AFFORDABLE: A government inquiry has been told housing affordability is on a par with previous years, despite a rise in property prices.
AFFORDABLE: A government inquiry has been told housing affordability is on a par with previous years, despite a rise in property prices. Digital Vision.

Forget the hype and simply get a foot on the property ladder

MUCH has been said of late about housing affordability; in fact the debate has sparked a federal parliamentary inquiry into home ownership. While many would-be property owners bemoan the rising cost of buying, the inquiry has been told purchasing a property is as affordable today as it has been in the past.

While no-one can argue that prices have risen exponentially in some capitals, and indeed over the years in regional areas like Coffs Harbour, it's today's low interest rate environment that is keeping affordability on track.

Treasury officials told the inquiry the perception that housing affordability had declined doesn't hold up when the numbers are crunched, while representatives from the Australian Bureau of Statistics agreed that housing costs as a percentage of household income were almost the same in 2012 as they were in 1995.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has also revealed figures that show interest payments on household debt have fallen to their lowest level in more than 11 years

At a local level, Raine & Horne Coffs Harbour principal Christine Clarke has seen it all in almost three decades selling homes on the Coffs Coast; and she believes the great Australian dream is still very achievable.

"I remember buying my first home more than 40 years ago. It cost $21,000 and we thought that was to the moon and back. We didn't know how we'd pay for it. But we had a budget and chopped away at it. I think today the numbers just sound different because they're bigger," she said.

"Getting a start in the market always seems like a giant step but my best advice is to start small, be realistic about your starting point, save a deposit and give up some things to just get into the market."

And it seems many Australians are doing just that.

According to a study by homeloans.com.au, almost half the respondents started a regular savings plan, and putting extra money in where possible, to reach their property goals. Almost 42% said they were willing to give up luxuries such as buying lunch every day, going out for dinner or drinks, or subscribing to Pay TV. Almost a third chose to live with their parents or in-laws.

"For many people, owning their own home is a dream they are determined to make a reality, and our survey highlights the lengths some will go to," Homeloans Ltd marketing manager Will Keall said.

"Many are willing to streamline their social life or pull in their belts to grasp that first rung of home ownership."

Christine Clarke believes getting a foot on the property ladder is worth it, even if you don't start with a "dream property".

"All first home buyers need to accept you need to cut the cloth to suit the clothes; start small. It might not be in the most desirable area but you just need to get a start in the market," she said.



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