The state government doubled the first homeowner grant to $20,000 in the middle of last year in a bid, it said, to encourage the purchase of land and stimulate the construction industry across Victoria.
Changes to stamp duty were also introduced, removing the transaction tax on homes worth up to $600,000 and cutting it on prices up to $750,000, which applied to existing properties.
But what impact, if any, has the extra cash – applicable to those who build – and the removal of stamp duty –for those buying established homes – had on the Bendigo housing market?
The statistics would suggest it’s had a significant impact with those buying established homes, but a less stimulating effect on new builds.
Read more: First home owner grant doubled to $20k
The total number of properties purchased in Greater Bendigo where buyers accessed the first home owner grant jumped from 85 in 2016-17 to 225 in 2017-18.
Similarly, the number of purchases where buyers used the government’s stamp duty and other concessions went from 356 in 2016-17 to 686 in 2017-18.
One of those 686 was Nicholas Falconer, who bought an existing home in Jackass Flat earlier this year.
Mr Falconer and his partner, who had been looking for a property for around six months, estimated they saved just under $11000 from the stamp duty concessions.
“From my point of view it helped me put more money into the house itself. Putting more money into a deposit helps reduce the amount you pay in interest,” he said.
“It definitely opens a door.”
He suggested other first home buyers who might not have been in a position to pay a deposit and stamp duty would have greater benefit from the changes.
Market reducing impact of government policies
PRDnationwide director Tom Isaacs said the changes, in particular the doubling of the first home owners grant, “has not had a huge impact by any means”.
Mr Isaacs said broader contextual factors like the availability of land and finance had limited the impact of the increased grants.
“The ability to get greenfield sites is very limited. If you look at Viewpoint Huntly for example – the most affordable land in the region – there isn’t any titled stock available until April next year,” he said.
The lack of supply was pushing prices up, which nullified the effect of the extra state cash, he said.
Mr Isaacs suggested banks had tightened their credit policy in response to the ongoing Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services.
First home buyers that could have lent $350,000 a year ago can now borrow closer to $280,000, he said
“Banks have squeezed and said to themselves ‘we can take any risks,’” he said.
Bendigo has been hit hard by the impact of Victoria’s first home buyers stamp duty concessions as properties that were once rented out by investors are being snapped up by first home buyers. Add to this Victoria’s rapid population growth and it is understandable that in the two years to January 2018 the private rental vacancy rate in Bendigo fell from 2.3 per cent to just one per cent.Haven; Home, Safe acting chief executive officer Trudi Ray
Financial institutions had also moved away from lending 95 per cent of the value of a home to 90 per cent, he said, increasing the amount of up front cash home buyers were required to stump up.
Mr Isaacs said it was a common misconception the move to double the first homeowner grant had simply added an extra $10,000 onto purchase prices.
Broker team director Matthew Roulston said the government’s policy had bridged the gap between building and buying established houses.
He said the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority had put pressure on banks to restrict the amount of loans going to investors.
This meant that locally, more loans were being organised for first home buyers, not investors.
Mr Roulston said if anything the housing market had remained stable but its complexion had changed.
“Without the influx of first home owners the market might be struggling,” he said.
Mr Roulston said the lending environment had become a little easier for owner occupiers as interest rates had gone down, while interest rates for investors had gone up.
State treasurer Tim Pallas said: “Our reforms are saving Victorians thousands of dollars and helping more first home buyers break into the housing market.”
“It’s part of our ongoing investment to make housing fair for all Victorians, whether they’re buying or renting.”
Rental market affordability
Haven; Home, Safe acting chief executive officer Trudi Ray said improved access to home ownership had flow on effects for the rental market.
“Bendigo has been hit hard by the impact of Victoria’s first home buyers stamp duty concessions as properties that were once rented out by investors are being snapped up by first home buyers. Add to this Victoria’s rapid population growth and it is understandable that in the two years to January 2018 the private rental vacancy rate in Bendigo fell from 2.3 per cent to just one per cent,” she said.
“There is a shrinking pool of affordable properties in the private rental market and we understand that people on low incomes are increasingly being overlooked by estate agents or are outbid by higher-income earners.”
Ms Ray said proposed changes to the Residential Tenancy Act, which were introduced into state parliament this week, will help address some issues for low-income earners seeking more affordable, longer term rental housing, for example: 120 days’ notice to vacate for no reason will be abolished and rent increases can only be done every 12 months.
“We are also hopeful that with new funding through the Homes for Victorians packages, changes to local government planning regulations, and changes nationally we look to grow the supply of affordable housing,” she said. Ms Ray said a lack of affordable housing was just one of the contributing factors of homelessness in our region with family violence a leading cause of homelessness for women.