of respondents (34%) want to live somewhere less populated, one in three (31%) want to be closer to either parks or shops, and one in five (20%) are seeking suburbs with larger properties. More than three quarters (77%) or respondents now prefer to live in a house, compared to 22% who sought a home in an inner-city or urban area back in 2019.

Are you looking to purchase a property or refinance?

Wide scale working from home has changed employers attitudes

Westpac earlier reported COVID-19 has been the catalyst of ‘complete mindset shift’ among many employers. Formerly considered impractical if not impossible, they’ve seen first-hand how achievable working from home can be, with several studies showing employees have stayed equally or more productive working remotely.

With many employees now confident they can negotiate working from home even as a ‘hybrid’ model with a combination of on and off-site hours each week, this is a trend with heavy potential to last beyond the current pandemic. Even if employees are only driving in two or three times a week, a lengthy commute would no longer be a deal breaker when it comes to more far flung suburbs offering more bang for buck space wise.

Related: How to balance life when working from home

Government incentives are likely to drive refurbishments and renovations

While some may pack up and move further afield, the Government’s recently announced HomeBuilder grants are likely to see many Australians considering a major renovation to upgrade their home to better meet their needs – or starting a new home build to cater for their changing lifestyle. The deets?

Smiling couple holding blueprint for their home that is being renovated

If you meet the eligibility criteria, you can apply for the $25,000 grant between now and December 31, with the work contracted to start within three months of the contract date.

Related: Federal government package offers $25,000 grants to home builders, renovators

Grants must be spent to:

  • Purchase an off-the-plan / new home as a principal place of residence where the contract price does not exceed $750,000 and construction had not commenced prior to 4 June 2020
  • Build a new home as a principal place of residence valued at up to $750,000 (including land); OR
  • Substantially renovate an existing home as a principal place of residence, with renovations valued at between $150,000 and $750,000 and the dwelling not valued at more than $1.5m before the renovation.

And what are the eligibility criteria? Applicants will need to satisfy they are the owner-occupier (the registered proprietor of the land – which will need to be their principal place of residency), not a company or trust, be aged 18 and be an Australian citizen at the time of application. If you’re applying as a couple – which you’d need to do if the property or land title is held in both names, you’ll need to lodge a joint application, and both meet the eligibility criteria. 

Income is also assessed as part of the grant, so you’ll need to rustle up your tax returns – you can elect to use either your 2018-19 or 2019-20 financial year return.  Your income must be below one of the following two income caps to be eligible: 

  • $125,000 per annum for an individual applicant, or
  • $200,000 per annum for a couple based on their combined 2018-19 or 2019-20 taxable income.

It is important to understand rates are at an all time low, so it is wise to consider how any additional borrowed funds may affect your repayments in the longer term (the minimum spend on renovations is $150,000, so you will need to chip in $125,000 of your own money for a renovation of this cost, for example.)

Words by Melanie Hearse

Sources:

Backyards, beaches & balconies: Westpac reveals how COVID-19 is changing Australian home ownership goals

Going bush: WFH ‘biggest leveller’ for the regions 

Federal government package offers $25,000 grants to home builders, renovators

Whether you decide to adapt your own home or move to a place that already meets your changing needs, eChoice can help you navigate your options.

Compare your interest rate today.

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If you’ve been late with an electricity bill, or missed a payment on your credit card, you may receive a Payment Default Notice which specifies the number of payments you failed to pay. Any defaults that result in a late payment will be lodged on your credit by the provider, which may create a roadblock for home loan approvals and stop you from purchasing your dream home. Luckily, there are ways you could still qualify for a home loan and negotiate your way around payment defaults.


What is a credit file default?

A default is a record on your credit file that states you have an overdue account (for example, a loan, credit card bill, utilities or phone bills). It’s classed as overdue if the payment is 60 days late or if the lender has been unable to get in touch with you to get payment. Defaults are lodged on your credit with Equifax, which could then be accessed by lenders when you apply for a loan through them.

Defaults remain on your credit file for five to seven years if it was lodged as being ‘non-contactable’. Paying the default after the fact doesn’t remove it from your credit file, however, it does change the status on your file to ‘paid’ which is seen more favourably by lenders.

credit card in payment machine

You might also like: $195 billion worth of home loan repayments deferred due to COVID-19

Could I get a home loan with several payment defaults?

