Imagine seeing an advert for a concert ticket for $40. You look at the money you have and realise you have $45. “Great,” you think, you can just afford the ticket. But when you go to pay it’s:
- $40 for the ticket.
- Another $10 for a “service fee”.
- Plus another $5 for a “convenience fee” for printing your ticket or getting it emailed to you.
The ticket that was advertised at $40 is actually going to cost you $55 dollars in total!
Ohh, and it gets worse…
Now, imagine if the concert turns out to be the worst concert ever performed (maybe you thought it was a Taylor Swift concert, but it turns out to be your dad’s cover band performing her songs).
That almost happened to me (minus the Taylor Swift part).
When I first got started with buying a property… I didn’t have a huge deposit. In fact, I had less than 5%. So, I could only just afford the property and definitely couldn’t afford any unexpected costs.
After months of searching, I had found my perfect first home, it was in the right suburb and the right price. I was ready to pull the trigger and sign my life away… But there was just one problem.
The place was a dud!!!
Not only was it a dud, but in addition, I would have had to pay an extra $9,000 in special levies and additional costs in the first year alone – all of which I well and truly did not have in my budget!
You see, I made the age-old mistake of not budgeting correctly and had forgotten to account for these ’hidden costs’ – and it seems I was not alone, as I see so many First Home Buyers make the same, silly mistake as me.
Below, I have compiled a list of the 16 biggest hidden costs I’ve learnt over my investment journey, along with some helpful tips to help you avoid making these same mistakes! Here’s what I’ll cover:
- Fees you need to pay before you get the home loan:
- Fees you need to pay once you secure a home loan:
- Fees you may need to pay after settlement:
Stage 1: Fees you need to pay before you get the home loan
1. Buyer’s Agent Fees
If you plan on getting help with finding a property from a buyer’s agent, you’ll need to account for their fees – and, fair warning, they are not cheap.
Buyer’s agent fees are either:
- An engagement fee in advance or
- A percentage of the purchase price of the property you buy.
Buyer’s agent fees can vary depending on the agent and can range from $10,000 to $20,000 or more depending on which agent you use and the purchase price of the property. The good news is that this is a once-off fee.
2. Building And Pest Reports
These reports look at the building’s structural soundness and check for pests — to make sure your property is free of those nasty pests like termites or white ants.
A typical building inspection for a 4 bedroom home can cost $400 – $500, and a pest inspection is between $200 – $300. The good news is you can save a few hundred dollars by getting a combined building and pest report for around $500 – $600.
I can say without a shadow of a doubt that on 5x separate occasions, Building & Pest reports have saved me from buying homes that would have otherwise costs me thousands!
If you think you can save a bit of money by doing this yourself, “DON’T!” There is so much that goes into an inspection and it’s all in the details – for example, did you know you cannot physically see white ants, termites or dampness from the outside? Building & Pest Inspectors (who in Queensland are generally licenced builders) will inspect under the house, in the roof and use their own technical equipment to check for these issues and give you a peace of mind that you need before making the biggest purchase of your life.
If you need help with Build & Pest Inspections, we recommend:
- All Inspect Building & Pest Inspectors
I want to keep stressing that on multiple occasions, Building & Pest reports have saved me from buying complete dumps of properties! So please let that sink in.
In one year alone I spent over $2,000 on reports for different properties before finding the right place, and I am so glad I did! My experiences included:
- One of the properties had concrete cancer.
- Another had issues with flooding and water leaking through the walls which was going to cost the new owner $9,000 to fix.
- Another had termites in a tree in the backyard, and evidence of old damage in the roof.
- And one even had a damp bathroom that was on the verge of collapse but looked fine to my eye.
This was all stuff I wouldn’t have found out without using a building & pest inspector.
Another word of warning…
One thing you need to be wary of is when the real estate agent selling the property is pushing their own building and pest inspector. You need to get your own report from an independent, certified building and pest inspector to make sure that you don’t get lumped with a lemon of a property. Remember, the agent is working for the seller, not you.
If the inspector finds there are a few minor issues in the report that are fixable, that’s great; you can use this to negotiate discounts from the vendor!
3. Legal Costs (Solicitor/Conveyancer Fees)
There are a tonne of legal costs that are associated with buying a house – these are typically called solicitor or conveyancer fees.
In any case, you’ll need to pay a legal professional to:
- Conduct title searches.
- Make a strata report (if you are buying a townhouse or unit).
- Review a contract of sale (not always required in Queensland).
- Arrange settlement details.
But you may read the above and think:
Why isn’t a review of contracts required in Queensland?
Because we have standardised contracts of sale with standard terms & conditions unlike other states like New South Wales, where contract terms and conditions vary from contract to contract. But again, this is why you need to contact a solicitor as they’ll be able to tell you what you need to pay for versus what you don’t! All of which will hopefully save you a bit of money along the way.
In addition, for different types of property purchases (like auctions or treaties) you’ll actually need your legal representative at different times throughout the process.
For example, if you’re buying at auction, you’ll need to engage a solicitor or conveyancer before you actually bid.
If purchasing by private treaty – by submitting an offer rather than going to auction – you can engage a solicitor or conveyancer during the cooling-off period (The cooling off period is a number of days given after signing the contract to give you the option to cancel or terminate the contract if there are any problems).
What’s the cost?
In general, however, conveyancers charge a flat fee, while solicitors commonly charge by the hour. The amount you pay depends on how complex your purchase is.
The approximate cost is $1,000 to $2,000 depending on the searches conducted.
Two important tips we give our Hunter Galloway Mortgage Broker Brisbane clients on Legal Costs are:
- Obtain the searches recommended by the solicitor.
- We don’t recommend one-person operations – if the solicitor/conveyancer is away or sick there is no one to attend settlement for you!
4. Strata Reports
Strata Inspection Reports are an essential part of the process if you’re buying a unit, apartment or townhouse. Your solicitor or conveyancer will let you know if you need to obtain one.
These reports provide important information about the status of the strata scheme or body corporate:
- Current ownership and voting rights.
- Structural or building defects.
- Planned or previous major works.
- Quarterly levies and proposed special levies.
- Sinking fund forecasts.
- Strata scheme insurance.
- Pet policies.
- Compliance documentation
- Disputes or breaches of by-laws.
You’ll want to pay extra attention to the special levies.
These payments are over and above the normal strata fees and are used to fund a new facility, new service, or (most commonly in my experience) large maintenance projects.
It is important to remember, if the departing home owner has not paid their share of any special levies before selling, the incoming homeowner becomes responsible for it – that means you!
When I was buying my first home, I almost ended up walking into a property that had $9,000 of outstanding special levies that I would need to pay.
If you do need to pay for a strata report, they usually cost between $250 – $350. As with building and pest reports, you will need to pay for a strata report for each property that you are looking at buying.
Stage 2: Fees you need to pay before you get the home loan
5. Government Fees
You must be aware that with loans, lots of small things will become big things. In my case, I got to settlement assuming that the bank was happy to charge me just a flat interest rate and no other fees…
Boy was I wrong!
I had to scramble to find an extra $1,200 on settlement to cover my bank and settlement fees which was money I just simply didn’t have!
In the end, I had to stick it on my credit card. But this could have all been avoided if I had factored it in up front.
Now, it might seem illogical that some lenders may charge you a fee for the privilege of applying for a loan – after all, you’ll be paying them plenty of money over the lifetime of your loan.
But, banks have to pay processors and lawyers to set up the loan, so even so-called ‘fee-free loans’ sometimes have settlement and documentation fees.
When you take out a home loan, you won’t just be paying off the loan – you’ll also have to pay to apply for and set up the loan in the first place.
