What grants are available to first home buyers in Australia?

By Johnson Damian

While exciting, buying a house for the first time can also be financially overwhelming – so a smart strategy for first home buyers is to look into the range of government grants designed to help them achieve their homeownership dreams.

These grants and stamp duty concessions can substantially reduce the costs of buying a home. However, the requirements and amount that you will receive may vary widely depending on your location.

Here are vital things that you should know about first home buyer grants and how they differ according to each Australian state and territory.

Also read: In Focus: Taking advantage of Tasmania's First Home Owner Grant

First home buyer grant and eligibility requirements

Introduced in July 2000, the First Home Owner Grant (FHOG) scheme aims to offset the effects of Goods and Services Taxes (GST) on new home buyers. It is a national program that is funded by the government and legislated per state and territory.

A one-off grant is awarded to an applicant if they satisfy all the eligibility criteria.

In most states, you will only be considered as a first home buyer if you have not owned a residential property in Australia prior to 01 July 2000.

You or your partner must also be an Australian citizen or a permanent resident. New Zealanders with a special visa under the Migration Act of 1958 are also considered permanent residents.

And lastly, you must not have previously received the grant in any location in the country prior to your application.

Just be sure to review the eligibility criteria in your prospective location and submit all supporting documents to avoid denial of the grant.

Now, how much financial assistance can you get? Let’s have a closer look at each state and territory.

New South Wales 

  • Maximum grant: $10,000
  • Mean dwelling price: $1,011,000

First home buyers in New South Wales face the highest housing prices in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The state government has intervened with the rising cost by awarding the FHOG to new home buyers on top of the benefits that they can receive from the First Home Buyers Assistance Scheme (FHBAS).

“Your first new home can be a house, townhouse, apartment, and unit or similar that is newly built, purchased off the plan, or substantially renovated,” says the state government.

To qualify, the price of the new home must be $600,000 or less. If you will purchase vacant land and sign a building contract, the property’s value must not exceed $750,000.

Under FHBAS, you may also avail of additional stamp duty concessions when buying a house priced lower than $1,000,000.

Victoria

  • Maximum grant: $20,000
  • Mean dwelling price: $834,600

First home buyers will receive different amounts depending on the location of the property.

For instance, buying or building a new home in regional Victoria may qualify for a maximum of $20,000. However, you will receive only $10,000 for buying a similar property in metropolitan areas.

You may apply for the FHOG if the property’s value is $750,000 or below. The home must not have been previously sold or occupied to qualify, according to state government rules.

Moreover, farmers, pensioners, and off-the-plan buyers can obtain further concessions when purchasing a house between $600,001 and $750,000.

On top of the first home buyer grant, you may also get a one-off duty exemption on your principal place of residence (PPR) valued up to $600,000.

Also read: Best suburbs to raise a family in Australia

Tasmania

  • Maximum grant: $20,000 and $30,000 depending on transaction date
  • Mean dwelling price: $528,400

The FHOG in Tasmania is a one-off payment for qualified applicants who buy a house or sign a comprehensive building contract. This includes the purchase of an off-the-plan dwelling or an owner-builder construction.

Additionally, eligible applicants will receive a maximum of $20,000 for transactions that commenced between 1 July 2016 and 31 March 2021. On the other hand, transactions between 1 April 2021 and 30 June 2022 may qualify for up to $30,000.

For those who plan to build a new house and claim the FHOG, the property must be completed within two years from the start date to remain eligible.

As for stamp duty, first home buyers of an established home in Tasmania may apply for a 50% concession – but this depends on the property’s dutiable value.

For purchases made between 7 February 2018 and 15 March 2021, an eligible property should be valued $400,000 or under. As for transactions between 6 March 2021 and 30 June 2022, properties under $500,000 are covered.

Queensland

  • Maximum grant: $15,000
  • Mean dwelling price: $586,200

To qualify for the FHOG in Queensland, you must be purchasing or building a new home, unit, or townhouse valued $750,000 or under.

Similar to other states, you must move into your new house within 12 months of purchase and occupy it as your PPR for at least six months continuously. Otherwise, the state government may ask that you pay back the amount.

After approval, you may receive the grant at different times depending on where you applied. For example, you will receive the payment at settlement for a new home or off-the-plan purchase – if you applied through a bank or mortgage lender.

For owner-builder contracts, you will receive it upon receipt of the final inspection certificate.

South Australia

  • Maximum grant: $15,000
  • Mean dwelling price: $524,000

The standard first home buyers grant is $15,000 for constructing or purchasing a house in South Australia.

Like other states, the property should not have previously been occupied or sold as a place of residence. The property must also have a market value of $575,000 or less.

On the other hand, eligible owner-occupiers who have recently built a new home may qualify for the state's HomeBuilder Grant. Individuals who made an off-the-plan purchase or substantially renovated an existing house may qualify.

A $25,000 grant is awarded if the contract is signed between 4 June 2020 and 31 December 2020, and $15,000 is given for contracts dated 1 January 2021 to 31 March 2021.

However, applications for the HomeBuilder Grant closed on 14 April 2021.

Also read: Stamp Duty 101: What you need to know about land transfer duty in Australia

Northern Territory

  • Maximum grant: $10,000
  • Mean dwelling price: $480,400

You can get up to a $10,000 FHOG in the Northern Territory for buying or building a new home. The ceiling for the combined house and land value is $750,000.

Furthermore, home renovations may also qualify for the grant, given that the total value of the project is higher than $1,500,000.

The state government does not offer grants for first home buyers of an established home or vacant land to build one, but these individuals may apply for stamp duty concessions of up to $18,601. This is called the Territory Home Owner Discount (THOD) program.

Under THOD, the property must be valued $650,000 or less and should be your PPR for at least six months. Moreover, the contract should be signed between 8 February 2019 and 30 June 2021, according to the eligibility criteria from the Territory Revenue Office.

Western Australia 

  • Maximum grant: $10,000
  • Mean dwelling price: $582,800

Like Victoria, the eligibility criteria to receive the grant vary depending on your location in Western Australia.

For instance, the value threshold is $750,000 to receive an initial grant of $10,000 for any location south of latitude 26, which includes Perth. On the other hand, the ceiling is $1,000,000 for areas north of this level.

Buyers of an established home are disqualified from the FHOG, but they may apply for the First Home Owner Rate of Duty (FHOR). This is West Australia’s version of providing concessions on transfer duty.

If the dutiable home value is lower than $430,000, then no duty is payable. You will receive a concessional rate of $19.19 for every $100 above $430,000, but you will pay the standard residential rate if the value exceeds $530,000.

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

  • Maximum duty concession: $35,910
  • Mean dwelling price: $809,600

Only applicants who have purchased a new home or substantially renovated their property before 1 July 2019 are qualified for the FHOG in the ACT. The grant amount varies from $7,000 to $12,500, depending on the commencement date of the contract.

In 2019, the ACT government has replaced its first home buyer program with the Home Buyer Concession Scheme (HBCS).

Under the HBCS, eligible individuals will pay zero or reduced stamp duty. Buyers will also have more freedom in choosing the type of property they desire.

“All properties in the ACT are eligible for this scheme,” according to the ACT Government. “Unlike the previous concession scheme, it now applies to vacant residential land and both new and established homes, anywhere in the ACT and at any price.”

Lastly, households may be eligible to pay no duty depending on their taxable income and the number of dependent children. For example, the gross income threshold is $176,650 for households with five or more children.

The maximum concession amount is $35,910 from 1 July 2021 to 2022.

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