Horsham's Brendan and Brianna Wills became first-home buyers a little earlier than expected.
Mr Wills, a 34-year-old sales manager in a family truck part business and father to newborn Atticus, had planned to wait until the second half of the year before looking for a base for his young family.
But in April, the perfect property presented itself on Johnson Street, and it was then that state government grants came in handy.
"We didn't actually have to apply for anything," he said. "Because we were first-home buyers, the stamp duty was just wiped off once they went through our details and realised we both hadn't been in the system before."
Since July 1, 2017 people who buy their first homes for under $600,000 have been exempt from paying stamp duty. For properties under $750,000 buyers can receive concessions of up to $30,000.
New government data shows there have been 239 exemptions and concessions made for first-home buyers in Horsham in the past two years.
During the same period, 35 Horsham buyers have applied for $20,000 grants available to people who buy or build properties in regional Victoria. To be eligible, the property must be newly built or be sold as a residential property for the first time.
First-home buyers can apply for grants and exemptions for the same property.
The government estimates Horsham buyers have saved a collective $2.23 million.
Mr Wills estimates he saved $12,000 on the $350,000 three-bedroom, two-bathroom and triple garage property.
"I have a mortgage offset account to help reduce interest rates and yes, they're falling, but it's a huge help to not have to pay that money upfront and keep that in your pocket," he said. "That money would have come out of the deposit we put down at the start."
Mr Wills left Horsham after completing year 12 to study commerce in Geelong, where he met his partner Brianna.
He moved home in 2016 to work in his father Tony's shop, with he and Brianna living with Brendan's parents before finding their new home.
"It was just a few blocks away, so it was perfect," he said. "We wanted to stay near Sunnyside if we could and near the river and our workplaces. And this place came up and it was everything we were looking for."
Mr Wills said there was interest from other buyers in his property, but the fact they could settle quickly gave them an edge. He said the most important thing first-home buyers could do was stick to a savings plan.
"Making sure you have the savings for the deposit so you're not stretching and buying something in your range so you can cover the mortgage is important," he said. "There's plenty for sale at the moment."
Plenty of activity for agents
Wes Davidson of Wes Davidson Real Estate said his business had recently seen more sales of existing homes to first-home buyers than land sales.
"Many simply don't have the financial capacity to buy or build a new property and then finish it off with gardens and those sorts of things," he said.
"With the recent interest rate reductions, and the lending restrictions from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority easing somewhat, we have noticed an increase in first home buyer activity recently.
"With properties returning around six per cent for investors, it makes sense for those that can afford it, to take advantage of the first home buyer stamp duty concession and get a home loan which currently is on offer for just over three per cent with some lenders."
Harcourts Horsham director Mark Clyne said the majority of Horsham first home buyers lived in the Wimmera.
"If they're well-presented and priced accordingly, properties get good interest very quickly at the moment," he said. "Anything in that $200,000 to 300,000 bracket is very well received in the first week.
"Generally listings close down a little bit over the winter, but as we head closer to spring we are starting to see more people put their properties on the market."
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