First Home Buyers

Here are the 4 essential elements to buying your first home

How much can I borrow?

This is the most common question I get asked by first home buyers.

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer because everyone’s situation is different. There are numerous criteria that affect your borrowing capacity, including assets, debts, employment situation, income, expenses, savings, and credit history.

Many first home buyers try to discover their borrowing capacity by punching some numbers into an online home loan calculator. Unfortunately, those calculators generate only vague results … and tend to leave you with more questions than answers.

Wondering how much you can spend on your first home?

When first home buyers ask, “How much can I borrow?”, they’re really asking a different question – “How much will I be able to spend on my property?”

To answer that question, there are four elements to consider:

1. Borrowing power
How much money will the bank lend you?
2. Contribution
How much money (including savings) can you contribute to the purchase?
3. Capacity
How much debt are you comfortable repaying?
4. Purchasing power
How much money can you pay for the property?

To understand how much you will be able to spend on your first home, you need to work through all four of those elements.

I’ll take you through the four elements one by one. Please note, that these elements work together, rather than follow one after the other.

Borrowing Power






Purchasing Power


Remember those home loan calculators we discussed earlier? The number they spit out at the end is supposed to be your borrowing power.

But you need to take that number with a grain of salt.

The calculators estimate how much you can borrow, based on your income and living expenses. This is a good first step … but it’s not the final step.

That is because there are many factors the calculators don’t consider, such as your personal spending habits, your credit card usage, possible HECS debt and any other loans you might have.

When we sit down together, we are going to look at all those factors … and others.

And here is something you might not realise – borrowing power can differ significantly from lender to lender. You might be able to borrow $500,000 from Bank A, $520,000 from Bank B and $545,000 from Bank C.

If you have a regular full-time or part-time job with a consistent income, your situation will probably be straightforward. If you are a contractor or self-employed worker with an inconsistent income, your situation will be more complicated.

Either way, as an experienced mortgage broker who works with a diverse array of lenders, we will know which lenders are best suited to your individual situation.

‘Deposit’ can be a confusing word because it can mean two different things. First, when it comes time to buy your property, you will need to pay a 10% deposit as part of the Contract of Sale. Next, a lender will expect you to have a deposit before as part of getting a loan.

It is your total contribution towards the purchase.

Your total contribution can be made up of different things:

  • Savings
  • Government grants
  • Family gift
  • Family equity guarantee

The amount of money you need to contribute is based on the value of the property you intend to buy, and the size of the loan you need to take out.
I see a lot of first home buyers who have a good, reliable income – so they tick the ‘borrowing power’ box. However, their savings are limited (maybe because they’re paying rent or they’ve done some travelling) – so they can’t tick the ‘contribution’ box. Therefore, they can’t get a mortgage just yet.

But just because you can’t get a mortgage today, doesn’t mean you can’t get one tomorrow.

Click here for a calculator to help you understand what contribution you need.

That way, I’ll be able to understand your savings target and tell you what other options may be open to you.

Here are some next steps for you to take:

‘Capacity’ refers to how much you can contribute to paying off a mortgage each week, fortnight, or month. How much you can save can give you an insight into this.
Your savings capacity will be different to that of your friends and colleagues, because you will be earning and spending at different rates. For example, you might eat out more than them. Or you might subscribe to more TV and music services. Or you might have an expensive hobby, like competing in triathlons.
Together, we can work on this to understand your individual capacity to pay off a mortgage and work on a plan to get some savings to buy your first home.
Buying a house can and in some case should mean making sacrifices and you might need to cut back in some areas. But, at the same time, you don’t want to be forced to live like a monk.

Capacity also takes into other costs of home ownership like council rates, water and strata. Owning a home is not just about paying off the home loan. You also need to factor in your ability to make extra repayments to save interest, especially when interest rates are low.

If you are an experienced saver, you might fully understand your capacity. But if not, our Living Like You Have a Mortgage program can help you understand your capacity and build your savings. By following the program, you will give yourself the best chance of qualifying for a home loan.

Before we can calculate your purchasing power, we first need to know how you stack up with the other three elements:

  • What is your borrowing power? (To know that, we need to understand your complete financial position.)
  • What will your contribution be? (To know that, we need to understand how much money you’ll be chipping in, and where it will come from.)
  • What is your capacity? (To know that, you need to understand all the costs to own a home, from mortgage repayments and council rates to insurance premiums and strata levies.Also, allow for possible interest rate rises and even additional repayments)

To give you a better idea of what your purchasing power might be, let’s consider this hypothetical example:

(* If you buy a property in a strata complex, you need a strata report. If you buy any other type of property, you need a pest and building report.)

Imagine this was your situation – that you had a home purchase price of $500,000. You would then need to ask yourself what sort of property you could buy for $500,000. You might need to refine the number.

You might conclude $500,000 is too low, because you want to buy a better (i.e. more expensive) property. Or you might conclude it’s too high, because you’d struggle to make the mortgage repayments on a $450,000 loan.

Don’t be discouraged, because you’re not locked into your initial purchasing power number. Now we’ve got somewhere to start, we can work on it together, and move it up or down, depending on your situation.

This is an important process to follow. Once it all comes together, you will feel confident about your financial position and ready to buy your first home.

What is a home loan pre-approval and how does it work?

A pre-approval is an unofficial indication of how much money a bank would be likely to lend you.

When I lodge a pre-approval for you, I will be pitching a specific scenario to the bank that will include:
The value of the property you intend to buy

  • The amount you want to borrow
  • The loan structure you want to use

A big part of my job is knowing which lender would be most likely to approve your loan, given your specific circumstances. By the time I apply for your pre-approval, I will have an intimate understanding of your finances, and I will also be able to draw on all my experience of doing business with that lender, so the application will be based on a tried-and-test process, not a guess.

To give you a better idea of how your pre-approval might work, let’s consider the hypothetical example (home purchase price of $500,000) mentioned above.

Here’s what I’d say to the lender when submitting the application:

  • The borrower has a total purchase cost of $520,000:
    • $500,000 for the home
    • $20,000 for stamp duty, conveyancing and strata report


  • The borrower plans to borrow $450,000 (with principal-and-interest


  • The mortgage will be split into two loans:
    • $400,000 on a 3-year fixed loan
    • $50,000 on a variable loan (which can be paid off ahead of schedule)


  • The borrower has payslips to verify their income
    • The borrower’s contribution will be $70,000:
    • $50,000 savings (verified by bank statements)
    • $10,000 parents’ gift (verified by a signed letter from the parents)
    • $10,000 government grant