AS PRICE gains ease in most capitals and incentives for first homeowners take hold, younger buyers are finally gaining confidence.
It also helps that investors have been dropping out of the market, seemingly less interested since the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority tightened lending rules in March.
Scan today's property ads and you'll certainly come across some better asking prices than you might have a year ago.
Director of Metropole Property Strategists, Michael Yardney says we know the first homeowner grant tends to get first-time buyers back in the mix and revised grants in NSW and Victoria from July 1 are proof of this.
For a start, the total number of loans to first home buyers rose strongly in August, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said. Additionally, the proportion of first homebuyer loans among all owner-occupier mortgages increased, seemingly helped by more first-timers in NSW and Victoria.
Yardney says many people are also taking advantage of stamp duty concessions within the grant, a handy saving they can be put toward their first deposit.
"The first deposit is the biggest stumbling block, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, as it's disproportionately more expensive [in those cities]," says Yardney.
"So how are people doing it? They're choosing a smaller property, or many are getting help from the bank of mum and dad. They can either lend them or give them the deposit, or in some instances, get a guarantee for the loan."
Managing director of buyers' agency Cohen Handler, Simon Cohen says while he's not seeing that many people take up the grant as such, he has noticed that young buyers have more opportunities right now.
"The hardest market to get into if you rewind a year was the first homeowner market, but today it's the market that we're seeing the most opportunities," says Cohen. "If you know where to look and what to look for, there are far more off-market opportunities and there's far more negotiating power at auction than I've seen a good couple of years."
Cohen is also seeing people who don't have the budgets in Sydney buying in cities like Brisbane where you can get more bang for your buck.
GETTING YOUR FOOT IN THE DOOR
Whether you qualify for the first homeowners grant (the eligibility threshold differs across the states) or are forced to go up in price for the home you want, the key is to research areas that meet your budget.
For example, if your budget is $600,000, you might need to venture beyond 25 kilometres from the Sydney CBD, whereas in Melbourne there are options just 12 kilometres out at that price. If you're in Brisbane, Perth or Adelaide, the chances of securing more space closer to the CBD is certainly better.
With all this in mind, Yardney says that many first-time buyers invest first and rent where they prefer to live.
"In the last few years, many potential first homebuyers were taken out of the market because of the expense and so they became rent-investors," he says. "That doesn't stop them getting a first homeowner grant. The grant is for the first home you live in."
AROUND THE CAPITALS FOR $600K
The harbour city might be harder work but there are still good buys at the lower price end. As Cohen says, you need to know where to look. Consider this neat house at 12 Queen Street, Granville going for $630,000, which has a modern interior complimented by a patio at the rear, according to Realestate.com.au.
If you're not fussed about space, however, you can find a small apartment in the CBD for a similar price. For instance, this one-bedroom at 201/11 Alberta Street in the southern end of the city is selling for $620,000.
Like Sydney, Melbourne's inner and middle ring houses tend to be pricier than $600,000, though you can still find a townhouse for that price in a suburb like Reservoir around 12km north of the city. This spacious house at 1/54 Cheddar Road has a price guide of $600,000 - $650,000, as per Realestate.com.au.
Melbourne also has boutique apartments for about $600,000, including this sleek two-bedroom unit at 16/140 Queens Parade in North Fitzroy selling for $580,000 to $630,000.
In Brisbane, a $600,000 budget can go even further. Take this stylish Queenslander house at 30 Victoria Street in Windsor which is selling for around $599,000, according to Realestate.com.au. It has three bedrooms and sits on 405 square metres, just 3.5 kilometres from the Brisbane CBD.
Or if you're looking for something with heritage appeal then Adelaide might fit the bill, where a sandstone villa like this one at 26 Light Street, Thebarton is going for $600,000, on Realestate.com.au. It has four large bedrooms and a Victorian arch in the hallway.
Meanwhile in Victoria Park, Perth this four-bedroom house at 5A Rathay Street is selling between $565,000 - $595,000, according to Realestate.com.au. It boasts plenty of indoor and outdoor space, and isn't far from the Swan River.
Of course, there are considerably more options for $600,000 in Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory.