FIRST HOME OWNERS GRANT

DO YOU QUALIFY FOR THIS GRANT?

Everything you need to know about the WA’s First Home Owners Grant

Owning your first home is a major stepping stone in life and for most people the sums of money involved are considerable. Every little bit you can win along the way helps with this huge investment. Thankfully, there’s good news for people who are building a new home or buying a brand-new home.

If you are acquiring a newly-built home you can benefit from a five-figure grant from the WA government.

This is known as the First Home Owners Grant (or in short, the FHOG). Western Australia’s government passed the First Home Owner Grant Act in 2001 but the benefits and qualification criteria has changed over the years, resulting in a fair degree of confusion.

We’ve written this guide so that when it comes to the First Home Owners Grant WA’s prospective homeowners have everything they need to know on hand, including what the application criteria are and how to apply for a First Home Owners Grant.

What's currently on offer for first home owners in Western Australia?

If you are a first-time buyer, the WA Office of State Revenue will give you a one-off lump sum of $10,000 towards the costs of your new-built home. You need to provide the required evidence via an application process but doing so is straight forward and more than worth the effort.

That said, it is worth closely checking the FHOG terms and conditions to ensure that you meet the requirements. Also note that any changes in your circumstances soon after buying your home could invalidate your grant. Continue reading to find out everything you need to know about qualifying for the First Home Owners Grant.

Which homes qualify for the grant?

The sums on offer and the conditions of WA’s First Home Owners Grant has changed over the years. Though first-time buyers of established homes (homes which are not new) used to qualify, currently under the First Home Owners Grant WA buyers can only benefit from the grant if the home they are buying is brand new.

That said, you can qualify for the grant whether you buy a home off-plan or hire a building contractor to build a new home. Any home which has never been lived in by you or anyone else qualifies. Vacant land also qualifies under the grant conditions as long as there is an associated contract for building a home on that land.

Note that qualifying for the grant is restricted based on the value of the home you are building. This limit is determined by the location of the new home, with a divide along the 26th parallel. The grant is restricted to homes worth $1,000,000 or less if built north of the 26th parallel and to homes worth $750,000 or less for homes built south of the 26th parallel.

All of metropolitan Perth is south of the 26th parallel, so you cannot get a grant if you are building a home in Perth that is worth more than $750,000. See the FAQ section for more information on how the WA government calculates the value of a home.

A summary of the criteria

The Western Australian government intended for the First Home Owners Grant to boost housebuilding where it is needed most, while leaving the grant open only to those who are in real need of help with their first home purchase. Understandably, the grant is also restricted to citizens and permanent residents of Australia.

It is worth checking the eligibility criteria closely to avoid starting an application process that stands no chance of approval. The full eligibility criteria are as follows:

Personal qualification criteria

  • Applicants must be natural persons, in other words you cannot qualify for the grant as a business or as a trust
  • All applicants must be over the age of 18 at the date you are making the application
  • You must be an Australian citizen or have permanent resident status to apply, for joint applications at least one applicant must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • None of the applicants may have made use of a FHOG in the past, nor benefited from FHOR of duty (see FAQ) – in any jurisdiction in Australia
  • As a spouse of an applicant you have not benefited from FHOG or FHOR of duty

Home ownership criteria

  • Neither the applicant nor their spouse has owned a home anywhere in Australia before 1 July 2000, whether they occupied it or not
  • None of the applicants may have owned a residential property anywhere in Australia on or after 1 July 2000 and occupied it as a place of residence (a minimum residency period of six months applies after 1 July 2004)

Other criteria

  • Where the applicant is also the builder, construction must commence on after 1 July 2000
  • Where the applicant hires a contractor, the contract must be entered into on or after 1 July 2000
  • Applicants must hold a relevant interest in the land on which the home is build, in other words the applicant must own this land
  • Applications must be made within 12 months of the completion of a transaction
  • The new home must be your principal place of residence
  • You must live in the home for at least 6 months within the 12 month period after the completion of the transaction

Residency requirements

To ensure that in qualifying for award of the First Home Owners Grant WA recipients do in fact intend on living in the property the WA government added the residency restriction mentioned in the last point.

However, sometimes life can be unpredictable, and the government allows you to make an application to be released from this requirement if your circumstances warrant it. You must notify the government within 30 days of the expiration of the 12-month period, or the date on which you become aware that you cannot meet the requirements – whichever is earlier.

 

In return the government will consider your explanation and evaluate whether you will be required to repay the FHOG with penalties, or whether:

  • it will reduce the time you are required to live in the property to less than six months
  • it will extend the period through which you can make the six-month stay past the initial twelve months after completion
  • whether, in the case of join applicants, one of the applicants can be excepted from the requirements

If you can provide an acceptable explanation you may be able to keep your First Home Owners Grant even if you cannot meet the residency requirements.

