Home Loans: A First-Home Buyers’ Guide to Government Grants


The State and Federal governments in Australia in 2000 announced the First Home Owner Grant (FHOG), a national program which was funded by all the States and territories to compensate for the consequences of the Good and Services Tax (GST) on home ownership. The scheme is different in every State, and although the rules in each State differ, there are some fundamental eligibility criteria that potential home buyers must meet before applying for a grant. If you are thinking of applying for a grant it’s important to understand the following:

  • A ‘new home’ is one that has never been lived in or sold as a dwelling.

  • An application could be accepted if it’s an off-the-plan home.

  • An extensively or substantially-renovated home means one greatly improved, with the entire structure removed or replaced.

  • This doesn’t include renovating one room, doing minor repairs, or work that changes only the outside appearance of the house.

The Basic Eligibility Requirements

To be a successful applicant, you must fulfil these requirements:

  • You must be a citizen of Australia or a permanent resident

  • You must NOT have owned a property in Australia or own one presently

  • You must be more than 18 years old

  • You must as an individual (not a company or trust) be building or purchasing your first home

  • If you bought other property you must not have been able to claim an FHOG

  • You must have an eligible home located in Australia used as a place of residence

  • You must live in the property for at least six months of the first 12 months after the purchase

  • You must not have a spouse who has received a grant similar to an FHOG grant

How to Apply For a First-Home Owners Grant

To apply for a FHOG you can send the completed forms to your State’s grants administrator, which is normally the state revenue office, or you can apply by contacting an agent approved by that State. If you wish to send an application directly to the revenue office be aware that most States will only accept completed purchase transactions. You application has to be submitted within 12 months of the transaction or settlement date, and for owner-builders, their applications have to be submitted within 12 months of the home’s completion.

What Happens When a Grant is Approved?

If you’ve applied through an agent, you will receive the grant once the property settlement is completed, and if you applied directly to the revenue office, you should receive it a few days after settlement. The following sets out the different rules, discounts and benefits available to first-home buyers in each State and Territory:

The Australian Capital Territory

Max Amount: $7,000

The First Home Owners Grant has changed in the ACT in recent years. While home buyers who want to buy new and extensively renovated homes can apply for the grant, the scheme isn’t available for the purchase of established homes. The ACT’s revenue office handles the FHOG scheme. To be eligible for the grant:

  • The property you want to buy must be worth a total of $750,000 or less.

  • Only new or extensively renovated homes are eligible for the grant.

New South Wales

Max Amount: $10,000

House prices in NSW are some of the highest in the nation, so first-home buyers have to deal with skyrocketing costs, especially in Sydney. The FHOG in this state provides:

  • A $10,000 grant for builders of new homes up to $750,000

  • The same for brand new homes up to $600,000

  • Zero stamp duty for all homes up to $650,000

  • Stamp duty concessions on homes up to $800,000

  • No stamp duty on lenders’ mortgage insurance

To be eligible for the grant you must live in the home for the first six months of the first year of your purchase (unless you are an Australian Defence Force employee). If your first-home purchase is valued up to $550,000, or your vacant block is valued up to $350,000, you might also be eligible for an exemption from stamp duty.

Victoria

Max Amount: $20,000

The Vic FHOG offers several benefits and discounts, depending on the location of the property you are buying:

  • First-home buyers of new homes (built or bought) in regional Victoria with a value up to $750,000 can apply for a $20,000 grant.

  • However, if you are buying your first home in any of the cities, the amount is halved to $10,000.

  • There are other concessions available if you plan to live in the home as your main residence.

  • Alternatively, if you are a young farmer, you’re buying off-the-plan, you are a pensioner, or if you are buying a home valued at between $600,001 and $750,000.

Northern Territory

Max Amount: $26,000

The NT’s FHOG is the most generous in Australia at $26,000 and with no thresholds concerning the value of the property. While there isn’t a grant for the purchase of an existing home, the NT Government does discount the stamp duty for this kind of first-home purchase.

  • The grant is available to first-home buyers and owner-builders of new homes

  • No need for the property to be valued

  • No limit on the price.

The NT also allows up to $24,000 for stamp duty, so if you buy your first home for $450,000, your stamp duty of $20,057.15 would be waived.

Queensland

Max Amount: $20,000

Until 2016, the Qld grants scheme was the Great Start Grant which the Government rebranded as Queensland’s FHOG. First-home buyers with contracts to buy or build are eligible to apply for a grant. Qld’s FHOG is available for the following:

  • First-home buyers who purchase new or substantially-renovated residences or off-the-plan homes which are valued at $750,000 or under.

  • First-home buyer concessions are available if your property is valued under $550,000.

  • The stamp duty discount can be up to $8,750.

South Australia

Max Amount: $21,330

In SA, the regular FHOG is $15,000 for the construction or purchase of a brand new property. Although, there are more concessions for first-home buyers purchasing off-the-plan.

  • For off the plan, the amount increases to $21,330.

  • The ceiling on the market value is $575,000 (applied after completion if a build)

  • SA’s FHOG only applies to new residential homes which can be in the form of a flat, unit, free-standing house, apartment or townhouse.

Tasmania

Max Amount: $10,000

In Tas, the first-home buyer grant was $20,000 until July 1, 2018, when transactions for new, built or bought homes will only be a grant of $10,000, and this must be for:

  • A new home with a comprehensive home-build contract

  • An owner-builder construction of a new home (including the relocation of a new relocatable building); or

  • A contract to buy a new home, including an off-the-plan purchase of a new home or a spec home.

To remain eligible, any first-home hopeful who wants to build a new home and make an FHOG application, be aware that the building must be finished within two years and in the case of an owner-builder, within two years of the laying of the foundations.

Western Australia

Max Amount: $10,000

In WA, to apply for an FHOG, the location of your new home or build will determine your eligibility. First-home owner applicants might qualify if they are buying a new home. First-home buyers can also apply if they are building their homes from the ground up. The grants are up to $10,000.

It is important to note the following:

  • The value requirement for the grant differs according to geographical considerations.

  • For properties south of the 26th parallel, the maximum value is $750,000.

  • For properties north of the 26th parallel, the figure is $1m or below.

  • All Perth metropolitan areas are south of the 26th parallel.

  • The 26th parallel is a circle of latitude that is 26 degrees south of the equator.

 

For those buying an established home, they can still apply for the first home owner rate if the value of their home is below $530,000.