Sarah Hands and Craig Marshal found out the hard way that buying a first home can be far from a walk in the park.
Newly engaged couple Sarah Hands, 28, and Craig Marshal, 33, from Victoria had been renting for 10 years before they decided to buy a house of their own.

The couple dreamed of being able to host their wedding reception at their home but their rental property wasn’t appropriate.

“We knuckled down and saved for around eight months and finally, we were able to apply for our pre-approval for finance in January this year,” says Sarah.

The couple were unsure how to find the best home loan for themselves, and so they turned to a broker for help.

“Our broker prepared an extensive cost analysis and worked out our borrowing capacity, so we had an idea about the costs we were going to be up for,” she says.

In the middle of applying for pre-approval, life stepped in and threw a spanner in the works.

“My employment situation had changed, my mother lost her house in the black Saturday fires in Victoria and my father was stuck in the Queensland floods,” says Sarah.

“We started to think that it wasn’t meant to be, that we weren’t supposed to be buying a house at this time.”

But after some reassurance from their broker, Sarah and Craig continued with the process of buying their first home.

“We thought that the change in my employment would be a big problem, but our broker assured us it would be fine and we’d just have to create a new application,” Sarah says.

“He re-calculated our options and borrowing capacity now that we had a change of circumstances. We decided that Craig would be the only name on the loan contract and we would both be on Contract for Sale.”

Their broker arranged a professional package through St.George on a discounted interest rate of 4.39% reverting to 5.19% after 12 months. “This is a great product because it has a 100% offset account and nil monthly fees. This means we can have the $10,000 left in savings working hard for our mortgage.”

Finally, Sarah and Craig were ready to begin making offers on properties. They had been looking in the southeast region of Melbourne, 30 minutes from the CBD around Rowville and Endeavour Hills.

“This area was really popular with first homebuyers so we had our work cut out for us,” Sarah says.

After wrestling the competition and dealing with quite a few tricky real estate agents, the couple secured a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house in Endeavour Hills.

The house cost the couple $365,000 and they used $17,000 of their savings for the deposit to take the home loan down to $353,000.

“The original asking price was $380,000 and within a couple of days it had come down to $370,000. Even though we’d missed out on another two homes that we really liked, we decided to go into the negotiation with a low bid to start,” says Sarah.

The next day, Sarah and Craig’s $365,000 bid was accepted.

“After everything that had happened over the previous two months, it was awesome news,” says Sarah.

“It’s a great house with a big backyard so we can finally get dogs, after renting for so long. We can look towards our future now, as opposed to trying to find another rental property.”

Sarah and Craig's loan details
Lender: St.George
Product: professional package
Product perks: 100% offset account and nil monthly fees
Property price: $365,000
Loan amount: $353,000
Deposit: $17,000
Interest rate: 4.39% reverting to 5.19% after 12 months
Term: 30 years

It can be confusing to know whether to get a variable rate or fixed rate mortgage, and what features are important. That's why it's important to not only check the right rates, but make sure that you're getting the right features in your home loan. Get help choosing the right home loan