The application fees are generally around $500 – $600, though they can be more than $1,000, depending on the loan and lender.
Borrowing Fees can include:
- ✅ Loan application/Establishment Fees – some lenders charge on the initial draw down of your loan
- ✅ Document Preparation fees – Lenders may charge this to prepare your home loan contracts before approval
- ✅ Bank valuation fees – usually waived but if you need a valuation they may charge you
- ✅ Other fees – Annual fees! – sneaky annual fees can cost up to $400 per year.
Fortunately, it is super easy to manage these fees, and in most cases, you can get them waived. Talk to your broker and make sure they take you through all the upfront borrowing costs to make sure your budget works.
6. Government Fees In Brisbane
This, I think, is the secret sting out of everything. While most people know about, and expect to pay stamp duty —which we’ll cover in more detail shortly — there are other government fees that can add up to a few hundred dollars and they’ll catch you out if you’re not careful!
Remember, Government fees are Different to Stamp Duty.
Government Fees when buying a home in Brisbane include:
- ✅ Registration on mortgage: Typically $187 in Queensland
- ✅ Registration of discharge of mortgage: $187 in Queensland
- ✅ Registration of transfer: Range from a few hundred, to a few thousand dollars.
Registration of transfer fee is the biggest sting.
For example, if you are a first home buyer in Queensland, purchasing a brand new home for $400,000 — where the stamp duty is being waved — you will still need to pay $957 in transfer duty!
Think of transfer duty as just another tax when buying a home – you can calculate your own transfer duty estimate here.
Unlike bank fees, there isn’t any way around these government fees and no discounts to be had.
Just be aware of them, and make sure your broker factors them in up front because it can be another few hundred, to thousand dollars that you didn’t know you needed!
7. Stamp Duty In Brisbane
There is good news on this one. But I’ll start with the bad news first.
The bad news: Stamp Duty is one of the few non-optional upfront costs of buying a house.
Stamp duty on property purchase is a state government tax. As such, the amount that is payable will vary from state to state. The dollar amount payable also depends on the value of your property. It can be a couple of thousands or can run into tens of thousands of dollars.
The good news: First home buyers in Brisbane get some relief provided you are living in the property.
In Queensland, first home buyers will not pay Stamp Duty on a $500,000 house. Those buying their second or third home (owner-occupiers only), can expect to pay around $8,750 on a Brisbane home of the same price.
|Dutiable value||Duty rate|
|Not more than $5,000||Nil|
|More than $5,000 up to $75,000||$1.50 for each $100, or part of $100, over $5,000|
|$75,000 to $540,000||$1,050 plus $3.50 for each $100, or part of $100, over $75,000|
|$540,000 to $1,000,000||$17,325 plus $4.50 for each $100, or part of $100, over $540,000|
|More than $1,000,000||$38,025 plus $5.75 for each $100, or part of $100, over $1,000,000|
For example, see below or refer to the Queensland Office of State Revenue website.
The more expensive the home, the more you’ll pay, with a $1 million purchase attracting stamp duty as high as $55,000.
Use this stamp duty calculator to work out the likely cost for you.
8. Council And Water Rates
Yep, another government fee – not like there were enough already!
Councils need to charge rates to raise revenue so they can provide services and infrastructure to their communities. Each year, as part of the budget process, councils decide the rates and charges for the financial year. The level of rates that landowners must pay is at the sole discretion of their council.
As you’re probably aware, building and property owners pay council and water rates to the state government.
But, you may not be aware that you need to pay the person you’re buying the property from for any remaining yearly or quarterly rates.
For example, if you are settling in June, but the previous owner has paid until July you need to pay them for that one month – and this is payable on settlement!
- ✅ The person selling the property will have paid any rates owing to the council – generally to the end of the quarter.
- ✅ After purchasing the property, you’ll need to pay the vendor for council or water rates.
Again this is another cost that isn’t negotiable, but worth being aware of to budget into the costs of owning your home.
