It’s fun to browse home listings online or watch shows like House Hunters. But if you’re not a homeowner, you might be feeling lost as to how to get started acquiring your piece of the Australian dream.
Beyond the TV shows, which rarely discuss the many nuances of committing to spending multiple hundred thousand dollars for a place to live, there’s a ton of conflicting information floating around about purchasing a home. Family and friends are often happy to share their experiences, but I would hazard a guess that the people who are most willing to provide advice are the people who haven’t actually completed a home purchase recently.
A lot can change in the real estate market in just a few years, and while you love Aunt Kathy, you’d probably love another perspective.
Who should attend a home-buying class?
That’s where a homebuyer education course can prove valuable. I know, not everyone is jumping at the chance to sit in a classroom after a long day of going about your duties as an adult. But it’s a chance to get unbiased information about what you can expect from the home-buying process, and your chance to finally figure out once and for all what escrow is.
Plus, these courses are often a prerequisite for participating in first-time homebuyer programs that can make homeownership more financially feasible.
Before you enrol, here’s what you need to know. Just think: You could prepare to buy a home and be able to dominate your couch commentary during The Block finales.
Where to find a good one
The easiest way to find first-homebuyer programmes in your geographic location is via Google. The search engine is smart enough to stack results so you see nearby options first. (Just be sure to switch off your VPN if you have one.)
For example, a search for "home buying seminar" turned up 16 seminars in the Sydney/Western Sydney area over the next three months. You can also find some specific recommendations for each state and territory here.
Whether you attend in person or online, you can expect a course to take anywhere between four and eight hours. (On the plus side, face-to-face seminars often thrown in a free gift for your troubles.)
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What it costs
The cost of a class or seminar can vary depending on who’s hosting it. In general, expect to pay at least $30 although there are quite a few free options out there too. It's therefore worth shopping around among the options in your area and online.
If you plan on buying a home with a partner, you should both attend the class together. (If a fee is involved, you might only have to pay for one person - so it's worth phoning ahead or sending an email.)
In short; don’t feel pressured to attend the first course you come across in your search. You can comparison shop to find a class that’s a fit for you in terms of timing, cost, and location.
What you learn
Here’s a summary of the topics you can expect to learn about:
Homeownership basics, like pros and cons of homeownership and the steps of the home buying process.
Budgeting and financial matters required for homeownership, like figuring out your budget for a home and making sure your credit is solid before applying for a mortgage.
Financing a home, from mortgage lending qualifications to types of mortgages to common lending documents and the closing process.
Shopping for a home, knowing who you’ll need to work with, and how to negotiate the price.
Maintaining your home, including the costs of owning a home beyond the purchase price. You’ll also learn about predatory lending risks and how to avoid foreclosure if you face financial difficulty.
This stuff may be boring as heck on paper, but it’ll take away some of the instant anxiety you might feel when encountering terms and phrases you otherwise wouldn't know about.
It also gives you an advantage when you have conversations with professionals like real estate agents or lenders. The more knowledge you gain before starting to look for a home, the more confident you’ll be to walk away from someone who’s too pushy or otherwise gives you the willies.
What happens next
It’s up to you to decide what to do when you complete a homebuyer education course. You may jump right into applying for a first-time homebuyer grant in your area, or you might decide to hold off on your home-buying plans. You could come away from a class realising you don’t actually want to own a home at all. Either way, you’ll be armed with the information to help you decide. And you will definitely know what “escrow” is.