Your ability to borrow depends often on the type of default you have and how old the default is. Typical lending constraints include:

  • Under $500 in loan defaults – Each lending criteria is different and restrictions to the amount you could borrow will apply. Depending on the lender, this could be up to 95% of the property value.
  • Under $1000 in loan defaults – The maximum amount you could borrow is up to 90% of a property’s value. Of course, this depends on the lender and their criteria.
  • Over $1000 in loan defaults – Each lending criteria is different and restrictions to the amount you could borrow will apply. Usually the larger the default, the harder it is to secure a loan. However, in saying this, there are specialist, private and non-conforming lenders that may assume the risk. But, their interest rates will be higher.
What's my borrowing power if I earn $ per year?

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What happens if I have a larger default?

The larger your default, the bigger the impact on your home loan eligibility. They also decrease the amount you could borrow. Some of the most common sizeable defaults considered include:

  • Recent defaults less than $1000 – If your payment defaults are under $1000 in the last six months, then a lender could restrict your borrowing. Typically, lenders will allow you to borrow up to 80% of your property value.
  • Defaults over $1000 – When your payment defaults are usually more than $1000, you’ll need a specialist lender. These lenders will need evidence to back the reasons for default. They will also restrict your borrowing to 80% of a property’s value and  you may incur a higher interest rate until you could prove you’re able to keep up with repayments.
  • Payment defaults over $5000 – Partially paid debts over $5,000 potentially represents a bigger problem. Most lenders will not assume this risk, although private, specialist and non-conforming lenders may look at your application. If you pay out your debts before applying for the loan, you’ll increase your chances of approval.

You might also like: How personal loan debts are jeopardising first home buyers

How to apply for a home loan if you have default payments

To assist in increasing your chances of getting approved for a home loan, you could consider some of these options:

  1. Provide a default explanation letter explaining why you were late on your payments and what financial position you’re in now
  2. Provide evidence to back up your explanation of the cause of the defaults (statements, letters, emails, etc.)
  3. Pay any unpaid defaults and have it marked as ‘paid’ on your file before applying for the home loan
  4. Apply with a lender that accepts borrowers with defaults (not mandatory, but it is easier to be approved)

Could a broker help me improve my credit score?

A mortgage broker could make suggestions that will help you improve your credit rating. These include:

  • Paying off defaults – If you have any outstanding defaults, a broker could suggest ways to pay them off all at once
  • Reducing credit card debt – Maxed out credit cards could indicate a problem to a lender, so they will work with you to reduce any outstanding debt. So, rather than applying for a loan with considerable debt already, seek to reduce this.
  • Decreasing credit card limits – As you pay off your credit card debt, look to reduce its limit. The less your credit card limit is, the greater your borrowing power will be. A regular payment history will also show a lender that you manage your money well.

You might also like: Do Zip Pay and Afterpay affect your credit score?

Words by Joanne Ly

Do you want to learn more about how your credit score could affect your home loan? Our experienced mortgage brokers have access to 100s of mortgage products at eChoice, to help you find the right home loan for your situation.

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Six months on from the historic emergency rate cut to 0.25% in March, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has elected to once again leave the cash rate unchanged.


The decision was made at the RBA’s regular monetary policy meeting, which happens on the first Tuesday of every month. As it stands, members do not anticipate a cash rate change for at least three years, a point RBA Governor Philip Lowe affirmed while appearing before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics in August.

“The Board has clearly indicated that it will not increase the cash rate until progress is being made towards full employment and it is confident that inflation will be sustainably within the 2-3 per cent target range,” Dr Lowe told the committee.

“Given the outlook I discussed earlier, these conditions are not likely to be met for at least three years. So, it is highly likely that the cash rate will be at this level for some years and having a target for three-year yields of 25 basis points reinforces this message.”

Catch up on last month: RBA August hold decision

Is the RBA COVID-19 recovery plan working?

When addressing the lower house in August, Dr Lowe maintained that the RBA’s current monetary policy measures are the best course of action, although it reserves the right to adjust as needed.

According to Dr Lowe, RBA pandemic policy measures coupled with Australia’s strong financial position coming into the crisis have been a recipe for success.

“The mid-March package is providing material help now and it will continue to do so. Interest rates are lower than they have ever been before and the financial system is flush with liquidity,” he said.

“… We went into the pandemic with strong balance sheets and high levels of capital in the Australian banking system. This means that our financial institutions are well placed to provide the credit that the economy will need.”

Compare your interest rate today.

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Despite monetary policy being on track, Dr Lowe said that it was fiscal policy that had provided “much of the support” to the economy so far.

“This is quite a change from how things have worked over recent decades and it is being accompanied by a significant increase in public borrowing as governments work to limit the hit to people’s incomes,” he said.

You might also like: Second COVID-19 outbreak pauses home loan market

Labour market update

July labour force data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed an increase in both employment and unemployment.

Seasonally adjusted employment increased by 114,700 people between June and July and hours worked increased 1.3%.

Unemployment increased 0.1pts to 7.5%, equating to a rise of almost 16,000 people.