To give you a bit of an idea, here are a few suburb examples: Source.
|Suburb||2016 Average Rates||2017 Average Rates|
You can expect to pay $1,000 to $2,000 per year depending on the suburb across Brisbane.
Stage 3: Fees you need to pay before you get the home loan
9. Home and Contents Insurance
A lot of buyers think that they don’t need home and contents insurance, but please head my warning:
You definetly do!!!
Home and contents insurance is a vitally important cost that you should have in place as soon as you sign the contract on your new home. This insurance protects you — not the bank. So you want to keep reading…
Who is responsible for property insurance when you buy a home?
There is often confusion about who is responsible for the property insurance for the period from the signing of a contract to settlement. In short, you are responsible for the insurance.
According to FindLaw:
In Queensland, contrary to the practice adopted in some other States and sometimes assumed by parties to the property transaction, the standard terms of contract usually provide for the risk in a property to pass from the seller to the buyer, not from the settlement date, but from 5pm on the first business day after the date that the seller signs the contract.
So you need to make sure you have insurance from 5pm on the day of signing the contract of sale.
The good news is you can go online to source or speak with your mortgage broker to arrange insurance. At Hunter Galloway we work with Allianz and can help arrange Home & Contents Insurance for you – Allianz gives our clients 90 days free cover until settlement.
BONUS: Why you really need flood insurance!
Did you know over 20% of Brisbane’s suburbs were affected by floods in 2011?
And worse, in 2022 Queensland was hit with more rainfall than the devastating flood of 1974! Brisbane has been built on a floodplain, with 94 suburbs across the city experiencing flooding in 2011 and an estimated 15,000 homes in Brisbane flooded in 2022 so you can see why it is important to have flood insurance!
So, before you buy your home, please not only check the FloodWise report but if you are in a flood plain, make sure you are covered.
10. Income Protection Insurance
Life insurance products, including income protection, tend to confuse people. Because of this, so many of us fail to properly appreciate the benefits of them and what they can actually prevent.
So, why get income protection? You’re possibly parting with significant cash over the long term when you buy a home (I mean on most mortgages it is a 30-year loan) so what’s the upside? Well, this form of insurance potentially replaces up to 70% of your income (with an added 10% contributed towards superannuation) if illness or injury prevents you from working. This could have a number of benefits:
- Stay on top of your mortgage, even without an income
- Maintain your current quality of life
- Let’s you focus on your recovery
- No worker’s compensation? No worries, as you’ll be covered with income protection insurance
- Reassurance for your family
- There may be tax benefits
My main point here is that if you have a mortgage and dependents, this kind of insurance essentially allows you to keep up with your repayments for a certain period in the event of loss of income due to injury or illness. As such, I think it is good to consider this kind of insurance as an essential cost when you look at buying a home.
Stage 4: Fees you need to pay before you get the home loan
11. Home Loan Deposit
This may sound like it’s an obvious tip, but it is something homebuyers get caught up on every day, so we need to look at it. We dive even deeper into it in our First Home Buyers Guide for Brisbane.
How much deposit you need, and when you need to pay this deposit?
When I talk about deposits I am talking about how much you are putting towards owning your home upfront (with your lender loaning you the rest – this is your mortgage!)
In general, people say 20% is the benchmark for a good home deposit, but at Hunter Galloway Mortgage Broker Brisbane we find that creditworthy borrowers with good income are able to work with a deposit of 8% -10% – and this can be the difference between getting into your home today versus two years from now!
But, the question remains: Why do home buyers have problems with their deposit?
It is easy if you are providing the deposit from your own account. But if you are relying on a deposit being gifted from your parents, getting a guarantor loan or relying on the first home owners grant (or now even the First Home Guarantee Scheme), there can be a bit of back and forth to have the funds available and ready in time for settlement.
Talk to your mortgage broker upfront about this, they will let you know exactly how much and when the deposit funds are needed for your specific circumstances – and the best bit, it’s completely FREE!