The documents you need

The Western Australia First Home Owners Grant is a sizable sum of money so it is not a surprise that the Western Australian government requires solid documentary evidence that you qualify for the grant. The exact requirements around supporting evidence are too long to list here, but the requirements can roughly be divided into two categories:

Evidence of citizenship and residency

The government will require evidence of your citizenship or residency status. If you are an Australian citizen this will be a passport, birth certificate or citizenship certificate. Citizens of New Zealand need to supply a current passport and Certificate of Status of New Zealand Resident.

Citizens of other countries need to supply a passport as well as evidence of permanent residency such as a permanent resident visa. Note where you are applying with a spouse these requirements relate to only one applicant, you don’t need to prove evidence of citizenship or residency for both applicants.

Evidence of your transaction

If you’re buying a home off plan you need to supply:

  • The agreed contract for sale, or agreement for purchase
  • A title search which shows the applicants as the registered proprietors (owners), but a title search is not required if you are applying through an Approved Agent

You need to supply different documents if you are contracting to build a home:

  • A copy of your contract to build including the schedule of particulars which is signed and dated by all parties
  • A title search showing you, the applicant, as the registered proprietors (again not required if you are applying through an agent)
  • Evidence that you are making progress payments against your construction contract, but note that a deposit does not qualify as a progress payment

As an owner builder you need to submit:

  • A title search showing you as the registered proprietor, but not if you are applying through an Approved Agent
  • Form F-FHOG4, a valuation request; or an existing valuation from a qualified valuer
  • Evidence of building costs, excluding your personal labour costs
  • Documentary evidence stating that your home is now ready for occupation, this could be a copy of the Notice of Completion you submit to the Local Government or a home and contents insurance policy

Completed application form

In addition to the above evidence you will also be required to supply a completed application form which will include specific declarations around the history of your home ownership, or indeed the lack thereof.

The application process

You can apply in one of two ways. First, you can lodge your application directly with State Revenue. Though it may be tempting to submit your application directly it is worth considering that the qualification criteria and documentation requirements are extensive and that it is easy to make an error during the application process.

An alternative is to apply through an Approved Agent such as a mortgage broker. Approved Agents are authorised to deal with First Home Owners Grants and have extensive knowledge of the application process. An Approved Agent can help you determine whether your application meets the required criteria and ensure that your application is processed without a hitch.

Your alternatives

If you do not qualify for the First Home Owners Grant of $10,000 don’t give up. You are not out of options, there are other ways to obtain some help to afford the home of your dreams. You can consider one of the following two alternatives:

Home Buyers Assistance Account

First-time buyers who are considering a home that is partially built or completed can qualify for $2,000 towards the expenses of buying a home. The Home Buyers Assistance Account is designed to help reimburse you for the wide range of expenses involved in buying a home.

You can only qualify for the Home Buyer’s Assistance Account if it is the first time you buy a home in Western Australia. The $2,000 in assistance can help you pay conveyancing fees, mortgage insurance and more. However, the Home Buyer’s Assistance Account is limited to homes with a value of $400,000 or less which can be restrictive.

Just like the First Home Owners Grant there are residency restrictions that come alongside the Home Buyers Assistance Account. You must intend to live in your home for a period of at least 12 months, and you cannot rent out the home during this period of time.

Keystart home loans

The deposit requirement on a mortgage can be difficult to meet especially if you are a first-time buyer. For this reason, Western Australia’s government offers home buyers the opportunity to get a mortgage with a deposit that is as little as 2% of the value of the property. The 2% deposit offer is valid for homes purchased in metro areas, in rural areas the minimum deposit under Keystart is 10%.

Keystart home loans are available if you earn less than $90,000 p.a. as a single individual, less than $110,000 as a couple or less than $130,000 as a family. There are a few other Keystart requirements too but a Keystart home loan could be a great way to buy a home if you cannot put forward a full deposit.

Note that other mainstream lenders also offer high loan to value (LTV) loans. In other words, banks may also be able to offer you a home loan with a very low deposit – though it is unlikely that you will be able to get a loan with a deposit as low as 2%, as is the case with Keystart home loans.

How quickly is the grant paid?

Buying a new home is a capital-intensive exercise and you are no doubt looking forward to receiving your First Home Owners Grant as soon as possible. The date on which your grant is paid depends on how you are acquiring your new-built home.

If you are buying a home off-plan your grant will be paid on the settlement date. For homes built by a contractor you can look forward to receiving your grant once you have provided evidence of the first payment towards construction progress. Note that your name must be registered on the Certificate of Title.

Note the penalties

Government grants are only issued to those that qualify under the regulations, but as always the temptation to bend the rules can prove strong. To discourage abuse of the FHOG the government has put in place penalties, and these penalties have real bite.

The Office of State Revenue performs compliance checks to ensure that when successfully applying for a First Home Ownership Grant WA residents stick to the terms and conditions. Those who apply and do so knowingly providing false statements or misleading information can face penalties of up to $20,000 in addition to losing the grant itself.

If you do not live in your home for the required residency period and cannot provide an acceptable explanation or obtain an extension you will face the loss of the $10,000 involved in the First Home Owners Grant itself and may be required to pay penalties. However, as explained earlier in this article, applicants with extenuating circumstances could get a reprieve from the residency requirement.