“For the first time there were more than one million people out of work, available to work and actively looking for work”, said head of Labour Statistics at the ABS Bjorn Jarvis.

Mr Jarvis also noted the July data did not consider the impact of Stage 4 restrictions, which would begin to be seen next month.

“The July data provides insight into the Australian labour market during Stage 3 restrictions in Victoria. The August Labour Force data will provide the first indication of the impact of Stage 4 restrictions.” Mr Jarvis said.

The RBA predicts unemployment to reach 10% later this year.

A view of Elizabeth Street during Stage 4 restrictions Victoria lock down

You might also like: $195 billion worth of home loan repayments deferred due to COVID-19

Changes since March

Due to Australia’s initial success in containing the virus, the RBA says the economic hit has not been has large as first thought, although it warns it could be a bumpy road ahead as the outlook remains uncertain.

Earlier this year, the Australian economy was predicted to experience a contraction in GDP of around 10% over the first half of 2020.

Now, the RBA is still forecasting the biggest economic contraction in decades but says it is likely to be around 7%, depending on data for the June quarter which is due to be released this week.

“The downturn in the first half of the year had been smaller than predicted a few months earlier because restrictions had been less onerous and had been lifted earlier than expected,” the RBA August minutes said.

“This had allowed an economic recovery to commence in May. Unprecedented fiscal and monetary support had also played a key role.”

Click here to read the latest in RBA news.

Words by Kathryn Lee

You might also like: Home loan refinancing at record high

Sources:

Are you on the lookout to save more on your home loan? Contact eChoice to help you work out your home loan options. With access to 100s of mortgage products from over 25 lenders, eChoice has the resources to get YOU the right home loan deal.

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Buying off the plan has become increasingly popular as new apartment and house dwelling plans are released. Buying off the plan relates to buying properties that have not yet been constructed. These properties can still be advertised for sale with model images and a standard contract.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the power back into developers’ hands, giving them a proactive approach to attracting buyers through video inspections, online auctions and digitally signed contracts. Since developers have the advantage of no physical property to show, they focused on revolutionising their business model to provide seamless digital information for buyers. That way, buyers’ confidence will skyrocket to make a guaranteed purchase. Virtual display suite tours have also become available to deliver the same interactive, in person experience.


couple looking at an off the plan property on the internet

Related: Online Auctions: Buying and Selling Property

What is ‘buying off the plan’?

When buyers are looking for a property to buy off the plan, there is no physical property to inspect. In some cases, construction may not have started, whilst in others, it may have been partially built. Without a house or an apartment to walk through, buyers will base their decision on plans provided by the builders, as well as artistic renderings of how the property might look. In addition to this, there can also be showrooms built to illustrate what it would look like.

When a buyer signs to a property that is off the plan, they commit to a contract just like any other buyer if the property has been completed. However, off the plan buyers have an automatic 10 business day cooling-off period, which is longer than that of an already constructed home (usually 5 business days). Buyers can decide to pull out of the contract during the said cooling off period, but will have to surrender 0.25% of the purchase price.

Related: Buying off the plan: What you need to know

What's my borrowing power if I earn $ per year?

Should I buy off the plan?

Buying off the plan comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s not a clear answer whether or not buying off the plan is right for you. However, you should ask yourself some questions to see what control you have over the property during the build period:

  • Am I able to make changes to the finishes of the property?
  • Can I pick appliances, and floor furnishings (such as floor and wall tiles)?
  • Can I visit the site during construction to check the progress?
  • Am I still able to arrange finance if the building happens to finish earlier or later?
  • Can I on-sell the property during the construction period?
  • What can I do if construction has been altered after I’ve signed the contract?
  • Can the developer make changes to the design without my consent/knowledge?

An off the plan contract rarely ever has a detailed description of the property you are purchasing – because the developer doesn’t want to legally commit to something they don’t know the outcome of. A usual contract consists of copies of the strata plan or preliminary property plans which have been submitted to the council. The brief details are the type and standard of finishes to be used. It’s important to check over these details and ensure you’re satisfied with the level of technicality.

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couple looking at blueprints for off the plan property

How the purchasing process works

The first step to take when purchasing an off the plan property is to do your research. Research not only the property and development plan, but also the area the property is located. Consider growth, trends and whether or not it will suit your lifestyle needs. You will also need to review your developer – their experience, qualifications and any past reviews. Ensure that their financial performance is strong and current projects are all tracking well before committing.

