The Australian property market has boomed, with prices reaching record highs thanks to low supply and high demand — so it’s no surprise that it’s now taking longer than ever for first-home buyers to get onto the ladder.
As we know, you can’t buy your first property without an upfront deposit.
But with so many people trying to get onto the property ladder and at a time when prices are exceptionally high, opportunities are few and far between.
Couple this with today’s rental market — where asking rents are at record-highs and with low vacancy rates across all cities — and first-home buyers’ savings goals are being stalled even further.
Now, first-home buyers saving for an entry-level house for a couple aged 25-34 will take 11 months longer annually across capital cities, taking the average time to save up to 5 years and 8 months, according to Domain’s latest First Home Buyers report.
Time to save for entry units has also risen by 3 months, taking 3 years and 6 months.
All capital cities recorded an increase in time taken to save an entry-house deposit, between 1 and 18 months longer than last year but it was a mixed outcome for units across the cities, ranging from a 1-month decline to 6-months longer annually.
It becomes challenging for first-home buyers when they’re meeting the ongoing obligations of rent payments, weak interest accrued on savings, and the rising cost of living to save the all-important lump sum deposit, Domain’s chief of research and economics, Nicola Powell said.
Not to mention the eye-watering rate of property price growth seen over the past year.
Let’s take a closer look at how long it takes first-home buyers to save a deposit in each major city.
How long it takes to save — a city-by-city breakdown
It’s unsurprising that the time it takes to save a lump sum deposit on an entry-level house has blown out amid rising property prices.
It makes sense then that Sydney (which saw the strongest growth rate in 2021) continues to take the crown as the city where it takes first-home buyers the longest time to save an entry-level house deposit, at 8 years and 1 month.
Meanwhile, Canberra has overtaken Melbourne in second place, at 7 years and 1 month.
In third place is Melbourne with 6 years and 6 months.
Perth remains the best city for first-home buyers, with the quickest savings time at 3 years and 7 months for an entry-house, less than half of the time taken in Sydney.
The city has only seen an increase over the past year of one month and has even declined by one month over the past five years.
Elsewhere, Hobart had the quickest time to save for an entry-house in 2016 however, escalating prices over the past 5 years now make it the fourth-longest time to save out of all the major cities, at 5 years and 10 months.
The gap between saving for an entry-priced house compared to a unit continues to increase, more than doubling in Sydney over the last year.
Canberra also saw a significant increase, widening by 16 months.
But weaker price growth across the nation’s unit market means it will take first-home buyers significantly less time to save for a deposit for an entry-level unit across most cities.
In Melbourne, weaker unit price growth has translated into a quicker deposit savings time, meaning wages growth and the compounding interest accrued on savings have been able to keep ahead of unit price growth, the report explains.
It has also remained stable in Brisbane.
Sydney, Perth, and Adelaide saw journey times to save a deposit nudge one month higher.
Sydney still takes the top spot as the city where it takes the longest amount of time to save for a unit, at 5 years and 6 months, followed by Melbourne with 4 years and 4 months.
Canberra and Brisbane come third and fourth on the list with 3 years and 9 months and 3 years and 6 months respectively.
How long it takes to save — a breakdown by top suburbs
As I always say, location will do about 80% of the heavy lifting of a property’s capital growth.
And not all locations are created equal.
Some suburbs will be more popular than others, some areas will have more scarcity than others and over time some land will increase in value more than others.
That’s why it’s important to buy your investment property in a suburb that is dominated by more homeowners, rather than a suburb where tenants predominate.
Affordability tends to improve as you move further away from the city which is why first-home buyers have traditionally looked further afield to get value for money and compromised on commute times or compromised on space and purchased something smaller but more centrally located to the CBD or public transport hubs.
But remote working during the pandemic created a shift as people reevaluated what they wanted in a home and used their new workplace flexibility to get it.
And Domain data shows this trend has translated to an increase in prices in some of our regional or outer city suburbs.
Across the capital cities, the majority of the sub-regions experienced an increase in the time taken to save an entry-house deposit compared to last year, as growth in entry-house prices exceeds growth in incomes, the report shows.
There was a stark shift in some cities, with all of Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra, Hobart, and Darwin regions seeing the time taken to save a deposit for an entry-house lengthen – this was 90% of areas in Melbourne, 86% of Perth regions increase and 82% of Brisbane regions.
The shortest time to save a deposit for an entry-house and therefore quickest market access was Playford in Adelaide and Kwinana in Perth, both at 2 years and 7 months
The areas with the shortest time to save for a 20% deposit on an entry-house for a couple aged 25-34, by city
In contrast, the time it takes to save for an entry-level unit dropped in most regions.
The data shows that this was most pronounced in Melbourne with 44% of areas (12% with no change), in Perth 39% (15% with no change), in Adelaide 33% (7% with no change), and in Brisbane 25% (9% with no change).
There were proportionately fewer in Sydney and Canberra, at 15% and 14% respectively (with another 15% of areas unchanged in Sydney).
The shortest time to save a deposit for an entry-unit and therefore quickest market access was Springwood-Kingston in Brisbane at 1 year and 9 months, followed by Bayswater-Bassendean in Perth at 1 year and 10 months.
The areas with the shortest time to save for a 20% deposit on an entry-unit for a couple aged 25-34, by city
Is there a way for first-home buyers to get in faster?
Powell said the federal government’s First Home Loan Deposit Scheme (FHLDS), which allows a first-home buyer to secure a home loan with a 5% deposit without having to pay the added cost of mortgage lender’s insurance, is an option young buyers should consider in order to get on the ladder faster.
“The clear advantage of this scheme allows access to the property market sooner, shaving years off the time it takes to save for an entry-priced deposit,” she said.
Places are limited, but for those who are successful in their application, it brings the time needed to save considerably.
In Sydney, it slashes the time to save for a house by nearly 6 years to just 2 years.
Brisbane’s time to save falls from 4 years and 10 months to 1 year and 3 months, and Darwin from 4 years and 3 months to just 1 year.
But, the property price cap on the scheme does make it more challenging for people looking in the most expensive areas.
She also warns there were financial implications for borrowers using the FHLDS.
“Gaining access to the market sooner could be advantageous for first-home buyers, however, a lower deposit will increase the cost of a home loan over its entire lifespan, meaning the borrower will pay more in interest,” she said.
“At the same time, owning 5% in equity could place the borrower at the risk of negative equity if property prices decline.”