The Deposit Process for buying a home in Brisbane is:
- Your deposit is generally payable in 2 parts
- $1,000 to $5,000 payable immediately (when the contract is signed) called the holding deposit.
- The balance of the deposit usually 5-10%, is then payable on finance approval. This is called the bank deposit.
Note: Real estate agents can’t charge your credit card, so you’ll need to have this as cash paid by bank transfer, or bank cheque.
For example, if you were buying a property that cost $500,000 in Queensland your deposit would look like this:
- Holding Deposit: $1,000 paid to the real estate agents trust account when signing the contract of sale
- Bank Deposit: 5%, or $25,000 (minus $1,000) = $24,000 paid to the real estate agent’s trust account when finance is approved
The good news is when buying a house in Brisbane, the initial deposit is refundable if you have signed your contract subject to building and pest, or finance and can’t go ahead due to one of these clauses.
A cheeky deposit hack that I use all the time is: Not paying 5% deposit as my bank deposit.
Realistically the bank deposit is an amount specified by you, and it’s just to show you are serious about the contract. You don’t need to make this amount 5%. In fact, I generally just make it total to $15,000 or $20,000. At the end of the day, I’d prefer to have the money in my offset account than the solicitor’s trust account! Learn how to do this by talking to your broker today.
12. Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI)
More insurance! By now I hope you realise just how essential insurance is.
Lenders Mortgage Insurance is a type of insurance for your loan which protects the bank rather than you.
According to a recent survey, around 70% of households think lender’s mortgage insurance protects them, rather than the bank.
Lenders mortgage insurance (or LMI) allows the bank to lend to people with less than 20% deposit, and the insurance is to cover the bank if your loan goes in default.
So while this insurance is beneficial to you because it allows you to buy a home with less than 20% (and as little as 5% deposit), it doesn’t cover you — it covers the bank!
Now that we have cleared that up, how much does LMI cost?
This cost is a sliding scale — the smaller your deposit, the more insurance you’ll pay. On a $600,000 home with a 10% deposit ($60,000), you’ll be asked to pay insurance of around $10,000. But consult your broker for more details and even get a pre-approval document that will tell you how much you will need.
The LMI amount changes a lot between different banks. This can actually cost you a bucket extra depending on which bank you use. For example, Lender A costs $10,301 in Lender’s mortgage insurance compared to Lender G who costs $16,121 for the exact same borrower, and same purchase amount!
That’s almost $6,000 in extra costs!
The best way to get around this is to look at different lenders or ask your mortgage broker to compare not only the rate but the limit amount.
The cheapest rate doesn’t always mean the cheapest loan!
Before you commit to your mortgage, make sure your broker does the math. Sometimes, paying an extra $6,000 in lenders’ mortgage insurance will actually cost you an extra $27,976 in interest over the 30-year life of the loan!
With some banks, you can add the Lenders Mortgage Insurance to the loan so you won’t need to find this extra $10,000 in savings — but not always.
If in doubt, have a try of our Lenders Mortgage Insurance Calculator.
The LMI Calculator will give you a rough idea on how much LMI costs. Please note that this is only for one of our lenders. Your LMI could be much cheaper if we look around! To get an idea on what LMI would cost you, call our team on 1300 088 065 or get in touch here.
13. Moving and Connection Costs
Depending on how far you are moving (and how much stuff you have to move), removals fees can also add a few thousand dollars to your costs when buying a home.
For a move within the same city, you may need to set aside anywhere from $300 to $3,500. If you’re moving interstate, the costs can be several thousand dollars more.
You will also need to account for connection costs for utilities in your new home. But there’s some good news here. With the increase in competition in the energy market, you should be able to get any connection costs waived provided you sign up for a 12 month contract. Phone around and see what you can get.