When you have your mind set on a particular property, lodge an expression of interest payment to let the developer know you’re a serious buyer. Once everything is accepted and finalised, a contract of sale will be signed for the purchase. Seek independent legal advice from a conveyancer so that the contract contains all relevant terms for the exchange. You will also need to obtain finance from a lender. Some lenders will require an 80% LVR ratio, whilst others may need to review any pre-approvals they issue at the time you sign the contract. This is because the property value may decline between the time you sign the contract and the property completion date.

What are the advantages?

More time to prepare finances

Properties usually take 1-2 years to complete building when you purchase off the plan, meaning you’ll have the same time to prepare yourself financially. Only a 10% deposit is required upfront, and there are no more payments until the property has finished. In that period, you can start saving without the worry of having to make any mortgage repayments.

You might also like: First Home Loan Deposit Scheme Explained

Access to discounts and specials

Almost always when you go to buy an off the plan property, there will be discounts and special deals involved. When it comes to a developer, they want to sell all their properties, otherwise bank’s won’t approve the finance for their development. During the early stages when they’re eager to get as many contracts signed as possible, they can knock off prices off plans (especially if they’re selling higher than similar plans). Other off the plan properties include spending credit, premium finishes and furnishing vouchers.

Property value increasing over time

When you buy off the plan, you agree upon a purchase price before the building is completed. This means that you could potentially pay less for a property than it’s worth at the time you actually move in, as the property market could have increased during the time it took for the developers to finish building. Given how property prices do go up over time, this could be a likely possibility.

You might also like: Your guide to the Sydney Property Market and House Prices

What are the risks involved?

Builder could go bankrupt

If the builder goes bankrupt after you sign the contract, the off the plan development will not be able to be finished. This could potentially mean a loss of one to two valuable years where the deposit money could have been used elsewhere. In some cases, the builder might not even be able to give you the deposit back. It’s important to check if there’s a clause in the contract that restricts deposits if the development doesn’t go ahead, or if you will be reimbursed.

Finishes or designs that weren’t stated

When buying off the plan, there could be a chance you might not receive what you were promised by the developer, or what you had expected the property to be like. This can often happen when developers have financial issues, they will change property finishes to save money. Design changes can also happen due to structural and logistical reasons. If the property is underwhelming, there is little chance to get your deposit back.

Sunset clause expires before property has finished

A sunset clause is a clause within the contract of sale that puts a time limit on the contract’s validity period. If the developer fails to complete the property by the date outlined in the sunset clause, the contract can be declared void and the deposit is returned to the buyer. Although the clause is put in place to protect the buyer from long delays, some developers in recent years have used this to their advantage to run over the time outlined so they can terminate the contract and resell the property for a higher price. Doing thorough research into the company’s reputation is critical to avoid situations like these.

buying off the plan

You might also like: Buying Off the Plan with Ease

State and territory concessions for buying off-the-plan

New South Wales

  • Stamp duty will be abolished or reduced for first home buyers
  • First home buyers may be eligible for a grant of up to $10,000
  • To qualify for first home buyer concession, the total of your property (including land) must be valued at less than $800,000
  • Homes must be brand new

Victoria

  • You must pay the market value for your property or you will not be eligible for the concession
  • Ineligible First Home Buyer Grant applications may still be eligible for off the plan concessions
  • Purchasers must be over 18 (exception of purchasers who are the guardian of a person with legal disability)
  • Concessions are not available to company or trustee buyers
  • One buyer must live for at least 12 months in the property

Queensland

  • Home concession is available when buying a second home
  • First home concession is available for first home buyers
  • First home buyers can claim both a First Home Owners’ Grant and FIrst Home Buyer Concession if they meet the requirements

ACT

  • If you become eligible for the First Home Owner Grant or the Home Buyer Concession Scheme, and the duty amount is more than $1,000, you can defer your payment.
  • An eligible pensioner who already owns a residential property and is moving to a home more suitable for their needs may be able to get a reduced concession.

Tasmania:

  • No concessions are available to first home buyers who build a new home

You might also like: Your guide to the First Home Owner Grant in Tasmania

Northern Territory:

  • You may be entitled to receive the Principal Place of Residence Rebate of up to $7,000 for any stamp duty paid on a home that is your principal place of residence and that you haven’t claimed a first homeowner discount on
  • A stamp duty concession is given to a senior, pensioner or carer so long as one purchaser is over 60 years of age and a holder of an NT Pensioner card.
  • A stamp duty concession is available to first home buyers
  • Zero stamp duty is available to first home buyers, if the property is priced up to $500,000

South Australia

  • The off the plan concession no longer applies to any contract entered on or after 1st July 2018

Related: What are the costs involved in buying a home? – the upfront and hidden fees

Words by Joanne Ly

If you’re thinking of buying off the plan, the brokers at eChoice are here to help! Contact us today and we’ll find you a competitive mortgage rate.

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