With house prices rising across the nation, young people aren’t the only ones struggling to gain a foothold in the housing ladder. The average age of first homeownership in Australia is rising fast. According to ING Direct, it was 37.7 years nationally in 2015, a significant increase from 34.7 years in 2005.
Real estate agents have reported seeing more first home buyers in their 40s and 50s in recent years. According to Sam Elbanna, managing director at CPM Realty, the trend towards older first home buyers has been particularly pronounced in the Sydney market over the past six to 12 months.
Rising rents and low interest rates have made buying a home more attractive for many older renters. “First-home buyers in their late 30s to early 50s have been paying rent their whole lives while seeing their friends capture massive value with the growth of the market. They’ve decided to join the race as well,” Elbanna said.
Older first home buyers are at an advantage because many can make larger down payments. And unlike younger buyers, older first home buyers are less concerned about acquiring “glamorous” properties. As many buyers in their 50s and beyond are entering the downsizing phase of life, many prefer settling in smaller dwellings in quieter regional areas.
Cate Bakos, a Melbourne-based buyer’s agent, observed that many first home buyers in their 40s and 50s have been held back by a limited capacity to save, a lifestyle that required a great deal of traveling, or an aversion to mortgage commitments. Sometimes, only a windfall—such as an inheritance—finally allowed such people to buy.
Financial experts agree that lifetime renters face less secure financial futures than property owners, which is why many late first home buyers are saving harder and smarter.
“Do you want to be heading into your retirement with the uncertainty that renting brings or do you want to own your own home?” asked Robert Reid, a financial planner at Eqeus. “For most people we talk to coming into retirement, that security of owning their home assumes greater importance as they head into their 50s, 60s and 70s.”
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