14. Strata (Body Corporate) Fees
Strata fees only apply if you are buying a unit, apartment or townhouse. If you are buying a stand-alone house, you can breathe easy — you don’t have to pay this (but you will have to pay home insurance).
Strata fees are also called levies and are generally paid quarterly into the strata (or body corporates) bank account. These fees are used to fund the ongoing expenses of your building complex for things like cleaning, gardening, electricity, building maintenance, and plumbing.
Knowing the strata fees is critically important because once you buy the place, you are responsible to make these contributions every 3 months until you sell the place.
This is why you need to get a copy of the Strata Reports as we mentioned above. Believe me, if you are a first home buyer like me, you don’t have heaps of savings or don’t really want to ‘waste’ money on these reports.
But you NEED to get these reports!
When I was buying my first home, the strata report detailed that the property I was about to purchase had massive water leaking issues and concrete cancer for which the strata was needing to raise additional contributions from the unit owners.
Almost cheaping out on these strata reports nearly cost me $9,000 in special levies in the first year of owning my property. So if the strata fees are really high, or they are getting raised up, you can bet your bottom dollar they will be coming out of your pocket.
If the building has structural issues, they sometimes ask for special levies or contributions. But this only applies on existing properties.
Your lawyer can arrange a strata report. In some states, you need to pay for these and in others, you can request a copy from the body corporate manager.
If you need to renovate your home before moving in, you could also be in for a surprise once you start.
Renovations often blow their budget, sometimes spectacularly.
A quick coat of paint or minor renovations should be easy to budget for, but if you’re planning on something more substantial, make sure you have gotten an estimate of the costs from a builder. Then add another 50% as a buffer for the inevitable unexpected costs.
If you’re looking for a definitive guide for kitchens, then check this out.
Or if you’re after a complete guide on how to renovate in 2022, click herehttps://www.huntergalloway.com.au/renovation-loan/.
16. Changes in Monthly Repayments
Interest rates might be low when you get your loan but don’t fall into the trap of assuming interest rates will stay low forever.
We are at historic lows for interest rates, and, although the economic outlook looks that interest rates will be on hold for the next 12-24 months, they will eventually go up.
Remember the average mortgage term is 30 years so plan accordingly.
Years ago, after I had bought my second property, a small unit on Newton Street, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) started increasing interest rates. In the space of 6 months, my interest rate went from a barely manageable 6% to 7.50%. This meant that my monthly interest repayments went up from $3,500, which I could only just afford, to $4,375 per month—a jump of $875 per month! I could not afford the change and risked losing my other property because of this.
It’s worth thinking about how even a small increase will affect your lifestyle.
The reality is if interest rates go up, and you’re currently only making the minimum required repayments on your home loan you will need to pay more.
So for example, if rates increase 1% you’ll need to pay around $200 extra per month on an average home loan of $300,000. You are going to need to find this extra $200 per month, meaning you’ll need to cut back in other areas like eating out, travelling or socialising.
From the examples below, you can see that with a larger loan the increases are considerably higher.
|$ 350,000.00||$ 400,000.00||$ 500,000.00||$ 600,000.00|
A way to protect yourself from interest rate shock is to look at fixed rates. With fixed interest rates you can lock in your home loan interest rate for 1 to 5 years. The downside of doing this is that there are usually fees for repaying the fixed rate early, or before the end of the term.
So, if for example you fixed your home loan for 5 years, and wanted to sell the property after 3 years, there would be a penalty from the bank.
Again, it’s worth chatting to your Mortgage Broker Brisbane, Hunter Galloway to see what your options are.
When obtaining a mortgage for $500,000 in QLD, it’s not unreasonable to pay between $12,000 to $25,000 on top of the price of your home. Make sure you’re aware of the costs before you commit to buying a home so you don’t get any nasty surprises.
If you are ready to buy a home, we can help you to understand and budget for these costs. Just give us a call on 1300 088 086 or fill out our free assessment form.
All the best on your homebuying journey!