Frequently asked questions

FHOG and FHOR are very similar acronyms but the First Home Owners Grant (FHOG) and the First Home Owners Rate of duty (FHOR of duty) are two very different programmes. This article has covered FHOG in depth, we will briefly outline FHOR of duty.

Duty is payable on property transactions, including the purchase of land. So, if you buy land on which you are going to construct your new home you will ordinarily be expected to pay duty on the transfer of this land.

If you qualify for the FHOG you may also qualify for reduced duty thanks to the FHOR of duty program. In short, if your purchase is less than $430,000 in value you are not required to pay any duty. This comes to a rather large saving of $14,440. There are some savings for transactions between $430,000 and $530,000 in value too.

FHOG of duty only applies to first-time buyers and will only be available if you plan on making the home your main residence, which is similar to the conditions in place for the First Home Owners Grant, WA buyers need to be first-time buyers and intend on living in their property.

For a six-month period in 2017 the Western Australia government offered an additional $5,000 towards the purchase of a new home, taking the total grant up to $15,000. However, homes that are started in 2018 no longer qualify for this boost payment.

Only where a new home transaction was entered into between 1 January 2017 and 30 June 2017 can applicants qualify for a $5,000 boost in the First Home Owners Grant. It may be that the Western Australian government wanted to lift house building during this period, or that the government had a surplus of cash to distribute at the time.

The Western Australian government will calculate the total value of a transaction in the following way:

  • New home off plan: The Western Australian government will apply the greater of the value of your purchase contract, or the unencumbered value of the new-built home.
  • Contract to build: The entire amount that is spent (also known as total consideration) in the building of your home plus the unencumbered value of the land you are building your house on.
  • Built by owner: If you are building the home yourself WA considers the unencumbered value of the home once it is completed, this includes the value of both the home and the land it is built on.

The definition of the completion date varies depending on who it is that is building your new home:

  • For homes purchased off plan, the completion date is the day on which you are entitled to possession of the home, typically the date of settlement
  • For homes built by a contractor that you employ, the completion date is the date that the building is ready to be occupied as a place of residence, typically when the builder hands the keys over to you
  • For a home that you are building yourself the completion date is the day on which the building is ready to be occupied as a residence

Western Australia’s government defines the commencement date of a transaction as one of:

  • The date on which the home purchase contract is made, if you are buying off plan
  • The date on which a comprehensive home building contract is signed, if you are hiring a construction firm
  • The date on which you start building your home, if you are the person building it – in other words, the date the foundation is laid.

Yes. The First Home Owner Grant terms and conditions state that only one of the applicants must be either a citizen or a permanent resident of Australia to qualify.

If your spouse or de facto partner does not have permanent residency status in Australia and you do, or if you are a citizen, you can apply for the First Home Owner Grant with your partner or spouse as the joint applicant.

No, there is no income cap – no matter how much you earn you can apply for the First Home Owner’s Grant. The only cap pertains to the value of your new home as explained elsewhere in this article.

Yes, the WA government website uses the language “applicants and/or their spouses or de facto partners” under the grant eligibility criteria. In other words, if your relationship qualifies as a “de facto” relationship under the Family Law Act and your partner has previously owned a home you cannot qualify for the First Home Owners Grant.

The requirement that you make the home your main residence for at least six months within the 12 months after completion applies to all applicants. If you successfully applied for a First Home Owners Grant with your partner or spouse as joint applicants they will also fall under this residency requirement.

In other words, both you and your spouse must meet the residency requirement. If your spouse wishes to live elsewhere you will need to contact the Commissioner and advise them of the change of circumstances to ensure you do not fall foul of the residency requirements of the First Home Owners Grant.

Note that holiday homes do not qualify for an First Home Owners Grant, even if your holiday home would be the first time that you enter into home ownership.

To qualify for an First Home Owners Grant you must intend on living in the home as your main residence for at least six months within the twelve-month period starting once your new home is ready for you to occupy. If you do not meet this requirement you can loose your First Home Owners Grant and even be subject to penalties.

The grant covers all of Western Australia, including the metropolitan areas around Perth. You can qualify for the FHOG regardless of your location in Western Australia.

That said your location affects the maximum value criteria. We explain earlier in this article how First Home Owners Grants are only available if the total value of your new-built home, including land, does not exceed the maximum.

This maximum is $1,000,000 for homes built north of the 26th parallel, and $750,000 for homes built south of the 26th parallel.

You won’t be able to make an application before all the facts are known, or before you have signed a contract for the construction of your new home. This is because you need to be able to detail a full and final valuation of your new home, including construction costs.

However, there is no rush to make an application: the WA government allows up to 12 months after the completion of a transaction so you have a fair amount of time to submit your application.

Yes, you can lodge an objection if you believe your First Home Owners Grant has been unfairly denied. You must lodge the complaint within 60 days of the rejection of your original application. You can do so on the finance.wa.gov.au website.

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